Berlin Conference Lesson Plan

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

The Berlin Conference had a major impact on Africa and Europe's relationship with the continent. With this lesson plan, you can boost your instruction on the effects of the conference with a video lesson and an activity, supported by extensions and related lessons.

Lesson Objectives

By the end of this lesson, your students will be able to do the following:

  • give a summary for what the Berlin Conference was and when it happened
  • analyze the impact of the Berlin Conference on the colonization of Africa
  • describe the colonization of Africa in the late 19th century


60 - 120 minutes

Curriculum Standards


Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.


Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.


Evaluate an author's premises, claims, and evidence by corroborating or challenging them with other information.


Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.

Key Vocabulary

  • International African Society
  • International Congo Society
  • Berlin Conference
  • Principle of Effectivity


  • Map of Africa
  • Paper copies of a blank map of Africa
  • Large physical map of Africa
  • Large linguistic map of Africa
  • Access to technology and the internet for research

Warm Up and Connect

  • Connect to the topic by asking students if they know how borders between countries are drawn.
  • Divide students into small groups to have this discussion, then distribute political maps of Europe and Africa and have them compare. How are the borders drawn differently?


  • Start the lesson The Colonization of Africa & the Berlin Conference: Definition & Purpose, pausing for key terms and the following points for understanding:
    • 1:52 - What do you think the motivations of the Europeans who wanted to explore Africa were? How did Stanley change those motivations? What was the status of the African interior before the 1880s?
    • 2:45 - How did the Principle of Effectivity change the colonization game? What did this mean for the people of Africa?
    • 3:26 - Pull up a map of Africa and highlight the areas controlled by each European power (one of these can be found at 3:24 in the video).
  • Divide your class into groups of 3-5 students.
  • Pass out a blank map of Africa to each student, then ask them to work within their groups to establish borders for each student to rule. Tell students they can make use of any knowledge about African geography that they have to help them, but they can't consult any maps or books.
  • Afterwards, have groups show their maps, then compare these maps to the physical and linguistic maps of Africa in order to show how the Europeans were largely uninformed and, in many ways, insensitive to existing situations.
  • Discuss:
    • What impact did events of the Berlin Conference have on inhabitants of Africa?
    • What criteria did countries use when forming borders during the Berlin Conference?
    • Do you think anything like the Berlin Conference could happen today? Why or why not?
  • Take the quiz to check understanding.

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