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A detailed look at the dividing of a continent
on 10 April 2015
The Scramble for Africa was a term coined to describe the great rush in the late 19tth Century by the European powers to claim a slice of the African continent. In a period of some 30 years the continent went from scattered European control (except at the Cape and on the North African coast) to be completely divided between Great Britain (receiving the Lion's share), France (the runner up with the bulk of North West Africa), Germany, Portugal and surprisingly Belgium. The Europeans would hold onto their territories for only a short period (most were out of Africa by the early 1960s) yet in that time, they shaped the fate of the continent, which is being felt now and for many years to come.
While over 20 years old, this book may be the definitive guide for the topic. Thomas Parkenham's work goes into great detail, but not in a dry way, looking at the not just the scramble, but also at events leading up to it over different time periods. The book is broken into 4 parts, the situation in Africa before the scramble begins, the start of the actual scramble lading up to the Conference of Berlin of 1885 where rules were put into place to govern the allocation of territory from the African cake(though these rules were not enforced) and where Leopold of Belgium managed to manipulate the great powers and had his possessions in the Congo (over 1 million square miles!) ratified. The next section deals with the main land grab of Africa and then the last main part shows the resistance to the European powers and the reform efforts that were undertaken by said Powers.
We look at the great figures like Livingstone (briefly), Stanley, the Englishman who became an America and who found Livingstone then continued his great exploration and ended up working for Leopold of Belgium and his great rival Brazza the Italian who became a passionate Frenchman who challenged Stanley in the face for the Congo in opening it up and adding to the sum of human knowledge We look at the great statesmen and the business men who led the charge into the continent and the reasons why, with exerts from their writings public and private in order to provide greater insight and humanize them. The book is crammed full of maps and illustrations which help us and bring this book to life.
My only complaint with this and it is minor, is that the paperback version of this is written in small type, making it harder to read for those of us with weaker eyes, otherwise this is one great work.