Life During Imperialism

British imperialism in Africa brought changes throughout the continent, some changes had a positive impact on the continent while others had a negative effect. In the eyes of imperialists like Cecil Rhodes, the "Scramble for Africa" brought nothing but wealth and fame to European countries and money into the pockets of the Europeans. Although British imperialism might have had a positive effect in this regard it also meant poverty, slavery, unjust living conditions and little control over their lives for the people of Africa.

             As Europeans gained more and more control over Africa the conditions got worse for natives as they became inferior to the whites. Cecil Rhodes once stated, "We are the finest race in the world and the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race" (Bentley and Ziegler 731) With this sense of superiority over the Africans, they saw nothing wrong with beating, abusing, torturing and even raping the Africans wives. "They interfered with our wives and our daughters and molested them" (Andrea and Overfield 315), says Ndansi Kumalo, who watched everything he loved be abused growing up as an Nbebele warrior. "We had no property, nothing we could call our own." (A and O 315) Thus it is not surprising that as Rhodes and other imperialists gained power of the mineral mines in Matabeleland, the natives revolted in the British Matabele War, the war in which Kumalo was born and raised into and forced to fight in. What could have been a typical, tribal childhood was transformed into a life living in fear of the whites.  "The white men did abominable things...we were treated like slaves...the treatment we received was intolerable. (A and O 315) As the conditions worsened the Africans looked to violence to settle their problems even though they knew they had little hope of winning. “We knew that we had very little chance…but we meant to fight to the last, feeling that even if we could not beat them we might at least kill a few of them and so have sort of revenge” (A&O, 315). As imperialist rule in Africa expanded, Africans were forced to endure the abuse and torture thrust upon them by the Europeans and were ultimately forced to use violence to try and settle their problems. “We thought it best to fight and die rather than bear it” (A&O, 315).

            As the want for land in Africa increased, violence between Europeans and Africans, rival  European nations, and civil wars between Africans greatly escalated. One example of war between the Europeans and the Africans is the British Matabele War. Kumalo states,  "I fought in the rebellion...We were forced by the nature of our guns not to expose our selves. I had a gun, a breech-loader. They-the white men-fought us with big guns and Maxims and rifles." (A and O 315) With advances in technologies from Industrialization, Europeans were able to easily control conquered lands through weapon technology. "But for the maxims, it would have been different" (A and O 315) In order to prevent tensions between European powers who were seeking African colonies, European imperialists established the Berlin Conference. "The Berlin conference produced agreement for future claims on African; lands, each colonial power had to notify others of its claims" (B and Z 741) Also civil wars between different African tribes was the result of the establishment of rigid tribal boundaries established by European imperialists. "They have estranged the natives from your Majesty's Government, have sown the seed of discord between tribes and villages." (A and O 311) As the Europeans completely  destroyed the hopes of Africans wishing to regain their land the Africans were left to fend for themselves with no support from the government. "No honest and practical effort made to increase their knowledge and secure their welfare." (A and O 311) All over the continent was violence over power, control, and freedom.

 Although the Scramble for Africa brought violence and abuse, it also brought some positive aspects. Education improved greatly. Kumalo says, “the government has arranged for education and through that, when our children grow up, they may rise in status” (A&O, 316). Europeans also brought over clothes stronger and better than African cloth. Cecil Rhodes' money from his will was used to create a college in Rhodesia, further expanding education in Africa. Although the Africans did benefit in this regard it was the Europeans who were able to profit more significantly from the "Scramble for Africa" by exploiting Africa's natural resources.

For Europeans involved in imperialism, like Cecil Rhodes, colonization meant fame and an immense amount of fortune. However, for the Africans living under European rule, imperialism meant slavery, abuse, and little hope for the future.


By Quinn O'Malley + Tess Conciatori

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