Africa – 1914/1918
Until well into the 19th century, Africa was essentially limited to the establishment of European trading posts on the coast. Most of the continent was under local rule. An exception was the Cape Colony, originally a supply station of the Dutch East India Company, to which Dutch settlers had immigrated from 1657. These Boers had expanded the white settlement area after their “Great Trek” in 1835/38 by proclaiming the “Boer states”. Otherwise privileged European trading companies drove a lively trade in African natural products and slaves at various coastal bases; legal until 1820, illegal until 1870. Apart from the first research trips and missionary advances, the interior of the continent remained largely untouched.

Colonialism achieved a new quality in the 1880s with the “Scramble for Africa”, the race for African colonies that marked the beginning of the age of imperialism. In a rushed competition, the European powers forcibly appropriated almost the entire continent within just 15 years. Only Ethiopia on the east coast and Liberia on the Atlantic remained independent, which was created in 1847 through the amalgamation of several settlements for liberated black slaves from the USA and recognized by the European powers in 1848/49.

The fate of Africa was decided at the Congo Conference, to which the statesmen of Europe gathered in Berlin in November 1884 at the invitation of Bismarck, after the distribution conflicts in Africa threatened to escalate. The conference led to the almost complete division of the continent into spheres of interest and the subsequent occupation of the areas. The demarcation was mostly arbitrary and did not take into account ethnic, religious or cultural traditions.

In terms of strategic objectives, Great Britain sought a corridor between the Cape Province and the Mediterranean (Cape Cairo Plan). The English expansion took place from the north and south. Cecil Rhodes first conquered Bechuanaland, then Rhodesia; after the Boer War between 1899 and 1902, the entire area was combined as the South African Union. From the north, Egypt and, after the suppression of the Mahdi uprising, Sudan were occupied. British Somaliland and Aden were mainly used to secure the shipping routes to India.

Meanwhile France tried to penetrate all of West Africa from Algeria and Senegal. The plan to create greater Sudanese unity failed in 1898 with the Faschoda crisis, in which British and French troops faced each other in what is now Sudan. The imminent danger of war was settled by a compromise in 1899. For more information about the continent of Africa, please check

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