Imperialism in Africa: Lesson for Kids

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  • 0:04 Imperialism
  • 0:32 Creating Colonies
  • 1:43 Conflict
  • 2:27 Ending Imperialism
  • 3:19 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Wilson

David has taught college history and holds an MA in history.

During the late 1800s and early 1900s, Europeans controlled almost all of Africa, leading to widespread changes on both continents. Learn about the origins of imperialism in Africa and how it has shaped the area to this day in this lesson.

Imperialism

Imagine another faraway country being in charge of the place you live. Maybe China, Brazil, or Germany, depending on where you live. They determine the rules and the economy, and it's clear that you and your own way of life don't mean much to them.

Starting about 150 years ago, European nations took over almost all of Africa in a process known as imperialism, creating empires in faraway places. In doing so, they totally changed the history and development of Africa.

Creating Colonies

Europeans and Africans have been trading with one another for thousands of years, with Europeans desiring African gold, ivory, slaves, timber, and rubber. However, it's much easier to sail to a place and trade for goods than it is to control a place and have all their goods. Not until European nations became powerful enough to extend their power across the globe with fleets of ships, advanced weapons, and complex governments could they outright control a region.

A colony is an area under the control of a faraway region. European imperialism in Africa started in the early 1800s when South Africa, then a colony of Great Britain, began to spread outwards.

Imperialism only went into high gear, however, when King Leopold of Belgium sent trade representatives to the region of central Africa, called the Congo. After this, other European powers realized that they needed to stake a claim to parts of Africa they wanted. This led to a gathering in 1884 to 1885 called the Berlin Conference, where Europe carved up control over Africa, leaving only one independent state, Ethiopia. Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Spain, and Portugal all built colonies in Africa.

Conflict

Europe was a big winner in imperialism, but Africa was not. While the Europeans got the trade goods they wanted for cheap, Africans had to deal with European laws, taxes, and inequality. Some Africans fought back. In Nigeria, the British struggled to keep the locals in line because the Nigerians used guerrilla warfare, striking by surprise and escaping quickly.

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