What Was The Driving Force Behind European Imperialism In Africa

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Imperialism is described as the supremacy of one nation over the political, economic, and social life of another nation. At the end of 1800s Europeans colonized countries, traded slaves, gold and many other unique resources. One of the nations that Europeans colonized was Africa because Africa had a rich supply of resources and raw products that Europeans needed. It is also worth highlighting the point that at that time all the recent technological advancements that potentially resulted in imperialism were significant, and this could provide an answer to the question: “What was the driving force behind European imperialism in Africa?”. But one should not carry out an impulsive decision, as there are other causes why Europeans colonized Africans. Imperialism had multiple driving forces, involving political power and cultural considerations. Nevertheless, the foremost motivation for imperialism was economics.

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The political power of European countries in the international arena

The first of the driving forces of European imperialism that we will consider was political power and influence in the international arena (nationalism and rivalry between states). This is demonstrated by the resources Europeans fought for on the map of that period, which especially displays the territories they colonized. It depicts political dominance, because Europe seeks to achieve influence and become more prominent than others, so it is this feature that brought Europeans to the acquisition of Africa and many other territories. In addition, during John Ruskin’s speech in 1870, it is noticeable that he was inclined to emphasize that the next generations of Britain should bring the country “again a royal throne of kings” by colonizing as quickly and as further as they could and to plunge their country forward. Similarly, another notable speech given by a representative of one of the leading countries of that time, Friedrich Fabry in 1879, points to the similar element as Raskin’s speech, but Fabry suggests that Germany should aspire to become like Britain in order to eventually compete with them. Political power was instrumental in pushing imperialism because money was produced, and money was the primary consideration in perfecting and promoting the act of imperialism.

The cultural considerations of leading European powers

Another driving force behind European imperialism was cultural reasons (humanitarian social Darwinism). The proof of this is the statement of Rudyard Kipling, the British poet, where he commands people to perform such actions as “Go bind your sons to exile”, “To serve the needs of your captives”, and in this way the poet encourages them to do something to somehow contribute to their culture, or to put it another way, he advises Americans to be proud of the conquest of the Philippines for the good of the colonized population. Cultural incentives significantly contributed to the development of imperialism because one of the reasons for European imperialism was so that Europeans could relieve Africans of what they were afflicted with. This is the outcome of Kipling’s imperative for people to assist and serve the natives.

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Economics as the most significant driving force behind European imperialism

The ultimate and foremost driving force behind European imperialism was economics (the use and creation of money). Proof of this was once again the various kinds of technological advancements and their exploitation by the powers in the 19th century. In addition, at that time, there were different discussions about the economic management of all the resources exported by African colonies. At long last, we can analyze the imports and exports of Great Britain and South Saharan Africa in 1854 and 1900. It is evident that economics was the most crucial force behind imperialism, as it resulted in many outstanding discoveries and particular strengths of a particular nation that performed a leading role in the 1800s. For instance, the manufacture and production of railways using money, the plentiful provision of textiles, groceries, coins, metal alloys and electrical engineering that was discovered due to the availability of money, and lastly, the millions of pounds generated from imports and exports between Britain and South Sahara. Though it was egotistical, it was the only possible method in which the Europeans obtained what they desired and caused them to gain more wealth and dominance.


In summary, while there were other forces behind European imperialism in Africa in the 19th century such as scientific, religious and ethnocentric, the three most influential forces were political power, cultural considerations and economics. I believe that the economy represents the crucial driving force because it determines the distribution and transmission of wealth, and these two characteristics are absolutely essential for the evolution of a contemporary and progressive nation. Furthermore, this driving force contributed to develop countless discoveries, such as cannons and military artillery, which served soldiers in war more than anything else.

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