Scramble for Africa

Areas of Africa controlled by European colonial powers in 1913, shown along with current national boundaries
Comparison of Africa in the years 1880 and 1913

The Scramble for Africa was the occupation, division, and colonisation of African territory by European powers during the period of New Imperialism, between 1881 and 1914. It is also called the Partition of Africa and by some the Conquest of Africa. In 1870, only 10 percent of Africa was under European control; by 1914 it had increased to almost 90 percent of the continent, with only Ethiopia (Abyssinia), the Dervish state (a portion of present-day Somalia) [1] and Liberia still being independent.

The Berlin Conference of 1884, which regulated European colonisation and trade in Africa, is usually referred to as the starting point of the scramble for Africa. [2] Consequent to the political and economic rivalries among the European empires in the last quarter of the 19th century, the partitioning, or splitting up of Africa was how the Europeans avoided warring amongst themselves over Africa. [3] The later years of the 19th century saw the transition from "informal imperialism" ( hegemony), by military influence and economic dominance, to direct rule, bringing about colonial imperialism. [4]


David Livingstone, early explorer of the interior of Africa and fighter against the slave trade

The Portuguese established the first firm post- Middle Ages European settlements, trade posts, permanent fortifications and ports of call along the coast of the African continent, from the beginning of the Age of Discovery during the 15th century. But Europeans showed comparatively little interest in (and less knowledge of) the interior for some two centuries thereafter.

European exploration of the African interior began in earnest at the end of the 18th century. By 1835, Europeans had mapped most of northwestern Africa. In the middle decades of the 19th century, famous European explorers included David Livingstone and H. M. Stanley, each of whom mapped vast areas of Southern Africa and Central Africa. Arduous expeditions in the 1850s and 1860s by Richard Burton, John Speke and James Grant located the great central lakes and the source of the Nile. By the end of the 19th century Europeans had charted the Nile from its source, traced the courses of the Niger, Congo and Zambezi Rivers, and realised the vast resources of Africa.

Even as late as the 1870s, European states still controlled only ten percent of the African continent, with all their territories located near the coast. The most important holdings were Angola and Mozambique, held by Portugal; the Cape Colony, held by the United Kingdom; and Algeria, held by France. By 1914, only Ethiopia and Liberia remained independent of European control. [5]

Technological advances facilitated European expansion overseas. Industrialisation brought about rapid advancements in transportation and communication, especially in the forms of steam navigation, railways and telegraphs. Medical advances also played an important role, especially medicines for tropical diseases. The development of quinine, an effective treatment for malaria, made vast expanses of the tropics more accessible for Europeans.

Other Languages
aragonés: Reparto d'Africa
čeština: Dělení Afriky
hrvatski: Utrka za Afriku
Bahasa Indonesia: Perebutan Afrika
Bahasa Melayu: Perebutan Afrika
Nederlands: Wedloop om Afrika
norsk nynorsk: Kappløpet om Afrika
Simple English: Scramble for Africa
српски / srpski: Osvajanje Afrike
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Utrka za Afriku
Türkçe: Afrika Talanı
Tiếng Việt: Tranh giành châu Phi
中文: 瓜分非洲