Imperialism in Africa in White Man’s Burden Poem

“Take up the white man’s burden/ send forth the best ye breed -“Rudyard Kipling mockingly wrote in 1899, he was describing the aggressive European imperialism that took place in the 1880’s. In 1884 Africa was divided up among European nations, only two African countries remained independent. One may question, what the driving force behind this European imperialism was. Although technology, political and cultural causes were factors in the Europeans imperializing Africa, ultimately the primary reason for imperialism was economic benefit due to the fact that Africa had vast resources.

Throughout the late 1700’s to the mid-1800’s the Europeans had developed many technological advances in which enabled them to easily conquer African colonies. In 1820 the Europeans acquired a treatment for the disease malaria; this very disease had prehistorically held them back from venturing farther than the African coast. The Maxim gun was developed by Europeans in 1884 which enabled them to easily conquer African colonies.

Technological advancements allowed the Europeans to take-over Africa.

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European imperialism in African also came as a result of political causes. There were seven different European countries with colonies in Africa, which created great competition among the European colonies. Germany believed it needed to “prove and maintain its newly won position” by conquering more colonies this created competition among the European countries. Each nation’s pride was at stake which caused European nations to take-over African colonies as quickly and abundantly as possible. Another driving force behind European imperialism was cultural beliefs. Europeans believed their culture was superior to the African’s.

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In the poem the White Man’s Burden, Kipling shows that Europeans believed they were culturally superior to the African’s by describing it as the white man’s “burden”. The Europeans believed they needed to take over Africa to improve their culture. Though technological advances, political and cultural beliefs were driving forces behind European imperialism in Africa, the primary force was economic. The Europeans discovered the vast resources in Africa and began to trade. The Europeans wanted to obtain resources such as gold, ivory and rubber and trade them to benefit the economy. Exports grew from 2 million pounds in 1854 to over 20 million pounds in 1900. The Europeans grew extremely wealthy from imperialism.

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Imperialism in Africa in White Man’s Burden Poem. (2016, Mar 25). Retrieved from

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