The making of modern Africa Essay

The Making of Modern Africa: Colonialism

Take a look at the past, our history; although there is only one factual outcome, there are an infinite number of opinions, perspectives and almost always more than one side to a story - The making of modern Africa Essay introduction. I will be taking a look in to the novel, Colonial Africa, written by Dennis Laumann, as well as, African Perspectives on Colonialism, by A. Adu Boahen, and hopefully through this, we can gain a stronger understanding of Colonialism in Africa and how Boahen and Laumann compare and differ. On (p.1), Boahen states, “The most surprising aspects of the imposition of colonialism on Africa were its suddenness and its unpredictability.” When I began reading I lacked an understanding of what this could really mean. I soon understood the imposition of colonialism on African, the swift overtake and domination of Africa and its countries by the European powers. I read an excerpt from an article on colonialism, the article brought up an important point that I can personally relate to. The article spoke of how it is difficult for people in our current time period and living conditions to truly understand colonialism for what it was. We can’t relate to this situation coming from the prosperous free rights world we live in now.

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They gave an example of this by saying, “A stranger walking through a neighborhood gets tired, seeing a cute house on the corner he walks inside and decides this will be his new home. This stranger then enslaves the current owners who are watching television in the living room, thus becoming his cleaning maids.” This scenario sounds highly unlikely and we know there is no way this could happen, unfortunately in Africa this is reality. Boahen analyzes this colonialism in the19th and 20th century through the different perspectives of the colonized African nationals, avoiding the common Euro-centric perspective. Boahen begins by touching on the slave trade and presents the immediate effects as well as the economic change that came with the abolition of this trade. Boahen speaks of “blackness” and the negative view associated with the term as well as the beneficial consequences of the Colonial take-over on the European economy. Boahen compares the native religions and the cultural aspect of Christian missionaries, and in the end describes the negative impact of European Colonization on Africa. While Boahen shares his words through the African perspective, Laumann presents a more straightforward, balanced overview of the colonial take over. In Colonial Africa, Laumann presents the colonization of African through what I feel to be a less bias perspective. Laumen shares information from Africa as a whole as well as the regional perspectives, touching on many of the same complications such as the understanding African people had of the world during this time. By the end of the 19th century we begin to see an end to the African slave trade. By 1880 the British naval squadron had successfully suppressed the trade of slaves across the Atlantic as well as the other major trade routs such as the Trans-Saharan. As many African leaders and kings objected to this change in trade Britain refused to drop the new trade restrictions.

This eventually made way for equality of rights as well as a created a more equitable distribution of wealth through out the African people. From this, the African economy shifted and began to thrive on the trade of natural resources and in turn became a “gathering-based economy,” as Boahen states on (p.6). The trade of cocoa, peanuts, ivory, and rubber emerged and quickly replaced the profitability of the slave trade regime. This economic expansion lead to the development of paved roads and new trade routs making the diversification of travel and trade thrive. Reading this, it is easy to think that colonization was a good thing; I mean what could possibly be wrong with a continent prospering economically. This is what British historians think and as we have read, what they attempt to apply about colonialism. As Britain went through a faze of industrial revolution, controlling the trade of Africa’s vast and plentiful resources became much more appealing. The British imperial powers began to take control of the African land and countries. This did not go untested as many native Africans resisted the imposing European Sovereign. Boahen talks about this rebellion and how the untrained, unorganized African troops stood no chance against the technologically advanced European bullies. Laumann makes many strong points in his book but what I found interested began in the 1930’s. World War II had been initiated in Europe and the imperial powers had pushed beyond there reign over the land and began drawing resources and people from their African colonies. I quote Laumann (p.36),” Europe, once again drawing Africans into a conflict initiated and mostly fought by the European imperial powers who depended on their African colonies to assist in the war effort.” This actually upset me to think there are people like this, let alone countries and nations that are willing to claim they ended slavery only to enslave the same people in war less than a century later. How can this be justified? To answer this question, it cannot. As forced labor, taxes, and oppression pored into the African country many rebellions emerged. One rebellion I had not known of was the Maji Maji rebellion. This violent resistance occurred on the Eastern coast of Africa and consisted of many indigenous African communities in the attempt to remove the Germans from Tanganyika. The German colonies on the East coast of Africa had recently implemented a policy in which to force the African people to pick cotton for the use of German trade.

I remember watching the short video in class, the injustice of the poor conditions and unfair labor acts to which the African people were exposed seemed inhumane. This rebellion is brought up in both Laumann and Boahen but I find it extremely relevant when on page 65 Boahen speaks of this rebellion being the same as America fighting for its independence. I like how Boahen and Lauman present their text for this situation. I notice the collaboration of words become darker, more passionate, and many of the examples help the American reader (me) understand and relate to the lack of freedom the African people experienced as well as their passion to fight for the freedom they deserve. Laumann Draws an interesting point as he begins his preach of religion and the misconceptions of what was believed to be right, or wrong. Catholicism and Protestantism the primary religions of the European colonial powers, this is what closely relates Christianity to colonization in African. As Christian missionaries spread through Africa opinions emerged. Initially Christian missionaries were viewed as “visible saints,” as Boahen writes on (p.16),” these missionary societies promoted agriculture; taught such skills as carpentry, printing, and tailoring; and promoted trade, literacy, and Western education.” This was extremely beneficial, especial during this time.

With Africa’s education and intelligence booming came other problems. On (p.27) Laumann writes, “While individual missionaries sincerely may have believed they were ‘saving’ Africans by introducing them to the Christian religion and European culture, undoubtedly missionaries benefited from colonization since they were able to consolidate and expand their activities in conquered territories.” Laumann make the point that unavoidably, if these missionaries were to successfully save Africa, they would be expulsing the traditional African religion, which would further define the rule Europe had over Africa. Eventually the African people would begin to lose believe in these missionaries and view them as religious persuasion for the colonists. Many of the actions from these missionaries were good and in turn helped the African people prosper, but from a personal perspective I believe their purpose was to justify the actions of the European colonists. Looking back, we have examined a few areas of colonization. Using the unbiased information learned in Colonial Africa, by Dennis Laumann, we gain a better understand of the African perspective, as provided by A. Adu Boahen, in his novel, African Perspectives on Colonialism. Although I did not cover every aspect of colonialism I tried to touch on the areas that were the most relevant to me. Pulling from our first paper I have come to realize how many people truly don’t understand Africa, and I attempted to give relative information that I could compare my life to.

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