European Acquisition of Africa

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Kathryn Tanner
AP European History
March 7, 2012
Free-Response Essay

Between the years of 1878 and 1914, the demand for overseas empires in Africa greatly increased. European powers acted upon this, as many influential government officials thought colonization was an important step to gaining global influence. Some believed the African colonization was an excuse, fabricated by greedy capitalists, to gain raw materials and search for new markets, while others felt they were just doing their duty to God by civilizing the “barbaric” natives. Many debated that colonization was a misuse of Africa’s resources driven purely by capitalist ideals, with those who gained from the colonization defending their actions with the theory of “the white man’s burden”, or the duty to bring civilization and enlightenment to the native people of Africa, while European political figures claimed to promote the colonization of Africa with the intention of gaining global influence.

Africa held an abundance of new sources and materials to offer through European colonization, but the morality of such endeavors caused for disagreement. The British industrialist, Joseph Chamberlain, contended in an 1888 speech that overseas expansion was not only advantageous to a society, but also utterly necessary. Although he made valid points, his argument was skewed due to his inclination to increase his own personal wealth as an industrialist. (Document 4) British imperialist, Cecil Rhodes, exposed his personal intentions of imperialism when he stated, “philanthropy is good, but philanthropy at five percent is even better.” (Document 5) In contrast, William Clark disagreed and deemed the military as the “tool” of financers hoping to maximize profit in Africa. (Document 7) This opinion was similar to the German Social Democratic party who argued, “the colonial policy is pursued for the purpose of capitalist exploitation and for displaying military force”, and rejecting the “greedy desire of the...
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