HST 504 – Week 3
Berlin West Africa Conference
Sickman of Europe
Young Turks Revolt
First Sino-Japanese War
The race for the African Empire
- Before the 1870s, the imperialism of the Great Powers in Africa was limited to the coastal areas, which
provided easy access to sea routes.
- But the European merchants had become increasingly interested in gaining control over the African interior.
- Within the next three decades, under a massive colonial expansion, known as the ―Scramble for Africa,‖
much of the continent came under the domination of the Europeans.
- By the latter half of the 19 century, British, French and German industries were producing a variety of
cheap manufactured goods.
- To sustain such production and be able to sell goods, they all sought new markets and sources of cheap
raw resources. It was believed that the vast areas of the African interior would provide not only raw materials
and wealth, but would also serve as new markets.
- Vegetable oils and ivory were quickly supplanted by the ―mineral revolution‖—the discovery of wild rubber,
diamonds (in 1870s) and gold (in 1880s)—and the introduction of cash crops (such as cotton).
- The anticipation of quick and large profits, safeguarding of potential markets and sources of raw materials,
as well as to ensure national prestige pushed all the Great Powers to acquire parts of Africa.
- The colonists were able to effectively exploit the rivalries between African states.
- The traditional lack of African unity allowed the colonizers to take on one African state at a time.
- Moreover, the colonizers utilized steampower (e.g., railroads), firepower (e.g., Maxim-gun and heavy
artillery), and medical knowledge, to overwhelm and subdue the indigenous leaders and populations.
- The European governments used concessionary companies to colonize their newly acquired empires. In this
system, private companies were given large stretches of territory to exploit and colonize at their own
expense and in the name of a given European Great Power.
- As the Belgians, the Germans, the French, the British, and the Portuguese aggressively pursued
expansionist policies, they became entangled in conflicts and rivalries.
- The Berlin West Africa Conference in 1884-5 set the tone for the carving-up of Africa.
- Most important of the decisions made at the conference was that any European claim to a territory of Africa
would only be recognized by other Great Powers if it was ―effectively occupied‖ by a particular European
- This new rule forced all the Great Powers to become much more actively involved in African affairs,
stimulating not only localized conflicts but also tensions between the various countries in Europe. - The First and Second Moroccan Crises highlighted the tensions that stemmed from various colonial
- In addition, these extra-European issues had tremendous reverberations on intra-European international
The Collapse of the Ottoman Empire
- At the height of its power in the 17 century, the Ottoman Empire had been the most powerful state in the
world, ruling over vast territories in south-eastern Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa.
- Yet, by the beginning of the 19 century, it had become known as the ―Sickman of Europe.‖
- Firstly, the Ottoman Empire’s structural, administrative and economic problems made it an easy prey for her
rivals. Overwhelmed by an array of challenges, and ruled by a theocratic system, it was slow to reform and
- Building stronger economic ties with the European Great Powers merely introduced more external
- The more it modernized, the more dependent it grew on European capital and technology.
- Secondly, given its extensive size, the Ottoman Empire came into conflict with many European Great
Powers that were making (direct and indirect) claims on its spheres of influence and even territories.
- Britain and France had colonial interests in the Middle East, North Africa and in the Mediterranean. Austria-
Hungary wanted to expand her power in the Balkans.
- Russia was interested in supplanting the Ottomans as the rulers of the whole area of Southeastern Europe,
around the Black Sea (including control over the Dardanelles), and parts of the Middle East.
- By the beginning of the 20 century, even the Germans were trying to attain influence in the Middle East.
- Such rivalries embroiled the Ottoman Empire in several wars throughout the 19 century, each time leading
to further concessions and fragmentation, and turning the area into the powder keg of European
- Thirdly, the Ottoman Empire was also torn apart from the inside by its many ethnicities and religions.
- In the era of national awakenings, many peoples that the Ottomans had conquered over the centuries were
now making demands for autonomy and even independence.
- The Great Powers often interve