European Weapons

The Maxim Gun

European Soldiers firing a Maxim Machine Gun                   Hiram Maxim with his revolutionary Weapon

"If anyone had told me that it would be possible to make a gun that would pull a cartridge belt into position, pull a loaded cartridge out of it, move it in front of the barrel, thrust it into the barrel, close the breech in a proper manner, cock the hammer, pull the trigger, fire off the cartridge, extract the empty shell and throw it out of the mechanism, red a new cartridge into position, and do all these things in the tenth part of a second, I wound not have believed it" (Maxim, 179).

    In 1884, Hiram Maxim invented a revolutionary gun that could fire repeated shots at an unparalleled speed for the time period. The gun utilized the energy created by the force of the bullet on the gun as it shot (the recoil) to remove the old cartridge from the barrel and insert a new one ( As Maxim said, "The system of handling the cartridges and extracting the empty case from the barrel was totally different from anything ever employed before" (Maxim, 178). This enabled the users of the gun to fire off an incredible number of shots off within a given time period. This new invention was also far more durable then previous weapons. The heat emitted during the firing process was enough to bend or distort the barrel of the gun and generally give a gun a far lower shelf life then it otherwise would have( The Maxim gun was able to solve this problem by introducing a brass sleeve around the barrel that was filled with water to cool the barrel and allow for rapid fire without the distractive heat (  By 1990, British military forces had adopted this revolutionary machine and introduced it to their soldiers, increasing the strength of Military forces exponentialy. The debut of the weapon, during the Anglo Matabele war of 1893, resulted in a staggering kill record of more then 5000 Matabele soldier and a definitive victory for the British South African Party ( Another example of the Maxim Guns effectiveness was obvious in the Sudan. A British force armed with roughly 20 maxim guns and small number of gunboats (see third section) overpowered Sudanese forces and effectively "opened the door for colonization" (B and Z, 735) in the  Sudan. The weapon was further utilized by European forces and was undoubtedly a distinct advantage in comparison to African weapons. 

By Greg

The Telegraph

Cecil Rhodes in an editorial cartoon with the Cape Town to Cairo telegraph system.
    British imperialist Cecil Rhodes dominated and colonized Africa not only with weapons of destruction, but also with weapons of communication.  The telegraph played a crucial role in the British colonization of Africa.  During the 1830s, receiving a reply from India to Britain took two years because the sailing ship was the only means to deliver the letter.  By the '50s, the steamship accelerated the process to four months.  Then, with the opening of the Suez Canal, the time was shortened again to less than two weeks.  However, during that time telegrams were the fastest way to message someone  but they could only carry the messages on land. By the 1870's, reliable submarine cables made it possible to receive a telegram from India to Britain in just five hours. (Bentley and Ziegler)  This Incredibly effective new form of communication allowed British forces to coordinate and communicate with each other in a way that African forces could not.  The telegraph greatly improved the way the British communicated and transfered information throughout the British Empire and to the British colonies in Africa as well.

                                                                                               By Cole

                                            The Steamboat

    In addition to telegrams and the Maxim gun, Steamboats played an essential role in the scramble for Africa. The availability and functionality of steamboats greatly increased during the eighteenth century. Europeans, unlike Africans, had access to powerful steamboats that provided effective transportation. "Because they could travel much farther up river than sailboats, which depended on convenient winds, steamships enabled imperialists to project power deep into the interior regions of foreign lands" (Bentley & Zeigler 734). The effectiveness of steamships was greatly increased with the creation of new canals. The Panama and Suez Canals, for example, allowed steamships to travel rapidly between seas and oceans. In addition, they "lowered the costs of trade between imperial powers and subject lands" (B&Z 734). The great benefit of the Suez Canal that greatly improved trade in Africa was that

"goods could be unloaded at one side, dispatched across the isthmus by rail, and shipped again at the other side, on just as convenient and rapid a system---all these fine-spun scientific arguments have been confuted by the event. The work remains a magnificent success" (The Story of the Suez Canal).

By Maddie