The Causes of the 19th Century European Imperialism in Africa

The search for the feeling of superiority often leads people to do brutal things to get what they want; this is also true in the case of many nations. In the 19‘“ century, Europeans were bloodthirsty for power and fortune and began the sweeping policy of imperialism, when a stronger country forcibly takes control of a weaker country’s territories and resources. The main focus of European imperialism was in Africa and forces us to look at what driving forces may have led them in this direction. There were many important causes of 19m century European imperialism in Africa including political causes, economic motives, and less importantly, cultural factors. Political factors were large influences in the interest of imperialism in the African colonies. When choosing which colonies to overpower, many factors went into consideration such as: their accessibility to natural resources and the availability of easy transportation.

In one of John Ruskin’s lectures at Oxford, he says Europe must control colonies “as fast and far as she is able“ in order to gain power and establish land before other countries are able to (Doc B), Along with Ruskin, Freidrich Fabri also believes in the importance of pursuing power and gaining new territories; in his book Does Germany Need Colonies?, he states that the “first aim” of the colonists should be to advance power by consumption of land and sea (Doc B) The process of overthrowing another government can be hard and result in many casualties if the territory you are trying to take over is well established and possesses advanced military technology. Fortunately for England, Africa did not have these things and with the help of improvements in technology such as the machine gun, they were confident and forceful in their actions and executed many plans swiftly (Doc C).

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Along with political influences, economic causes also played a big role in the craze for power and pride. Europe was one of the leaders in the textile industry (with the help of the steam engine and Bessemer process) and delving into Africa revealed an abundance of materials needed for production, like cotton (Doc C & D). There was also a great amount of rare materials such as gold, diamonds, and things such as rubber, gum, and palm oil that can be used in food processing and cosmetics (Doc D). Once obtaining these raw materials, they were able to create products valuable to the Africans, which greatly increased exports and caused a huge influx of money (Doc E). Political and economic motives were strong and prominent while cultural impulses were mainly used as a justification for these actions. In Rudyard Kipling’s “The White Man’s Burden”, he explains that it is the white man‘s job to cultivate and instill culture in these savages found in Africa although the natives did not seek help (Doc F).

This exhibits the leading idea of racial supremacy and the still prevalent ideals of Humanism that ravaged the Europeans Along with these virtues, the colonists expressed the necessity of imperializing Africa in the acquirement of natural resources necessary for advancing medical technology, such as quinine for the treatment of malaria (Doc C), Political, economic, and cultural factors are all driving forces that led 19‘” century Europeans to pursue imperialism in Africa, Nations, like human beings, are often driven by the desire for power and wealth. This greed overtook the European‘s humanity and is represented in the political and economic motives while cultural forces were simply a validation for these rash actions. Unfortunately, these principles, although on different scales, are still represented today in nations and human nature worldwide.

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The Causes of the 19th Century European Imperialism in Africa. (2023, May 18). Retrieved from