In geographic terms, Africa's placement with respect to the rest of the world is prime: by acquiring various territories in the continent, Europeans gained valuable trading ports as well as military advantages. Historian and author Trevor Rowell explains that, "France's interest in Tunisia arose partly because of its commanding position in 'her sea', the Mediterranean. And it was the Suez Canal route to India which dictated Britain's interest in Egypt," (Rowell 6). The construction of the Canal, write Bentley and Ziegler, "facilitated the building and maintenance of empires by enabling naval vessels to travel rapidly between the world's seas and oceans. They also lowered the costs of trade, " (B&Z 734). In his Letter to the Minister Beernaert about the Congo Free State, July 3, 1890, King Leopold II of Belgium stated that, "The vast Congo River system would open up for our efforts lines of rapid communication and economics that would allow us to directly penetrate up to central Africa."
At the very core of imperialism was the desire for empires to exploit the natural resources of subject lands, thus facilitating the prosperity of their own economies. In short, African conquests were usually a product of Westerners' national economic self-interest. Celebrated economist John A. Hobson analyzed the mentality of imperial nations in Economic Bases of Imperialism, concluding "It is open for Imperialists to argue thus: 'We must have markets for our growing manufactures, we must have new outlets for the investment of our surplus capital and for the energies of the adventurous surplus of our population... Thus we reach the conclusion that Imperialism is the endeavor of the great controllers of industry to broaden the channel for the flow of their surplus wealth by seeking foreign markets and foreign investments." In his own work, Imperialism, the Highest Form of Capitalism, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin argued similar viewpoints: "Imperialism emerged as the development and direct continuation of the fundamental characteristics of capitalism in general. But capitalism only became capitalist imperialism at a definite and very high stage of its development, when certain of its fundamental characteristics began to change into their opposites, when the features of the epoch of transition from capitalism to a higher social and economic system had taken shape and revealed themselves in all spheres...imperialism is the monopoly stage of capitalism."
An excerpt from Captain F. D. Lugard: The Rise of our East African Empire, 1893
Cecil Rhodes reclining in a South Africa diamond field, c. 1897. "His dominating economic, cultural, and political infulence on southern African territories for personal and British gain," write Bentley and Ziegler, "was a model of European and imperialist values," (B&Z 733).
Economic motivations were integral to the colonization of South Africa: On a trip to South Africa, British author Anthony Trollope wrote of his encounters: "In 1870... various white men set themselves seriously to work in searching the banks of the Vaal up and down between Hebron and Klipdrift,---or Barkly as it is now called,---and many small parcels of stones were bought from natives who had been instigated to search by what they had already heard...The commencement of diamond-digging as a settled industry was in 1872." The diamond industry held great appeal for many Westerners, with Cecil Rhodes at the helm. Rhodes declared that his motivation was "Philanthropy- plus 5%" (Rowell 5), and "By 1889, at age thirty-five, he had almost completely monopolized diamond mining in South Africa," (B&Z 731).
In a region to the north, King Leopold II of Belgium commissioned explorer Henry Morgan Stanley, of whom the British had denied support, to "explore the Congo (Zaire) in the hope of riches," (Rowell 6). Eventually, Leopold "carved out a personal colony and filled it with lucrative rubber plantations run by forced labor," (B&Z 740).
European superiority not only translated as the notion of being greater than Africans, but also as the desire to promote patriotism within individual imperial powers: for example, Italy sought out colonies because "They were something to show your neighbor," (Rowell 6). In the words of historian Giuliano Procacci, King Umberto I desired
Kaiser Wilhelm II viewed Germany as the greatest nation, sharing his views in "A Place in the Sun:"http://www.fordham.edu/Halsall/mod/1901Kaiser.asp
The Scramble was in part prompted by the fact that Europeans were propelled into taking subject lands to prove that their own nationality was superior to others, and thus Great Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, and others attempted to acquire the largest, most profitable section of Africa to simply out-conquest other governing bodies and glorify their own nation.
Religion, too, shaped the course of events that took place in 19th century Africa, as Christian missionaries ventured to "The Dark Continent" to share their beliefs with unenlightened individuals.
"Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" asked Henry Morton Stanley ,who "found Livingstone" in 1871 after the latter had gone unheard from for several years.http://libweb5.princeton.edu/visual_materials/maps/websites/africa/livingstone/livingstone-images.html
Partially as a result of Western industrialization, Europeans regarded Africans as primitive in the 19th century, and thus, wrote Leonard Gadzekpo, "European colonialism in Africa meant rejection of political, economic, and cultural compromises with Africans based on the conviction of European superiority and a belief in a divine mandate to rule and to civilize Africa," (Gadzekpo 264). As proven by Hilaire Belloc's assertion in "The Modern Traveller" that "Whatever happens, we have got the Maxim gun, and they have not," Europeans believed that their superior weaponry and technology entitled them to stake claims in the underdeveloped African regions (Rowell 8). Social Darwinism, too, was a vital motivation and justification for white imperialists. In his The Descent of Man, Charles Darwin made note that:
Thus, the first scientific racists took Darwin's ideas and expanded upon them, claiming that various racial groups were weaker morally and mentally than others. Count Joseph Arthur de Gobineau "characterized Africans as unintelligent and lazy...and Europeans as intelligent, noble, and morally superior to others" in his Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races (B&Z 752). Imperialists used scientific racism to justify their African expeditions.
Stages of evolution, taken from Indigenous Races of the Earth by Josiah Clark Nott and G.R. Glidden (B&Z 752).
Link to Wilfred Scawen Blunt's Britain's Imperial Destiny, 1896-1899:
European superiority and arrogance is an easily identifiable characteristic in many documents of the epoch: In 1901 Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany spoke of his
One of the most influential writers of the time, Rudyard Kipling, published his renowned poem "The White Man's Burden," which encouraged "civilized" men to:
Take up the White Man's burden--
In patience to abide,
To veil the threat of terror
And check the show of pride;
By open speech and simple,
An hundred times made plain
To seek another's profit,
And work another's gain.
Indeed, "The European ideological stance of the period equated colonial expansion with prestige and status... European intellectuals found moral and philosophical justification for colonialism in ethnocentric arguments that Africans were physiologically, intellectually, and culturally inferior," (Gadzekpo 265). In his Control of the Tropics, Benjamin Kidd noted:
In his critique of imperialism, John A. Hobson drew conclusions on the European mindset:
Hobson pointed out that Europeans felt obligated to impose their own political and economic structures on the Africans. They used the excuse of "enlightened selfishness;" although Westerners were acting out of self-interest, they held that their conquests would benefit the African people in the long run.