CLIO FINAL - page 8

trol economically viable areas. The disregard for the
peoples and geography of Africa can be seen by the
“spheres of influence” decided at the conference, as
nations drew nonsensical lines onto a map of Africa
they knew nothing about, with no thought to the
possibility they were claiming land that was already
owned.
Christianity, therefore, was necessary to
attempt to justify the selfish and economically- ori-
ented seizure of African land. Christianity was, and
to a large extent remains, the basis forWestern
morality. This was especially prevalent inVictorian
England, which was experiencing a cultural reaction
to the Romantic era. QueenVictoria was crowned
in 1837, her reign triggering a departure from the
relative sexual openness and looser enforcement
of conformity to Christian morality in the Georgian
era. Instead, theVictorian era saw a focus on strict
outward conformity to traditional Christian mor-
al codes. Countries throughout Europe were also
undergoing similar changes, such as theWilhem-
ine period in Germany, characterised by its rigidly
conservative attitudes. Thus at the time of the
scramble for Africa, the mentality was one of strong
religious morality. This goes some way to help us
understand how willing Europeans were to impart
colonial rule- and with it, their culture, attempting
to erase the rich and varied history and culture
already in existence- onto Africa. The Christian
moral obligation to ‘bestow’ modern civilisation –
which to colonials meantWestern civilisation – onto
Africans could be used to justify the callous and
inhumane way with which colonials claimed African
land for their own. Christian missionaries especially
believed all forms of religion which were not Chris-
tian to be evil, and took advantage of colonial rule
to replace primal African religions with Christianity.
The belief in exporting superior Christian moral
values- or ‘civilising’ the colonies- can be seen in
Article 6 from the Berlin Conference, which outlined
the need for colonial rulers to “improve” their “mor-
al and material wellbeing”, highlighting the extent
to which white Christian colonials felt their Christian
morality superseded the culture and ideals of those
of African countries. More explicitly, in his memoir
as a Christian missionary, the monk Daniel Kulmer
Flickinger describes Ethiopia:
“The only reason why our theologi-
cal views are not as foolish and corrupting
[as those of the Ethiopians], and that we
are not believers in witchcraft, devil- wor-
ship, and a thousand other foolish things,
is simply because
the light of Heaven
shines upon us.
By describing Ethiopian religion as a be-
lief in “witchcraft and devil-worship” and calling it
“foolish”, Kulmer highlights that the colonial belief
that they were acting with the blessing of God- with
the “light of Heaven”- allowed colonisers to treat
traditional African religions as not only inferior but
as evil and thus in need of eradication and replace-
ment withWestern Christianity. Furthermore,
Kulmer’s certainty highlights the strength of the
mentality of Christian superiority, which was key
in allowing colonisers to mistreat Africans, such as
in the Belgium- owned Congo. Without the sincere
belief that they were acting for the benefit of the
continent, it would have been very difficult to for
colonials to morally justify the dehumanisation of
Africans and their religions not only to others but to
themselves.
Military advancements due to the indus-
trialisation of European powers were also key to
facilitating the misguided belief their culture and
religion was superior to that of Africans. Before Eu-
ropean rule was imposed upon the majority of Af-
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