The New Imperialism: Africa

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Great Trek of the Boers

1835

During the Napoleonic wars, the British established themselves in South Africa by taking control of Cape Town, which was originally founded by the Dutch. After the wars, the British encouraged settlers to come to what they called the Cape Colony. British policies disgusted the Boers, or Afrikaners, as the descendants of the Dutch colonists were called, and led them in 1835 to migrate north on the Great Trek to the region between the Orange and Vaal rivers and north of the Vaal River.

Opening of the Suez Canal

1869

The Suez Canal was opened by the French in 1869.

Leopold of Belgium establishes settlements in the Congo

1876

The real driving force for the colonisation of Central Africa who rushed into the pursuit of empire in Africa. Profit was more important to Leopold than progress; his treatment of the Africans was so brutal that even other Europeans condemned his actions. In 1876, he created the International Association for the Exploration and Civilisation of Central Africa and engaged Henry Stanley to establish Belgian settlements in the Congo. Alarmed by Leopold's actions, the French also moved into the territory north of the Congo River.

British seizure of Transvaal

1877

Hostilities between the British and the Boers continued, even after the Boers migrated north to the region between the Orange and Vaal rivers and north of the Vaal River (the Transvaal). In 1877, the British governor of the Cape Colony seized the Transvaal, but a Boer revolt led the British government to recognise Transvaal as the independent South African Republic.

French conquest of Algeria

1879

The French had started the conquest of Algeria in Muslim North Africa in 1830, although it was not until 1879 that French civilian rule was established there.

British expeditionary force in Egypt

1882

The British took an active interest in Egypt after the Suez Canal was opened by the French in 1869. Believing that the canal was their lifeline to India, the British sought to control the canal area. Egypt was a well-established state with an autonomous Muslim government, but that did not stoop the British from landing an expeditionary force there in 1882. Although they claimed that their occupation was only temporary, they soon established a protectorate over Egypt. From Egypt, the British moved south into the Sudan and seized it after narrowly averting a war with France.

Ethiopians defeat the Italians

1896

Italy joined in the imperialist scramble. They experienced a humiliating defeat by the Ethiopians in 1896.

Battle of Omdurman in the Sudan

1898

In 1868, Sudanese tribesmen attempted to defend their independence and stop a British expedition armed with the recently developed machine gun. In the ensuing Battle of Omdurman, the Sudanese were massacred. The battle casualties at Omdurman tell the story of the one-sided conflicts between Europeans and Africans: 28 British deaths to 11,000 Sudanese.

Union of South Africa

1910

After the Boer War, British policy toward the defeated Boers was remarkably conciliatory. Transvaal and the Orange Free State had representative governments by 1907, and in 1910, the Union of South Africa was created. Like Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, it became a fully self-governing dominion within the British Empire

Italians seize Tripoli

1911

The defeat of the Italians by the Ethiopians led them to try to join the imperialist scramble again in 1911. They invaded and seized Ottoman Tripoli, which they renamed Libya.

French protectorate over Morocco

1912

The next year, 1880, the European scramble for possession of Africa began in earnest. By 1900, the French had added the huge area of French West Africa and Tunisia to their African empire. In 1912, they established a protectorate over much of Morocco; the rest was left to Spain.