Between the period from 1880 to 1914, European powers went after overseas empires in Africa. The governments and political leaders of the European powers believed that this colonization of the African empires was necessary to maintain their global influence. A second group of people supposed that African colonization was the result of the greedy Capitalists who \only cared for new resources and markets. The third group of people claimed it to be their job to enlighten and educate the uncivilized people of Africa. Although the political leaders of European powers encouraged colonization of African empires to advance their nation’s global influence, others argued that it was only for the profiteering of the Capitalists who sought new resources and markets from Africa and those who benefited from colonization argued that these actions were necessary in order to civilize the African people.
European heads of states or Political leaders promoted the Colonization of Africa to encourage greater influence of the European nation around the world. In his speech to the House of Commons in February of 1876, Benjamin Disraeli, British Prime Minister, argued that the purchase of the Suez Canal would indeed strengthen the empire (Document 2). Disraeli would obviously encourage colonization in order to increase his term in order to increase his political influence. Prince Leopold, heir to the throne of Belgium and future king, also said that the acquisition of African colonies would be “the opportunity to prove to the world that Belgians also are an imperial people capable of dominating and enlightening others” (Document 1). This shows the pressure of less powerful European powers, such as Belgium, to acquire colonies to advance their global influence.
Leopold held these views because the more strong European powers had colonized. In 1903, French Diplomat Eugene-Melchoir de Vogue repeated this belief in, The Master of the Sea, when he wrote “What used to be a European balance of power is now a world balance of power… and any country that does not wish to become less important must obtain as much relatively as our rivals are doing” (Document 10). Archibald Philip Primrose, Lord Rosebery, wrote, in his letter to the London Times, that colonies are essential to the nations survival. “Health of mind and body exalt a nation in the competition of the universe” (Document 8). These political leaders believed that colonization was necessary to keep the nation’s global influence.
African colonization obviously offered new wealth sources, such as markets and resources, to the European nations; however, many people doubted the ethicality of the act. In his speech in 1888, Joseph Chamberlain, British industrialist, politician and reformer, clearly argues that colonization is incredibly necessary to the British nation. He believes that the British Isles could not last for a single day without the natural markets for trade provided by the African colonies (Document 4). However, since he is an industrialist, Chamberlains goal is to increase his own wealth along with his countries, therefore, this argument could be distorted. Cecil Rhodes, British imperialist, easily revealed his thoughts on Imperialism when he said “Philanthropy is good, but philanthropy at 5 percent is even better” in a speech at the chartering of the British South Africa Company in 1889 (Document 5).
William Clark disagreed with imperialist in a Progressive Review in 1879. His opinion was that the financers who hope to gain profit use Jameson, a “British military officer who led an unsuccessful raid into Boer controlled territory in Southern Africa,” as a tool (Document 7). Similarly, the Resolution of the German Social Democratic Party Congress argued that “World and colonial policy is pursued for the purpose of capitalist exploitation and for displaying military force… [I]t corresponds first and foremost to the greedy desire of the bourgeoisie for new opportunities” (Document 9). This party rejected their greedy desire.
A third group of people believed that Imperialism gave the opportunity to civilize the barbaric people from the African colonies. Rudyard Kipling’s “The White Man’s Burden” expresses their duty to do so. Prince Leopold, heir to the throne of Belgium and future king said “let us see where there are unoccupied lands… where are to be found peoples to civilize, to lead to progress in every sense” (Document 1). Martial Henri Merlin, governor general of French Equatorial Africa announced that “We [France] went there by virtue of the right of a civilized, fully developed race to occupy territories which have been left fallow by backward peoples who are plunged into barbarism” (Document 11).
Therefore, the Age of Imperialism made the European nations consider the advantages and disadvantages of African colonization. Political leaders of European powers encouraged the colonization of Africa to increase their nation’s global influence. Others argued that it was only for the profiteering of the Capitalists who wanted new resources and markets from African colonies. Lastly, those who benefited from the colonization of Africa argued that these actions were necessary to civilize the barbaric African people as expressed in Rudyard Kipling’s “The White Man’s Burden.”