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Berlin Conference Essay

The Berlin Conference is a conference that was held in Berlin in an effort to reach and agreement among European nations regarding the distribution of goods and free trade in Central African Territories. The Berlin Conference had the greatest political imperial impact during the 19th centuries because the conference was where all of the European countries decide which pieces of Africa each European nation would get and this resulted in many new changes for Africa both positive and negative.

The Berlin Conference had a political impact on the division of Africa by the European nations. “One of the main goals of the Berlin Conference was to secure free trade in the Congo Region.”(Finkelman, 1998). During the conference no African representatives were invited. Africans were considered to be uncivilized, so they were not included. “Thinking that Belgium would be easier to influence than the more powerful Great Britain, France, or Portugal, Bismarck backed up IAC’s (International Association of the Congo)”. (Stock, 2013) other countries eventually came to an understanding and the IAC got control of many miles of land of the Congo River Basin. The General Act, which was signed at the Berlin Conference, which secured access to the Niger and Congo rivers for all nations. “The basis of the General Act had the intentions to abolish the slave trade and insure Africa’s native population kept their morals” (Leopold II, 1890) and comfort along with health, which was an extremely positive intention.

Other consequences from the Berlin Conference were the economic impact over the division of Africa. Even though the “Berlin Act was greatly concerned with free trade, mainly in liquor between the European Nations, it is generally recognized as the first time the European nations formally recognized any sort of duty to Africans.” (Finkelman, 1998). Even though Atlantic slave trade was essentially extinguished, slaves continued to be traded in Africa and exported to Arabia. The Berlin Act explained that they would have abolished slave trade to improve the conditions of their health and well-being. The Berlin Act also provided that “Trading in slaves is forbidden in conformity with the principles of the international law as recognized by the Signatory Powers.” (Stock, 2013) Nevertheless, this did not accommodate any provisions for enforcement. Therefore the Berlin Act has an insufficient impact or absolutely no impact on the slave trade in Africa. Although, even with their choice of what to trade, the trading industry boomed which is a positive impact on Europeans only. Other than the slave trade many goods were distributed abroad such as cloth, iron, copper, shells, jewelry, ivory, spices, and many more which had a positive impact on the economy due to many new things being discovered and traded.

The economic and political impact unintentionally influenced the social impact of Africa due to the European and Africans coming together. Most Africans did not benefit from interacting with the Europeans. “Europeans were discriminative against the Africans because of their dark skin color” (Finkelman, 1998), leading to the Africans becoming the slaves of the Europeans in the Americas. “The Europeans benefitted from the use of Africans” (Stock, 2013), being their slaves because they are receiving labor without having to pay for it. With the coming together of nations there was great tension and racism between the two because of the skin color and many more reasons.

In conclusion the Berlin Conference has the greatest political impact during the 19th centuries on the division of Africa by the European Nations. The division of Africa led to slave trade and loss of culture. The Europeans took over Africa and made it their own by having free labor by transporting Africans around the world to work. The Berlin Conference had good intentions by abolishing slave trade but it unintentionally led to many bad things effecting Africans but benefiting the Europeans.

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