There are several reasons why the European nations competed with each other to gain colonies in Africa. They all wanted to gain power and prestige. The more territory that they were able to control in Africa the more powerful and important they thought they could become. Africa was tremendously rich in natural resources, which could be brought to Europe and turned into manufactured goods. Europeans also needed markets for their manufactured goods. These goods could be sold in Africa for large profits. Often a European nation would take over territory in Africa simply to prevent another European country from taking it.
European rule came to Africa in many different ways. Sometimes a European trading company made agreements with Africa chiefs permitting the company to trade and keep order in the area. The traders then put pressure on their government in Europe to take over in order to protect them. In a few cases tribal chiefs voluntarily asked for the protection of one European nation in order to avoid being taken over by another European nation. Sometimes the Africans even asked for European protection against other African tribes. The African chiefs in whom they gave the European company or government the right to keep order and to take over the land and resources in their area signed treaties. Thousands of treaties were signed by African rulers giving away most of their rights to Europeans, but the Africans never really understood these treaties and did not realize what they were giving away.
By 1815 the world had known some four hundred year of continuous European imperialism. In a sense this was the outward expansion of European power over other continents. Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, French, British colonial empires had followed one another throughout these four centuries. Always these extensions of control over non-European territories had involved, in varying proportions, trading, miss ionizing, adventure, settlement, loot, national pride, conquests,...
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