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To what extent was British involvement in the partition of Africa a product of economic motives?

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Introduction

Tom Laskowski To what extent was British involvement in the partition of Africa a product of economic motives? Britain became involved in Africa in the late 19th century mainly for economic reasons as it had vast supplies of raw materials and it allowed British markets to expand. There were however political and strategic interests which acted as trigger actions, changing Britain?s empire in Africa from a formal one to an informal one. British interest in Egypt began mainly due to economic and political reasons. Lord Palmerstone himself claimed in ?What we wish about Egypt is that it should be attached to the Turkish Empire, which is security against it belonging to another power. We wish to trade with Egypt?. [1] Britain wished to be trading partners with Egypt, as Egypt was a producer of very high quality cotton. (Hobson) In order to protect these trading interests, Britain wished for Egypt to remain part of the Ottoman Empire and not fall into the hands of the French, Britain?s rival power which also had economic interest in the area. The construction of the Suez Canal in 1869 attracted huge amounts of British investment in the form of loans used for economic development. ...read more.

Middle

Britain’s involvement in East Africa initially began with economic interests. The island of Zanzibar imported huge quantities of manufactured goods from India and Britain, such as British steel. The total import and export trade measured at £2 million. British involvement was driven by Sir William Mackinnon, a British trader, who set up the British East Africa Company in 1888, backed by investors such as James Hutton, a cotton manufacturer from Manchester. British trade in East Africa was said to have huge economic potential for future development without formal colonisation and involvement from the British government. (Robinson and Gallagher) It was however the defence of trade and international rivalry which prompted involvement from the British government. The arrival of Karl Peters, a German explorer who started the German East Africa Company caused the largest problems. He was backed by the German chancellor, Otto Van Bismarck and was able to seize the area of Tanganyika. Britain’s greatest fears were the creation of a German naval base of the East coast which might have threatened British links with India. [3] The fears caused by this foreign involvement prompted Mackinnon and other British traders to put pressure on the British government for assistance. ...read more.

Conclusion

Britain was in an economic depression from 1873-1879 and it wished to expand to new markets. (Platt) Africa was extremely rich is raw materials and resources. There were however a number of events, mainly the involvement of foreign European powers which resulted Britain in wanting to protect its trade interests and preventing these powers from seizing control over Africa. Source Evaluation: Both sources are A level textbooks. They both provide a good overview of the scramble for Africa. Aldred is clearly laid out with subheadings and a methodical structure. Its section on East Africa is fairly detailed, discussing a number of factors including strategic and economic factors (e.g. German naval base). McDonough, on the other hand has a fairly limited section on East Africa as it does not discuss a German naval base. Both sources make use of maps and diagrams to provide a detailed and good overview of the events that took place in Africa. McDonough discusses interpretations in a fair amount of detail. However the source is fairly biased as it only focuses on a British metropolitan viewpoint. Both sources are very reliable as they are both secondary sources and contain information compiled from a number of other different sources which are referenced in a Bibliography. ...read more.

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