Significance of the Berlin Conference Essay
Joey Evans History of Africa Essay #2 Significance of the Berlin Conference November 15, 1884 Portugal called for a conference. Organized by Otto von Bismarck, the chancellor of Germany and minister of Prussia, the Berlin Conference was created. 14 countries attended, including Austria-Hungary, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden-Norway, Turkey, and the United States of America. The main countries involved were France, Germany, Great Britain, and Portugal. Even though the conference was about dividing up Africa, not a single representative from any part of Africa attended.
The Berlin Conference lasted for three months, ending February 26, 1885. Also known as the Congo Conference and the Berlin West Africa Conference, the Berlin Conference was created to negotiate questions and end confusion over the control of Africa. It was meant to agree that the Congo River and Niger River mouths and basins would be considered neutral and open trade. They would also base it on Social Darwinism, which was used to justify their racism and to discourage intervention and reform. This is basically stating that they believed the white race was superior to the black race and should control most of Africa. Why Africa?
The expansion of territory is one reason, but the main reason was Africa’s vast expensive resources. In 1867 diamonds were discovered and later in 1886 gold would be another prized discovery along with copper, rubber, and coco beans. To obtain these resources they would need cheap labor, which Africa would also provide. The turn of the Industrial Revolution made the demand for these products increase immensely, resulting in more labor and more invasions into Africa by the Europeans. Even though Africa is located in a remote place compared to the rest of the countries, it is completely surrounded by water making it easily accessible.
At the time, 80% of Africa remained under local control. Only the coastal areas of Africa were colonized by Europe. The Berlin Conference changed all of this, beginning the scramble by other countries to gain control over the interior areas of Africa in order to claim these valuable resources. Disregarding cultural and lingual boundaries that were already established by the locals, the Berlin Conference divided Africa up into fifty countries, sometimes splitting peaceful groups of people and merging enemies. The Berlin Conference had a set of rules for the “orderly extension of European influence”.
First, they agreed there would be freedom of trade and negotiation in the Congo Basin, even though part of it would eventually be under the brutal rule of Belgium’s King Leopold II. Second, they agreed that any power that occupied a territory or established a colony would let every other country know immediately, and were responsible for establishing political stability. And third they agreed to put a stop to the slave trade. The territories were not meant to “serve as a market or means of transit for the trade of slaves, of whatever race they may be”.
Many countries would later disregard this rule. The impact of the Berlin Conference was that tension and competition between European countries cooled down a bit, there was less drive and hustle to penetrate Africa to extract its resources. Africa became dominated by Europe. They lost their rights and the ability to lead their own people, and the impacts of imperialism are still being felt today. Taxes would be imposed on Africans, something they had never seen before. This gave them the obligation to work to pay their taxes, something that had never had to do. Racism would grow even worse.
The Europeans would have to work closer with the Africans since they were colonizing them. The African culture changed drastically, from politically, the loss of traditional values, the changing of language to the new European power, and even down to their everyday traditions and diet. Goals of the Berlin Conference were to control the slave trade, promote humanitarian idealism and provide for the welfare of Africa, but in truth these were all empty promises. Although Europeans did introduce Africa to better healthcare and education, they still brought many negative aspects to the way of life of the locals.
Their only goal was to divide Africa between the European powers in order to access Africa’s immense amount of valuable resources. Doing so they changed Africa and the traditions of all Africans. Bibliography “Brief History of the Berlin Conference. ” Brief History of the Berlin Conference. N. p. , n. d. Web. 27 Mar. 2013. <http://teacherweb. ftl. pinecrest. edu/snyderd/mwh/projects/mun-bc/histo ry. htm>. “Berlin Cenference 1885. ” Berlin Cenference 1885. N. p. , n. d. Web. 27 Mar. 2013. <http://www. africafederation. net/Berlin_1885. htm>.