The British South-African Company's shares May be at a discount - (Trade-martyrs! - trade-martyrs!) But he, our Colossus, strides on, he declares, Whether with or without chums or charters - or charters. Hooray! We brave Britons are right now to the front - Provided we've someone to boss us - to boss us; And Scuttlers will have their work cut out to shunt This stalwart, far-striding Colossus - Colossus! —Excerpt from an editorial in Punch, December 10, 1892
The modern history of Africa was, until very recently, written on behalf of the indigenous races by the white man, who had forcefully entered the continent during a particularly hubristic and dynamic phase of European history. In 1884, Prince Otto von Bismark, the German chancellor, brought the plenipotentiaries of all major powers of Europe together, to deal with Africa's colonization in such a manner as to avoid provocation of war. This event - known as the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885 - galvanized a phenomenon that came to be known as the Scramble for Africa. The conference established two fundamental rules for European seizure of Africa. The first of these was that no recognition of annexation would be granted without evidence of a practical occupation, and the second, that a practical occupation would be deemed unlawful without a formal appeal for protection made on behalf of a territory by its leader, a plea that must be committed to paper in the form of a legal treaty.
This began a rush, spearheaded mainly by European commercial interests in the form of Chartered Companies, to penetrate the African interior and woo its leadership with guns, trinkets, and alcohol, and having thus obtained their marks or seals upon spurious treaties, begin establishing boundaries of future European African colonies. The ease with which this was achieved was due to the fact that, at that point, traditional African leadership was disunited, and the people had just staggered back from centuries of concussion inflicted by the slave trade. Thus, to usurp authority, to intimidate an already broken society, and to play one leader against the other was a diplomatic task so childishly simple, the matter was wrapped up, for the most part, in less than a decade.
©2017 Charles River Editors (P)2017 Charles River Editors