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The British Empire and the Scramble for Africa


Humanities and Arts


Over the course of little more than a generation at the end of the nineteenth century, formal European control over the African continent – an area that represents around 20% of all land mass on Earth – went from minimal to almost total. No region of the continent was spared as the armies of Britain, France, Germany, Belgium and others invaded and colonised. How was this possible? Why did it happen at all, and why at that particular moment? What sort of impact did this have on both Europeans and Africans? This talk considers one of the most extraordinary moments of empire-building the world has ever witnessed.

Why this is important?

Besides giving us a sense of an important facet of Europe’s interactions with the wider world in the modern age, studying this topic gives an opportunity to consider societies at times of rapid change. It provides an opportunity to study what causes enormous change to happen. What motivates people to conquer or colonise? What roles do violence, economics, and ideas play in empire-building?

Key descriptors:

Empire, imperialism, race, violence, Africa, Victorians

Suggested age range:

Years 12-13

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