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Why did Britain expand its Empire in Africa from 1880 to 1900?

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Introduction

Why did Britain expand its Empire in Africa from 1880 to 1900? In 1875 the two most important European holdings in Africa were Algeria and the Colony. The Cape Colony was a lock up point for the British Trading Fleet en route from India and the Far East. By 1914 only Ethiopia and the republic of Liberia remained outside formal European control. The transition from an "informal empire" of control through economic dominance to direct control took the form of a "scramble" for territory by the nations of Europe. Britain tried not to play a part in this early scramble- being more of a trading empire rather then a colonial empire, however it soon became clear it had to gain its own African empire to maintain the balance of power. This is the direct link to Hobson's Theory of 'Overseas Investments'. Hobson saw the 'greedy capitalists' and the British Aristocracy, that he called the 'shady elite' to be investing into Africa to only gain personally at the start. ...read more.

Middle

(France-Russia vs. Germany-Austria-Hungary became power balanced and therefore a power deadlock in Europe). The Power deadlock led to the growth of Nationalism, which was acted out in overseas colonisation. Colonisation was a result of rivalry between European powers, not events in Africa. Britain's 1882 military occupation of Egypt, itself triggered by concern over the Suez Canal, contributed to a preoccupation over securing control of the Nile valley, leading to the conquest of the neighbouring Sudan in 1896-98 and confrontation with a French military expedition at Fashoda, September 1898. This point leads onto Gallacher and Robinson's Theory to why the Scramble for Africa occurred. They felt that Britain never intended to control Africa. All that the British government wanted was an informal control of trade. However, they were forced into formal control of trade by local disputes, which threatened the British Trade Routes. The reluctant British government was 'dragged in' to Africa and forced to take control to prevent social disorder. ...read more.

Conclusion

In all three situations the British Government had to become involved, and protect the interests of these individuals. British gains in Southern and East Africa prompted Rhodes and Alfred Milner, Britain's High Commissioner in South Africa, to urge a "Cape to Cairo" empire linking by rail the strategically important Canal to the mineral-rich South, though German occupation of Tanganyika prevented its realisation until the end of World War I. In 1903, the All Red Line telegraph system communicated with the major parts of the Empire. Paradoxically Britain, the staunch advocate of free trade, emerged in 1914 with not only the largest overseas empire thanks to her long-standing presence in India, but also the greatest gains in the "scramble for Africa", reflecting her advantageous position at its inception. Between 1885 and 1914 Britain took nearly 30% of Africa's population under her control, compared to 15 per cent for France, 9 per cent for Germany, 7 per cent for Belgium and 1 per cent for Italy: Nigeria alone contributed 15 million subjects, more than in the whole of French West Africa or the entire German colonial empire. ...read more.

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