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Why was Britain involved in obtaining influence and possessions in Africa from 1868-1902?

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Introduction

Why was Britain involved in obtaining influence and possessions in Africa from 1868-1902? From Gladstone's and Disraeli's governments of the 1860's and 70's through to Salisbury's governments of the 1890's to 1902, Britain began to become involved in the great continent of Africa. There were multiple reasons for Britain's involvement in the 'dark continent'. One of these was because of competition with rival powers to grab chunks of territory. Another reason was a need to exploit Africa's raw materials. Christianity and its spread was another powerful reason why the Victorians became involved in Africa. Lastly, Africa was critical to protect Britain's strategic routes to India and to protect Britain's prosperity. European states such as Portugal and Belgium already had a foothold in Africa. But by 1880 other European powers were greedy for African lands. In 1869 French money was used to construct the Suez Canal. This became the quick route to India and represented a vital trade route which was of extreme importance strategically. It attracted considerable British investment in Egypt and the Canal itself resulting in a purchase of shares in 1875. Britain's control of the Suez Canal protected the economic advantages that India had to offer. In 1882, British government sent a fleet of ships to the coast of Alexandria in Egypt. ...read more.

Middle

British economic interests were being threatened with the issue of international rivalry as Belgium set up the Congo Free State to exploit the thriving rubber trade there and, in 1884, Germany seizing the Togoland and the Cameroons. The sultanate of Zanzibar and the interior of Eastern Africa also caught the attention of both Germany and Britain. Hoping to resolve this common interest in a peaceful manner, Germany and Britain signed a treaty in 1886 in which they agreed on what lands they would exclusively pursue; Britain would retain access to the area in which Kenya and Uganda lie. In 1888, Sir William Mackinnon launched the Imperial British East Africa Company, backed by investors, to administer and develop the eastern territory. The British expanded into Uganda, Kenya, Zanzibar and Somaliland. The island of Zanzibar's total import and export trade was measured at about �2 million. It was a major trading point for the East African interior, from which came ivory and leather goods. Britain's occupation of areas of such economic interest, such as Zanzibar and Egypt, meant that Britain's need to exploit Africa's raw materials was being fulfilled. With great influence from Livingstone, another main reason for British obtaining influence in Africa was to bring Christianity to African countries. The Uganda railway built by the British government mainly for strategic reasons, opened up the interior to European farmers, missionaries and administrates. ...read more.

Conclusion

The Transvaal had huge economic recourses in the form of diamonds and gold but the primary concern for Britain was one of strategic importance. The cape needed to be free from Boer threats as it was a vital strategic factor in Britain's security that controlled a route to India. Chamberlain was fundamentally in favour of expanding Britain's empire and believed Britain must have complete control in order to protect its interests. In October 1899 war broke out and lasted until May 1902. The war ended with the Peace of Vergeeniging that meant the Boer republics of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State were annexed and became part of the British Empire. There were many factors that contributed towards reasons for Britain's involvement in obtaining influence and possessions in Africa. The motives for Britain's imperialist activities in Africa, such as to colonise, search for new markets and materials and to convert natives to Christianity, were both strategic and defensive. Britain's action in South Africa also helped to protect their connection to the Indian Empire. Robison and Gallagher say that Britain's economic development was 'more a consequence than a motive for the scramble' for Africa. As French and German forces threatened economic aims for Britain, it set up protectorates and colonies and as British holdings in Egypt and East Africa were threatened, Britain fought to maintain its power. ...read more.

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