To What Extent was the European ‘Scramble for Africa’ Driven by Economic Factors?

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The ‘scramble for Africa’ was a phenomenon in the world between the years 1880-1914. The ‘dark continent’ was relatively untouched by Europeans up until this point, with few ports of control on the coasts in the west, which were remnants of the slave trade, and in the south, Britain held the Cape, taken from the Dutch during the French Revolutionary Wars. So, during a period of 30 years, it came to pass that almost the whole of Africa was taken by Europeans. (Except Liberia a colony for freed American slaves, and Abyssinia managed to hold out against Italian aggression). It will be my objective in this essay to analyse the economic factors which resulted in the almost complete colonisation and takeover of Africa, and also to determine to …show more content…
Thereafter thousands of British immigrated to South Africa to work in or control the mining industry. It could be said that the ‘history of twentieth-century southern Africa is to a very large extent dominated by the history of mining’ which to a certain extent is true. Most of the imperial expansion in South Africa at first glance does appear to have economic reasons. This can be further seen with Cecil Rhodes when he extended British influence to the northern reaches of South Africa in search for a second rand in which his whole expedition looks to be like conquistadores in search of land and gold . In 1910 the Transvaal republic was annexed by Britain, while economic reasons seem reasonable at first it can be argued that ‘political control of the Transvaal was not sought in order to control the gold-mines nor secure access to the supply of gold’ , that the British wanted to unify the region as part of the British Empire. Originally however, the importance of South Africa to the British was to protect the sea route to India, which was still vital, even after the Suez Canal was built, because the British were sure that they could defend the Cape with their naval strength, but were not so sure about the defence of the Suez if needed. Gallagher and Robinson assert that ‘Great Britain was in South Africa primarily to safeguard the routes to the east’ . However, this is still an economic factor. That Britain wanted to protect trade and strategy in the east, and while