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Tag Archives: Africa

Europe Annexes the African Continent

african

In 1871 there occurred one of the strangest meetings in history. The place was Ujiji on Lake Tanganyika in the heart of Africa. The men who met were David Livingstone, a Scottish missionary who was also a doctor, and Henry M. Stanley, a newspaperman. Livingstone had come to Africa about thirty years before. Anxious to spread Christianity and civilization among the Africans, in this unknown and mysterious continent, he had undertaken long trips into the interior. For several years, however, Livingstone had not been heard from, so the New York Herald sent Stanley, a roving reporter, to look for him. After what seemed like an endless journey through the dark forests of the African jungle, Stanley finally came upon Livingstone and his small party in a native village. There in the market place stood Livingstone, weak from fever and worn out from years of exploring regions hitherto unknown to white men. As the story goes, Stanley advanced toward him, rushed with the excitement of finally meeting the man he had for months been trying to locate. It would have been natural at such a dramatic moment for Stanley to shout a welcome or to rush forward and clap Livingstone on the back. But Stanley merely tipped his hat and said, “Doctor Livingstone, I presume?” as if this were an everyday meeting of two men on a city street! Stanley’s meeting with Livingstone occurred at a time when Europeans were taking a new interest in African continent. Within a few years several European countries had become engaged in a scramble for colonies. In fact, by the early years of the twentieth century, all Africa except for two or three areas had been taken over by one European power or another. Nor was interest in colonies confined to Africa. During the same …

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The United Nations and the End of Colonialism 1946 -1965

colonialism

Even before the Korean War, the United Nations had proved that it could take effective action to control serious conflicts. It first took such action in the conflict over Palestine. During World War I, the British had ousted the Turks from Palestine. When the war was over, the League of Nations placed that land under the authority of Britain. The British then issued the famous Balfour Declaration, which promised the Jewish people that Palestine would someday become their homeland, but the Arabs of Palestine and the surrounding countries strongly objected to this and year after year passed without the British making good their promise. During and after World War II, Britain refused to allow Jewish refugees from Europe to enter Palestine. In 1946 Jewish terrorists began to stage raids against the British army and a year later Britain turned the Palestine problem over to the United Nations. The General Assembly set up a special committee to investigate the situation and make recommendations and several months later the committee delivered its report. It recommended that Palestine be divided into two independent states, one Arab and one Jewish. Although the Arabs, who formed a majority of the people in Palestine, said they would never allow the existence of a Jewish state, the General Assembly approved the committee’s report. Britain was expected to carry out and enforce the recommendations. Instead, the British suddenly left Palestine in the spring of 1948 and war broke out between the Arabs and the Jews. The Palestinian Arabs were supported by troops from the surrounding countries of Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Egypt, but the Jewish army, which included many hardened veterans of World War II, won battle after battle. With every victory, the Jews added to the territory originally granted them by the United Nations special committee. Most …

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Independence for India 1920 – 1964

gandhi

Even before the end of World War II, it was clear that Asia and Africa would soon be shaken by a great movement for independence. Everywhere the colonial peoples wanted to be free of the rule of other countries. The British, who controlled more colonies than any other nation, knew that they faced the break-up of their empire. Churchill was opposed to giving up any of Britain’s power. In 1942, he said, “I haven’t become the king’s first minister to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire.”  A number of Englishmen shared his view, including some members of the Labour party: As late as 1946, Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin, a leader of the Labour party, said, “I’m not prepared to sacrifice the British Empire, because I know that if it fell a great collection of free nations would go into the limbo of the past and would create disaster.” When, after the end of the war, Ceylon, Malaya and Burma demanded independence Britain agreed. Ceylon and Malaya remained within the British Commonwealth, while Burma cut itself off from Britain completely. The problem of India, the largest and most important of Britain’s possessions, proved more difficult to solve. The Indians were firmly determined to win independence. “Come what may,” one Indian leader said, “we will come out as a free nation or be thrown into the ashes.” Yet the Indians were not a united people; they were divided by religious differences. On one side were the Hindus, organized into the All-India Congress party, led by Jawarharlal Nehru. On the other side were the Moslems. They wanted a separate Moslem state of their own, to be called Pakistan and they had set up the Moslem League, under the leadership of Mohammed Ali Jinnah. The Hindus themselves were divided into numerous castes, …

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Rivalries in the Middle East 1856 – 1912

ottoman

THE MIDDLE EAST where Europe, Asia and Africa meet had long been known as one of the great crossroads of the world. Most of its people were Moslems, but among them were many Christians and Jews. They spoke languages as different as Arabic and Latin, Slavic and Turkish. They had little in common except that they were all subjects of the Ottoman sultan in Constantinople. The Ottoman Empire — so called after its early founder, Othman — was the last of several empires to rule over a large part of Islam. Unlike the earlier empires, it was dominated not by Arabs, but by Turks. Centuries before, the Turks had fought their way west from Central Asia and founded a new homeland in the West Asian peninsula of Turkey. From there, they had pushed outward, conquering lands and peoples. In 1699, however, they had lost Hungary to the Austrians. After that, while the nations of western Europe grew stronger, the Ottoman Empire became weaker. Throughout the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Ottoman sultans had to combat enemies both within and without their empire. Their foreign enemies were the European powers, which snatched up their outlying lands. Their enemies at home were the subject peoples, especially in the Balkan Peninsula of southeast Europe, who demanded their freedom. Unrest was chronic and the Ottoman Empire, which was usually called simply Turkey, came to be known as “the sick man of Europe.” By the 1850’s, Turkey had lost lands north of the Black Sea to Russia and Algeria‚ in North Africa, to France. Of its former Balkan holdings, Greece was independent and both Serbia and Rumania had some freedom. A native Arab dynasty ruled much of Arabia. In Egypt, a former Turkish governor had set himself up as hereditary khedive, or viceroy, …

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Parceling Out a Continent 1841-1910

africa

Africa, the second largest continent in the world, extends south from the Mediterranean Sea four thousand miles. Along its north coast is a strip of land known to Europeans since ancient times. South of this strip lie mountains and deserts. The Sahara, an empty “sea” of sand and rock, crosses the continent in a belt several hundreds of miles wide; it is hot and dry, vast and rugged. Europeans knew very little about the lands beyond it. Almost all they knew of Africa were the coasts, which they could reach by sea. As late as the time of the American Civil War and the unification of Italy and Germany, Africa was still largely unknown – the “Dark Continent.” The people of North Africa were white — descendants of the early inhabitants and of Arabs who had conquered them for Islam. South of the Sahara lay “Black Africa” a land of Negroes. The Negroes were divided into thousands of tribes, but had no organized states. They spoke hundreds of languages, but had no writing. They lived by hunting, raising cattle and simple farming and worshiped tribal gods. All of Black Africa was Negro except for a few places on the Indian Ocean where Arab traders had settled and the southernmost part of the continent, where some European families had settled. STANLEY AND LIVINGSTON In the sixteenth century, Portuguese and Spanish ships had begun to stop at points on the Atlantic shore of Africa to trade. Later, traders came from other European countries. The names they gave to stretches of shoreland — the Gold Coast, the Ivory Coast, the Slave Coast — show what they came for. The Europeans found that the sultry coastland was ridden with disease. So many of them died there that West Africa came to be known as …

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The Race for Empire 1870-1914

imperialism

While the peoples of the West were concerned with the problems that grew out of industrialization, their governments were taking part in one of the greatest land grabs in history. By the end of the nineteenth century they had brought within their grasp most of the earth’s land surface and half its inhabitants. This development created new empires and enlarged old ones, it was called imperialism. Imperialism came about in many ways, from armed invasions to polite talks that led native rulers to place their countries under the protection of an imperialist power. It took many forms, from colonies which one power ruled outright, to “spheres of influence,” in which one power enjoyed rights, particularly trading rights, denied to other powers. So, it arose from many causes — economic, political and cultural. Empire-building was not new; it was as old as civilization. In ancient times, the Romans had built a vast empire that ruled peoples in Europe, Asia and Africa. In the fifteenth century, European nations had colonized the Americas and conquered the Indians. Elsewhere they had not challenged native rulers, being content to set up trading posts, where they bought native wares for resale at home. In the last quarter of the eighteenth century, most of British North America became independent, as did the United States. In the first quarter of the nineteenth century, almost all of Latin America won its freedom from Spain and Portugal. During the next half-century, while industry went through its first slow stage of growth, goods circulated freely throughout the world and governments cared little about building up their empires. The French, to be sure, occupied Algeria, the British strengthened their hold on India, the Dutch developed the East Indies and the western powers, including the United States, opened Japan to trade and started …

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Problems of a Changing World 1870-1914

trade unions

WHILE INDUSTRY was transforming the United States, the same thing was happening in Western Europe. The change was most noticeable in Germany, because Germany was not unified until 1870, it started to become industrial much later than Great Britain and France, but it soon began to catch up with its neighbours. Within a few decades it was producing more than they were of several key commodities, including the most important one of all, steel. Like the American government, the German government imposed tariffs on foreign manufactures and encouraged its national industry in other ways. The results were much the same as in the United States. Railways spread across the country in an ever denser network of tracks, connecting farmlands with cities, mines with factories and factories with seaports. New industrial cities came into being, especially in the coal-rich Ruhr Valley, next to the iron-rich province of Lorraine which Germany had seized from France in the Franco-Prussian War. Old cities doubled and tripled in size as country people flocked into them to man factory machines, shop counters and office desks. On both sides of the Atlantic, smoke billowed from factory chimneys, rows of new houses went up in the cities and freight trains carried industrial products off to market and to seaports, for shipments overseas. Such signs of industry’s growth could be seen throughout the industrial West. Elsewhere, in the less developed parts of the world, they were not so evident — but their effects were felt just the same. For, as industry expanded in Western Europe and the United States, it reached further and further afield in quest of supplies for its factories and customers for its products. In Asia, Africa, Latin America and other non-industrial regions, armies of native workers came to depend for their livelihood on the money …

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Stepping-Stones for the West, 1869

suez

ON NOVEMBER 16, 1869, the sun rose over the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea and shone on the blue water. The squat buildings of Port Said, on the shore of Egypt, glowed against the clear sky. A new town, Port Said had begun to rise only ten years before from the barren plain that joins Africa to Asia. In the man-made harbour were crowded eighty ships. Some were warships, others merchantmen, but all were strung with brightly-coloured pennants. On board were distinguished visitors, among them the emperor of Austria-Hungary, the crown prince of Prussia, the prince of Holland and ambassadors, generals, admirals from many lands. As the sun climbed higher, passengers began to appear on the decks and hundreds of other people gathered on the piers and the seawall. At eight o’clock‚ the warships’ big guns boomed out salutes to the European monarchs‚ to the khedive’s of Egypt and to the khedive’s overlord, the sultan of Turkey. When the smoke cleared, a trim, graceful vessel came steaming toward the harbour — the French imperial yacht Aigle. Again the cannon thundered, to welcome Empress Eugénie, the wife of Napoleon III. She was the guest of honour and as her yacht glided past, the sailors on the other ships stood at attention, cheering, while music blared from several bands. The black-haired empress, standing on the Aigle’s bridge, smiled to left and right. She looked happy, proud and by the time her yacht had docked, everyone agreed she was as beautiful as she was said to be. In the afternoon, the visitors, in uniforms, frock coats and formal gowns and Egyptians‚ who wore flowing robes, all trooped out onto the desert. There, perhaps for the first time, Christians and Moslems worshiped side by side. The Moslems were led in prayer by the …

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Prince Henry’s School 1415 – 1499

Vasco da Gama

IN 1415, WHEN ALL OF CHRISTENDOM belonged to one church and Christians battled pagan Turks instead of one another, a force of Portuguese marines set sail for the coast of Africa. They planned to attack a town called Ceuta. A stronghold that guarded the narrow passage connecting the Mediterranean Sea with the Atlantic, Ceuta was the end link in the chain of fortresses and well-armed ports that the Turks had tightened around the southern and eastern boundaries of Europe. Held in by this chain, European merchants could not trade in the luxury-filled markets of the east, pilgrims could not journey to Jerusalem and missionaries could not carry the word of God to the countless “lost souls” of Africa and the Indies. While the Turks held Ceuta, it was dangerous for the merchants of northern and southern Europe merely to trade with one another. So the king of Portugal sent out an expedition of his toughest marines. At their head he placed his own son, Prince Henry, who was young but skilled in the tactics of war. With a favourable wind driving his ships at top speed, Prince Henry caught the Turks by surprise. He sank their fleet, destroyed their docks‚ burned their town and triumphantly sailed home to announce that the sea routes were free once more. The king rewarded his son by naming him master of the Naval Arsenal at Sagres, the port of Lagos and all of the Cape of St. Vincent, the rocky headland that jutted like a pointing finger from southern Portugal into the Atlantic. Prince Henry was delighted. Ships and the sea were his love and his life and he had many ideas for the fleet that now was his to command. These ideas were the beginning of a great age of exploration. They would …

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The Walls Come Tumbling Down 1300-1415

wyclif

IN THE MIDDLE AGES, when knights fought wars in Europe’s fields, robbers roamed the roads and the dark forests seemed filled with unknown dangers, men put their trust in walls. Around each little town rose ramparts of massive stonework, a strong defense against the evils outside. Within the safety of the wall was a crowded little world, complete in itself — a castle‚ a church, a monastery or two, a marketplace and a tangle of cobbled streets lined with the thatch-roofed houses of townsmen. In such a town a man knew his place. He was a nobleman or a knight, a churchman, a craftsman, or a farmer and there were ancient invisible walls that marked off the little world in which each kind of person belonged. For a lord there was the realm of chivalry. He lived according to the code of knights and in time of war, put on his armour and defended the town against its enemies. In peacetime, he amused himself with hunting, banquets, poetry, music, dancing and wooing ladies in the complicated fashion called courtly love. Religion and scholarship were the territory of monks, priests and bishops. They were men who had learned to read the Bible and other books and who understood the Latin of church services. For commoners, there was work on land owned by the nobles and in shops that served the castle. It was an orderly system and it seemed as if it would never change. No peasant dreamed of becoming a knight or questioned the wisdom of the churchmen. The invisible walls, like the walls of stone around the town, were strong and old and within them a man felt safe. THE WORLD OF CHRISTENDOM The world of Europe also had its walls in the Middle Ages. To the east and …

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