19th Century Humanities



Q: How did European nations strive for self-rule and liberal values of freedom, equality, and brotherhood; and then proceed to divide, conquer, and plunder the continent of Africa?

A: European nations were able to conquer large sections of Africa by using the missionary work of the Church to convert the natives. As one African proverb goes: "When the white man came, he had the Bible and we had the land. He told us to close our eyes and pray. Now we have the Bible, and he has the land." When the Europeans first reached Africa, they traded only with the permission of their local hosts. In the trade with Africa, for example, the gold that the Europeans obtained financed their overseas expansion. In time, the European powers began to establish plantations in islands off the coast of Africa. In exchange, the Africans received mainly firearms. They used these weapons in their wars with each other over rights to trade with the Europeans. The Slave trade caused political instability and weakened African states. Whole cities, especially in coastal regions, were emptied as their inhabitants tried to escape slavers by fleeing into the African interior.  

Q: What were European motivations for colonizing Africa?
Why was the colonization of Africa a logical next step for Europe in the late 19th Century?

A: There were various motives behind European zealous participation in the New Imperialism. Firstly, there were intensified rivalries with other powers, as states such as the newly-unified Italy and Germany, along with France, which sought to compensate for its defeat in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, looked to the non-European world for expansion. Russia posed a particular threat in the decaying Ottoman Empire in the Middle East. British policy-makers wanted to secure further gains before their rivals did, in case they lost out in the international 'balance of power’. Secondly, there were economic motives, notably the desire to capture new markets and sources of raw materials, preserve or expand trade links and to prevent the loss of existing overseas markets to other countries. Countries such as Nigeria, for example, offered valuable resources such as palm oil, which was used as a lubricant for industrial machinery. Thirdly, there was a growth of imperial nationalism, militarism and a sense of racial superiority 'jingoism’ throughout British society. This jingoistic sentiment may have been as much an effect as a cause of British expansionism, but in combination with the other factors it helped to push Britain further along the colonial path.

Q: What natural resources were the Europeans after in Africa, and which ones did they find and exploit?
A:Africa has a large quantity of natural resources including oil, diamonds, gold, iron, and cobalt. African territories were essentially organized to extract cheap cash crops and natural resources for use by the colonial powers. Natural resources, such as diamonds, were especially popular to confiscate from the Africans since the Congo Basin was rich with them. Europeans had charted the Nile from its source, traced the courses of the NigerCongo and Zambezi Rivers, and realized the vast resources of Africa. Msiri traded large quantities of copper, ivory and slaves, and rumours of gold reached European ears. Soon, the British started fighting for gold in the Second Boer’s War against the Dutch. 

Q: Why was the Concert of Europe referred to as The Age of Metternich?
A: The age of the Concert is sometimes known as the Age of Metternich, due to the influence of the Austrian chancellor's conservatism and the dominance of Austria within the German Confederation, or as the European Restoration, because of the reactionary efforts of the Congress of Vienna to restore Europe to its state before the French Revolution. 
Metternich was a hereditary prince. As the organizer of the Congress of Vienna (1814 – 15), he was largely responsible for the policy of balance of power in Europe to ensure the stability of European governments.The year 1815 saw Metternich at the peak of his power and popularity in Austria. When the victorious countries agreed to hold the Congress of Vienna, Metternich saw it as a personal triumph. He believed that since Austria was at the center of the European Continent, it was the logical place to "lay the foundations for a new European order." Metternich's main goal at the congress was to promote the idea of the "Concert of Europe": if all the great powers acted together or in "concert," they would be able to prevent the outbreak of any large European war like the Napoleonic Wars. He also wanted to discourage any Russian interest in expanding into Europe. Together with the British representative, Castlereagh, Metternich successfully worked to create a permanent alliance among the victors, envisioning grouped power that would "balance out" the ambitious or aggressive actions of any one country on the Continent. So influential was Metternich's diplomacy that the era from 1815 to 1848 is often referred to as the "Age of Metternich."

Q: Who were the Great Powers?
A: In 1815, the Great Powers include the Austrian Empire, British Empire, France, Prussia, and the Russian Empire. In 1880, Great Powers include Austria-Hungary, British Empire, France, German Empire, and Russian Empire.

Q: Who contributed to the breaking up of the Concert of Europe?
A: In Congress of Verona, powers discussed about the Spanish revolt and the Greek’s. All the representatives of the members in the Quintuple Alliance attended this Congress to discuss these issues. Canning instructed the representative of Britain that if there was a determined project to interfere by force or by menace then come what may, Britain would not be a party. With Austria strong protest, powers turned down the Tsar proposal to help Greece in the Greek revolts. France and the reactionary powers even intended to help Spain to get back its South American colonies. Since in their eyes if the colonies gained independence, the revolt ideas would spread to Europe just like the Spain revolt and would threaten peace. Therefore according to the principle of legitimacy, they wanted to interfere. Britain strongly opposes their means to sustain peace. She decided to take action to stop the reactionary powers. She encouraged the America President Monroe to issue a “Monroe Doctrine” in 1823 to drop the European powers hands off South America. Britain adopted intervention to bring about non-intervention of others’ to against its members in the Concert of Europe. This act contributed a lot to the breakdown of the Concert of Europe. Other four great powers continue their meetings, so the Concert of Europe did not break down. However the Congress of St. Petersburg in 1825 was broke up in May in very bad terms. To all intents and purposes, this was the end of the Concert of Europe. Later Powers met only on ad hoc basis. According to the sixth article of the Quintuple Alliance, regular congresses should be held periodically. Since this article was not followed, the Concert of Europe broke down.

Q: Which countries were present at the Berlin Conference, and who were the major players?
A:Fourteen countries were represented by a plethora of ambassadors when the conference opened in Berlin on November 15, 1884. The countries represented at the time included Austria-Hungary, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden-Norway (unified from 1814-1905), Turkey, and the United States of America. Of these fourteen nations, France, Germany, Great Britain, and Portugal were the major players in the conference, controlling most of colonial Africa at the time.

Q: What factors enabled the 19th century Europeans to explore more extensively into the interiors of Africa?
A: Transportation, quinine, weaponry, and food preservation enabled Europeans to explore more intensively into the interiors of Africa.