World History/The Age of Imperialism, Part II
- 1 The Scramble for Africa
- 2 The British
- 3 The French
- 4 The Germans
- 5 The Italians
- 6 The Belgians
- 7 The Dutch
The Scramble for Africa
Starting in the late 1800s, the nations of Europe began to take a huge interest in colonizing Africa. The discovery of quinine, an effective vaccine against malaria allowed European explorers to crisscross the continent in the 1870s and 1880s. In the Berlin Conference of 1884-85, the European nations divided up the continent among themselves, without taking into account the preexisting African boundaries. By 1914, almost all of Africa, with the exception of Liberia and Ethiopia, was under the control of one of the European powers.
French West Africa
German East Africa
On March 3, 1885, the German government announced that it had gone wild and got an imperial charter (secretly, on February 17) to Carl Peters' company, and intended to establish a protectorate in East Africa. Peters then recruited a variety of specialists who fanned out across the country, south to the Rufiji River and north to Witu, near Lamu on the coast.
The Germans quickly established their rule over Bagamoyo, Dar es Salaam and Kilwa. The Abushiri Revolt started in 1888 and was put down (with British help) in the following year. In 1890, London and Berlin concluded the Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty, a deal that gave Heligoland to Germany, and defined the limits of German East Africa (the exact borders remained ill-defined until 1910).
Through a series of alliances with Native Tribes, the Germans expanded their colonies. German colonial administrators relied heavily on native chiefs to keep order and collect taxes. Other than local police, garrisons of Schutztruppe soldiers at Dar es Salaam, Moshi, Iringa and Mahenge consisted on 1 January 1914 of 110 German officers (including 42 medical officers), 126 non-commissioned officers and 2,472 local soldiers.
General Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck, a vibrant and young officer, he spent the war harrying the forces of the British Empire, tying down with his band of 3,000 Europeans & 11,000 native Askaris and porters, a British/Imperial army 300,000 strong, which was at times commanded by the former Second Boer War commander Jan Smuts. One of his greatest victories was at the Battle of Tanga (3–5 November, 1914), where he beat a British force more than eight times the size of his own. Lettow-Vorbeck's masterful mix of guerrilla warfare and daring raids ended up costing the British war effort massive resources and upwards of 60,000 casualties. Nonetheless, weight of numbers, especially after forces coming from Belgian Congo had attacked from the West, and dwindling supplies, forced Lettow-Vorbeck into a grudging withdrawal, shortly before the agreed cease-fire.
German South-West Africa
German New Guinea
Belgium itself had only been independent since 1830. King Leopold II tried to interest his government in establishing colonies but it lacked the resources to develop the candidate territories and turned down his plans.
During the Berlin West Africa Conference(1884-1885) the area of the Congo was granted to the Belgians. Leopold originally ruled it personally, as his own private property. He immediately began to exploit its valuable resources. However, it was at the cost of the African Laborers. Leopold's regime was absolutely brutal. African laborers who did not preform well enough were often pushied by having their hands cut off. In 1904 the Casement Report was released. It told the grim tales of killings, mutilation, kidnapping and cruel beatings of the native population by soldiers of the Congo Administration of King Leopold. Copies of the Report were sent by the British government to the Belgian government as well as to nations who were signatories to the Berlin Agreement. Leopold offered to reform his regime, but few took him seriously. All nations were now agreed that the King's rule must be ended as soon as possible, but no nation was willing to take on the responsibility. The Parliament of Belgium annexed the Congo Free State and took over its administration on November 15, 1908, four years after the Casement Report and six years after the first printing of Heart of Darkness.
When the Belgian Government took over the Administration from King Leopold II, the situation in the Congo improved marginally. Belgians were largely ambivalent towards the colony, so it suffered from a vacillatory governance. Because of this attitude, Belgium was usually a decade behind other colonial powers in its methods of governance, and was surprised when the Congo moved towards independence in the 1950s. Political administration fell under the total and direct control of the coloniser; there were no democratic institutions. The head of the state remained the King of the Belgians (who, already at the time, no longer had any political influence). The Belgian government controlled the country, but day-to-day operations were carried out by the governor general.
Following the Léopoldville riots in March 1959 and Kasavubu's incarceration, 1959 initially saw the legalization of all Congolese political parties, followed by general elections throughout the Congo. In 1960, the Round Table of Brussels was convened and occurred between January 20 and February 20. Congolese representatives and Belgians set the stage for nationwide elections later in the year. The Belgian Congo achieved independence on June 30, 1960 under the name "Republic of Congo" or "Republic of the Congo".
In the First World War, the area was conquered by forces from the Belgian Congo in 1916. The Treaty of Versailles divided German East Africa with the vast majority known as Tanganyika going to Great Britain but the westernmost portion to Belgium, this area was formally referred to as the Belgian Occupied East African Territories. In 1924, they became Ruanda-Urundi when the League of Nations issued a formal mandate that granted Belgium full control over the area.
The Belgians demanded that the territories earn profits for the motherland and any development had to come out of funds gathered in the territory. These funds mostly came from the extensive cultivation of coffee in the region's rich volcanic soils. The populace was also extensively taxed and forced to perform corvée labor.
After the League of Nations was dissolved the region became a United Nations trust territory in 1946. This included the promise that the Belgians would prepare the areas for independence, but the Belgians felt the area would take many decades to ready for self-rule.
Independence came largely as a result of actions elsewhere. In the 1950s an independence movement arose in the Belgian Congo, and the Belgians became convinced they could no longer control the territory. In 1960, Ruanda-Urundi's larger neighbor gained its independence. After two more years of hurried preparations the colony became independent on July 1, 1962, broken up along traditional lines as the independent nations of Rwanda and Burundi. It took two more years before the government of the two became wholly separate.
Suriname had been a Dutch colony since 1667. The Dutch planters relied heavily on African slaves to cultivate the coffee, cocoa, sugar cane and cotton plantations along the rivers. Treatment of the slaves by their owners was notoriously bad, and many slaves escaped the plantations.
Slavery was abolished by the Netherlands in Suriname in 1863, but the slaves in Suriname were not fully released until 1873, after a mandatory 10 year transition period during which time they were required to work on the plantations for minimal pay and without state sanctioned torture. As a plantation colony, Suriname was still heavily dependent on manual labor, and to make up for the shortfall, the Dutch brought in contract laborers from the Dutch East Indies (modern Indonesia) and India (through an arrangement with the British). In addition, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, small numbers of mostly men were brought in from China and the Middle East.
In 1954, the Dutch placed Suriname under a system of limited self-government, with the Netherlands retaining control of defense and foreign affairs. In 1973, negotiations started with the Dutch government leading towards full independence, which was granted on November 25, 1975. The severance package was very substantial, and a large part of Suriname's economy for the first decade following independence was fueled by foreign aid provided by the Dutch government.
The East Indies
The Dutch East India Company (VOC) had been set up in the early seventeenth century to maximize Dutch trade interests in the Malay archipelago. By 1700, a colonial pattern was well established; the VOC had grown to become a state-within-a-state and the dominant power in the archipelago. Its method of indirect rule was to survive it. After the bankrupt company was liquidated on January 1, 1800, its territorial possessions became the property of the Dutch government.
In an 1811 to 1816 interregnum, during the Napoleonic Wars, the British took over administration of several Dutch East Indies posts including Java before Dutch control was restored. The 1824 Anglo-Dutch Treaty, ceded Dutch control of Malacca, the Malay Peninsula, and possessions in India to Britain in exchange for British settlements in Indonesia, such as Bengkulu in Sumatra. Batavia remained the capital of the colony.
For most of the Dutch East Indies history, and that of the VOC before it, Dutch control over these territories was tenuous; only in the early 20th century did Dutch dominance extend to what was to become the boundaries of modern-day Indonesia. Although Java was under Dutch domination for most of the 350 years of the combined VOC and Dutch East Indies era, many areas remained independent for much of this time including Aceh, Lombok, and Borneo.
There were numerous wars and disturbances across the archipelago as various indigenous Indonesian groups resisted efforts to establish a Dutch hegemony, which weakened Dutch control and tied up its military forces. In the seventeenth century the VOC had used its superior arms, and Buginese (from Sulawesi) and Ambonese (from Maluku) mercenaries to expand and protect its trading interests across the archipelago. During the Dutch East Indies era, the most prolonged conflicts were the Padri War in Sumatra (1821–38), the Java War (1825–30) led by Prince Diponegoro, and a bloody thirty-year war in Aceh.
Disturbances continued to break out on both Java and Sumatra during the remainder of the 19th century, and between 1846 and 1849, expeditions to conquer Bali were largely unsuccessful. The Banjarmasin War in south east Borneo resulted in the Dutch defeat of the sultan. In Aceh, guerrilla leaders fought off Dutch invasion in what was the longest and bloodiest conflict from 1873 to Acehnese surrender in 1908. As exploitation of Indonesian resources expanded off Java, most of the outer islands came under direct Dutch government control or influence. Significant Indonesian piracy remained a problem for the Dutch until the mid-19th century.
Southwestern Sulawesi was occupied in 1905–06, the island of Bali in 1906, and the Bird's Head Peninsula (West Papua), was brought under Dutch administration in 1920. The invasion and occupation of Indonesia during World War II, brought about the destruction of the colonial state in Indonesia, as the Japanese removed as much of the Dutch state as they could, replacing it with their own regime. Although the top positions were held by the Japanese, the internment of all Dutch citizens meant that Indonesians filled many leadership and administrative positions. Following the Japanese surrender in August 1945, nationalist leaders Sukarno and Hatta declared Indonesian independence. After a 4-year war, in which the Dutch re-occupied most of the colony, Indonesia was granted independence on December 27, 1949 due largely to international pressure.
In 1949, when the rest of the Dutch East Indies became fully independent as Indonesia, the Dutch retained sovereignty over western New Guinea, and took steps to prepare it for independence as a separate country. Some five thousand teachers were flown there. The Dutch put an emphasis upon political, business, and civic skills. Indonesia attempted to invade the region on December 18, 1961. Following some skirmishes between Indonesian and Dutch forces an agreement was reached and the territory was placed under United Nations administration in October 1962 It was subsequently transferred to Indonesia in May 1963. The territory was formally annexed by Indonesia in 1969.