CLIO FINAL - page 7

treatment, forced labour and eradication of primal
African religions. This ultimately enabled colonials
to treat Africans as inferior and ignore their existing
right to land and freedom.
The true nature of the motives behind the
scramble for Africa was, of course, not humanitarian;
colonisers were driven mostly by economic desires.
The industrialisation of Europe and America in the
18th and 19th centuries had increased the demand
for raw materials- for example, cotton was need-
ed for the textile industry, which was increasing in
productivity as a result of innovations such as the
‘spinning jenny’ and the power loom. Africa was rich
in raw materials such as cotton, copper, iron and rub-
ber; thus it was beneficial for Europeans to control
the areas of Africa with an abundance of raw materi-
als so they could be exploited for high profits, using
Africans for cheap labour and selling materials for
high prices back home to facilitate rapid industrial-
isation. Socialist contemporaries such as the com-
munist leader Lenin in his 1917 book Imperialism: the
Highest Stage of Capitalism have recognised this as
an extension of European capitalism- an attempt to
‘seize the means of production’ abroad as the re-
sources and markets of Europe were exhausted. An
example which strongly supports this socialist per-
spective is the rule of King Leopold of Belgium over
the Congo: the population was stripped of all private
property and forced into labour in order to extract as
much material from the metal-rich earth as possible,
which was sold by colonials back to Europe, showing
the extent to which African people and their resourc-
es were exploited by colonisers for European eco-
nomic gain.
The Berlin Conference (1884- 85) also high-
lights the disregard with which Africans were treated
as European economic aspirations took priority. The
conference was called by Portugal to address dis-
putes between the Portuguese government and the
Belgian King Leopold II over control of the rich Con-
go trade and its outlet to the sea, and was attended
by representatives of thirteen European countries as
well as by the USA. The outcome was the Berlin Act:
an agreement that any claims to a region of Africa
were only valid provided ‘real authority’ was being
exercised there. The conference effectively triggered
a heightened wave of colonialism as European pow-
ers (and the USA) desperately began staking claims
in Africa, with fears of falling into industrial depres-
sion as other countries flourished from the benefits
of the so- called ‘dark continent’ if they failed to con-
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