Daily Archives: 12 June 2008

European Horsetrading for Backwaters

From The Fate of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence, by Martin Meredith (PublicAffairs, 2005), pp. 1-2 (reviewed here, here, and here):

During the Scramble for Africa at the end of the nineteenth century, European powers staked claims to virtually the entire continent. At meetings in Berlin, Paris, London and other capitals, European statesmen and diplomats bargained over the separate spheres of interest they intended to establish there. Their knowledge of the African hinterland was slight….

As the haggling in Europe over African territories continued, land and peoples became little more than pieces on a chessboard…. Britain traded the North Sea island of Heligoland with the Germans for Zanzibar, and parts of northern Nigeria with the French for fishing rights off Newfoundland. France exchanged parts of Cameroon with Germany in return for German recognition of the French protectorate over Morocco. By the time the Scramble for Africa was over, some 10,000 African polities had been amalgamated into forty European colonies and protectorates.

Thus were born the modern states of Africa.

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