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Betweenthe1870sand1900,AfricafacedEuropeanimperialistaggression,diplomatic

pressures,militaryinvasions,andeventualconquestandcolonization.Atthesametime,African
societiesputupvariousformsofresistanceagainsttheattempttocolonizetheircountriesand
imposeforeigndomination.Bytheearlytwentiethcentury,however,muchofAfrica,except
EthiopiaandLiberia,hadbeencolonizedbyEuropeanpowers.

TheEuropeanimperialistpushintoAfricawasmotivatedbythreemainfactors,economic,
political,andsocial.Itdevelopedinthenineteenthcenturyfollowingthecollapseofthe
profitabilityoftheslavetrade,itsabolitionandsuppression,aswellastheexpansionofthe
EuropeancapitalistIndustrialRevolution.Theimperativesofcapitalist
industrializationincludingthedemandforassuredsourcesofrawmaterials,thesearchfor
guaranteedmarketsandprofitableinvestmentoutletsspurredtheEuropeanscrambleandthe
partitionandeventualconquestofAfrica.ThustheprimarymotivationforEuropeanintrusion
waseconomic.

Butotherfactorsplayedanimportantroleintheprocess.Thepoliticalimpetusderivedfromthe
impactofinterEuropeanpowerstrugglesandcompetitionforpreeminence.Britain,France,
Germany,Belgium,Italy,Portugal,andSpainwerecompetingforpowerwithinEuropeanpower
politics.Onewaytodemonstratenationalpreeminencewasthroughtheacquisitionofterritories
aroundtheworld,includingAfrica.Thesocialfactorwasthethirdmajorelement.Asaresultof
industrialization,majorsocialproblemsgrewinEurope:unemployment,poverty,homelessness,
socialdisplacementfromruralareas,andsoon.Thesesocialproblemsdevelopedpartly
becausenotallpeoplecouldbeabsorbedbythenewcapitalistindustries.Onewaytoresolve
thisproblemwastoacquirecoloniesandexportthis"surpluspopulation."Thisledtothe
establishmentofsettlercoloniesinAlgeria,Tunisia,SouthAfrica,Namibia,Angola,
Mozambique,andcentralAfricanareaslikeZimbabweandZambia.Eventuallytheoverriding
economicfactorsledtothecolonizationofotherpartsofAfrica.
Thusitwastheinterplayoftheseeconomic,political,andsocialfactorsandforcesthatledto
thescrambleforAfricaandthefrenziedattemptsbyEuropeancommercial,military,andpolitical
agentstodeclareandestablishastakeindifferentpartsofthecontinentthrough
interimperialistcommercialcompetition,thedeclarationofexclusiveclaimstoparticular
territoriesfortrade,theimpositionoftariffsagainstotherEuropeantraders,andclaimsto
exclusivecontrolofwaterwaysandcommercialroutesindifferentpartsofAfrica.

TheAfricanResistance
TheEuropeanimperialistdesignsandpressuresofthelatenineteenthcenturyprovokedAfrican
politicalanddiplomaticresponsesandeventuallymilitaryresistance.DuringandaftertheBerlin
ConferencevariousEuropeancountriessentoutagentstosignsocalledtreatiesofprotection
withtheleadersofAfricansocieties,states,kingdoms,decentralizedsocieties,andempires.
Thedifferentialinterpretationofthesetreatiesbythecontendingforcesoftenledtoconflict
betweenbothpartiesandeventuallytomilitaryencounters.ForEuropeans,thesetreaties
meantthatAfricanshadsignedawaytheirsovereigntiestoEuropeanpowersbutforAfricans,

thetreatiesweremerelydiplomaticandcommercialfriendshiptreaties.Afterdiscoveringthat
theyhadineffectbeendefraudedandthattheEuropeanpowersnowwantedtoimposeand
exercisepoliticalauthorityintheirlands,Africanrulersorganizedmilitarilytoresisttheseizureof
theirlandsandtheimpositionofcolonialdomination.
ThissituationwascompoundedbycommercialconflictsbetweenEuropeansandAfricans.
Duringtheearlyphaseoftheriseofprimarycommoditycommerce(erroneouslyreferredtoin
theliteratureas"LegitimateTradeorCommerce"),Europeansgottheirsuppliesoftradegoods
likepalmoil,cotton,palmkernel,rubber,andgroundnutfromAfricanintermediaries,butasthe
scrambleintensified,theywantedtobypasstheAfricanintermediariesandtradedirectlywith
sourcesofthetradegoods.NaturallyAfricansresistedandinsistedonthemaintenanceofa
systemofcommercialinteractionwithforeignerswhichexpressedtheirsovereigntiesas
autonomouspoliticalandeconomicentitiesandactors.Fortheirpart,theEuropeanmerchants
andtradingcompaniescalledontheirhomegovernmentstointerveneandimpose"freetrade,"
byforceifnecessary.Itwasthesepolitical,diplomatic,andcommercialfactorsandcontentions
thatledtothemilitaryconflictsandorganizedAfricanresistancetoEuropeanimperialism.
Africanmilitaryresistancetooktwomainforms:guerrillawarfareanddirectmilitaryengagement.
WhilethesewereusedasneededbyAfricanforces,thedominanttypeuseddependedonthe
political,social,andmilitaryorganizationsofthesocietiesconcerned.Ingeneral,smallscale
societies,thedecentralizedsocieties(erroneouslyknownas"stateless"societies),usedguerrilla
warfarebecauseoftheirsizeandtheabsenceofstandingorprofessionalarmies.Insteadof
professionalsoldiers,smallgroupsoforganizedfighterswithamasteryoftheterrainmounted
resistancebyusingtheclassicalguerrillatacticofhitandrunraidsagainststationaryenemy
forces.ThiswastheapproachusedbytheIgboofsoutheasternNigeriaagainsttheBritish.
EventhoughtheBritishimperialistssweptthroughIgbolandinthreeyears,between1900and
1902,anddespitethesmallscaleofthesocieties,theIgboputupprotractedresistance.The
resistancewasdiffuseandpiecemeal,andthereforeitwasdifficulttoconquerthemcompletely
anddeclareabsolutevictory.LongaftertheBritishformallycolonizedIgboland,theyhadnot
fullymasteredtheterritory.
Directmilitaryengagementwasmostcommonlyorganizedbythecentralizedstatesystems,
suchaschiefdoms,citystates,kingdoms,andempires,whichoftenhadstandingor
professionalarmiesandcouldthereforetackletheEuropeanforceswithmassedtroops.This
wasthecasewiththeresistanceactionsoftheEthiopians,theZulu,theMandinkaleadership,
andnumerousothercentralizedstates.InthecaseofEthiopia,theimperialistintruderwasItaly.
ItconfrontedadeterminedandsagaciousmilitaryleaderintheEthiopianemperorMenelikII.As
Italyintensifiedpressureinthe1890stoimposeitsruleoverEthiopia,theEthiopiansorganized
toresist.InthefamousbattleofAdwain1896,onehundredthousandEthiopiantroops
confrontedtheItaliansandinflictedadecisivedefeat.Thereafter,Ethiopiawasabletomaintain
itsindependenceformuchofthecolonialperiod,exceptforabriefinterludeofItalianoversight
between1936and1941.
AnotherexampleofresistancewastheoneorganizedbySamoryTouroftheemergent
MandinkaempireinWestAfrica.AsthisnewempirespreadandTourattemptedtoforgea
newpoliticalorderheranupagainsttheFrenchimperialistswhowerealsotryingextendtheir
territoriesinlandfromtheirbaseinDakar,Senegal.Thisbroughtthepartiesintoconflict.Tour

organizedmilitaryanddiplomaticresistancebetween1882and1898.Duringthissixteenyear
period,heusedavarietyofstrategies,includingguerrillawarfare,scorchedearthprograms,
anddirectmilitaryengagement.Forthislasttacticheacquiredarms,especiallyquickfiring
rifles,fromEuropeanmerchantandtradersinSierraLeoneandSenegal.Healsoestablished
engineeringworkshopswhereweaponswererepairedandpartswerefabricated.Withthese
resourcesandhiswelltrainedforcesandthemotivationofnationaldefenseheprovidedhis
protractedresistancetotheFrench.Eventuallyhewascapturedand,in1898,exiledtoGabon,
wherehediedin1900.
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APeriodofChange
ItisquiteclearthatmostAfricansocietiesfoughtfiercelyandbravelytoretaincontrolovertheir
countriesandsocietiesagainstEuropeanimperialistdesignsandmilitaryinvasions.Butthe
Africansocietieseventuallylostout.Thiswaspartlyforpoliticalandtechnologicalreasons.The
nineteenthcenturywasaperiodofprofoundandevenrevolutionarychangesinthepolitical
geographyofAfrica,characterizedbythedemiseofoldAfricankingdomsandempiresandtheir
reconfigurationintodifferentpoliticalentities.Someoftheoldsocietieswerereconstructedand
newAfricansocietieswerefoundedondifferentideologicalandsocialpremises.Consequently,
Africansocietieswereinastateofflux,andmanywereorganizationallyweakandpolitically
unstable.TheywerethereforeunabletoputupeffectiveresistanceagainsttheEuropean
invaders.
Thetechnologicalfactorwasexpressedintheradicaldisparitybetweenthetechnologiesof
warfaredeployedbythecontendingEuropeanandAfricanforces.Africanforcesingeneral
foughtwithbows,arrows,spears,swords,oldrifles,andcavalriestheEuropeanforces,
beneficiariesofthetechnicalfruitsoftheIndustrialRevolution,foughtwithmoredeadlyfirearms,
machinesguns,newrifles,andartilleryguns.ThusindirectencountersEuropeanforcesoften
wontheday.Butasthelengthofsomeresistancestrugglesamplydemonstrates,Africansput
upthebestresistancewiththeresourcestheyhad.
By1900muchofAfricahadbeencolonizedbysevenEuropeanpowersBritain,France,
Germany,Belgium,Spain,Portugal,andItaly.AftertheconquestofAfricandecentralizedand
centralizedstates,theEuropeanpowerssetaboutestablishingcolonialstatesystems.The
colonialstatewasthemachineryofadministrativedominationestablishedtofacilitateeffective
controlandexploitationofthecolonizedsocieties.Partlyasaresultoftheiroriginsinmilitary
conquestandpartlybecauseoftheracistideologyoftheimperialistenterprise,thecolonial
stateswereauthoritarian,bureaucraticsystems.Becausetheywereimposedandmaintainedby
force,withouttheconsentofthegoverned,thecolonialstatesneverhadtheeffectivelegitimacy
ofnormalgovernments.Second,theywerebureaucraticbecausetheywereadministeredby
militaryofficersandcivilservantswhowereappointeesofthecolonialpower.Whiletheywere
allauthoritarian,bureaucraticstatesystems,theirformsofadministrationvaried,partlydueto
thedifferentnationaladministrativetraditionsandspecificimperialistideologiesofthecolonizers
andpartlybecauseofthepoliticalconditionsinthevariousterritoriesthattheyconquered.
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ColonialDomination:IndirectRule
InNigeria,theGoldCoastinWestAfrica,andKenya,Uganda,TanganyikainEastAfrica,for
example,Britainorganizeditscoloniesatthecentral,provincial,andregionalordistrictlevels.
Therewasusuallyagovernororgovernorgeneralinthecolonialcapitalwhogovernedalong
withanappointedexecutivecouncilandalegislativecouncilofappointedandselectedlocal
andforeignmembers.Thegovernorwasresponsibletothecolonialofficeandthecolonial
secretaryinLondon,fromwhomlaws,policies,andprogramswerereceived.Hemadesome
locallawsandpolicies,however.Colonialpoliciesanddirectiveswereimplementedthrougha
centraladministrativeorganizationoracolonialsecretariat,withofficersresponsiblefordifferent
departmentssuchasRevenue,Agriculture,Trade,Transport,Health,Education,Police,Prison,
andsoon.
TheBritishcolonieswereoftensubdividedintoprovincesheadedbyprovincialcommissioners
orresidents,andthenintodistrictsheadedbydistrictofficersordistrictcommissioners.Laws
andpoliciesontaxation,publicworks,forcedlabor,mining,agriculturalproduction,andother
mattersweremadeinLondonorinthecolonialcapitalandthenpasseddowntothelower
administrativelevelsforenforcement.
AttheprovincialanddistrictlevelstheBritishestablishedthesystemoflocaladministration
popularlyknownasindirectrule.Thissystemoperatedinalliancewithpreexistingpolitical
leadershipsandinstitutions.Thetheoryandpracticeofindirectruleiscommonlyassociated
withLordLugard,whowasfirsttheBritishhighcommissionerfornorthernNigeriaandlater
governorgeneralofNigeria.IntheHausa/FulaniemiratesofnorthernNigeriahefoundthat
theyhadanestablishedandfunctionaladministrativesystem.Lugardsimplyandwisely
adaptedittohisends.Itwascheapandconvenient.Despiteattemptstoportraytheuseof
indirectruleasanexpressionofBritishadministrativegenius,itwasnothingofthesort.Itwasa
pragmaticandparsimoniouschoicebasedpartlyonusingexistingfunctionalinstitutions.The
choicewasalsopartlybasedonBritain'sunwillingnesstoprovidetheresourcesrequiredto
administeritsvastempire.Instead,itdevelopedtheperverseviewthatthecolonizedshouldpay
fortheircolonialdomination.Hence,thechoiceofindirectrule.
Thesystemhadthreemajorinstitutions:the"nativeauthority"madeupofthelocalruler,the
colonialofficial,andtheadministrativestaffthe"nativetreasury,"whichcollectedrevenuesto
payforthelocaladministrativestaffandservicesandthe"nativecourts,"whichpurportedly
administered"nativelawandcustom,"thesupposedlytraditionallegalsystemofthecolonized
thatwasusedbythecourtstoadjudicatecases.
Ingeneral,indirectruleworkedfairlywellinareasthathadlongestablishedcentralizedstate
systemssuchaschiefdoms,citystates,kingdoms,andempires,withtheirfunctional
administrativeandjudicialsystemsofgovernment.Butevenherethefactthattheultimate
authoritywastheBritishofficialsmeantthattheAfricanleadershadbeenvassalizedand
exercised"authority"atthemercyofEuropeancolonialofficials.Thusthepoliticalandsocial
umbilicalcordsthattiedthemtotheirpeopleintheoldsystemhadbeenbroken.Someastute
Africanleadersmaneuveredandruledasbesttheycould,whileothersusedthenewcolonial
settingtobecometyrantsandoppressors,astheywereresponsibletoBritishofficialsultimately.
Inthedecentralizedsocieties,thesystemofindirectruleworkedlesswell,astheydidnothave
singlerulers.TheBritishcolonizers,unfamiliarwiththesenovelanduniquepoliticalsystems

andinsistingthatAfrican"natives"musthavechiefs,oftenappointedlicensedleaderscalled
warrantchiefs,asinIgboland,forexample.
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ColonialDomination:Assimilation
TheFrench,fortheirpart,establishedahighlycentralizedadministrativesystemthatwas
influencedbytheirideologyofcolonialismandtheirnationaltraditionofextremeadministrative
centralism.Theircolonialideologyexplicitlyclaimedthattheywereona"civilizingmission"tolift
thebenighted"natives"outofbackwardnesstothenewstatusofcivilizedFrenchAfricans.To
achievethis,theFrenchusedthepolicyofassimilation,wherebythroughacculturationand
educationandthefulfillmentofsomeformalconditions,some"natives"wouldbecomeevolved
andcivilizedFrenchAfricans.Inpractice,thestringentconditionssetforcitizenshipmadeit
virtuallyimpossibleformostcolonialsubjectstobecomeFrenchcitizens.Forexample,potential
citizensweresupposedtospeakFrenchfluently,tohaveservedtheFrenchmeritoriously,to
havewonanaward,andsoon.IftheyachievedFrenchcitizenship,theywouldhaveFrench
rightsandcouldonlybetriedbyFrenchcourts,notunderindignat,theFrenchcolonialdoctrine
andlegalpracticewherebycolonial"subjects"couldbetriedbyFrenchadministrativeofficialsor
militarycommandersandsentencedtotwoyearsofforcedlaborwithoutdueprocess.However,
sinceFrancewouldnotprovidetheeducationalsystemtotrainallitscolonizedsubjectsto
speakFrenchandwouldnotestablishadministrativeandsocialsystemstoemployallits
subjects,assimilationwasmoreanimperialistpoliticalandideologicalposturethanaserious
politicalobjective.
IntermsoftheactualadministrativesysteminitsvariousAfricancoloniesAlgeria,Tunisia,and
MoroccoinNorthAfrica,andSenegal,FrenchGuinea,FrenchSudan,UpperVolta,Dahomey,
andothersinWestAfrica,andGabon,CongoBrazzaville,UbangiShariinCentralAfricathe
Frenchusedasystemofdirectrule.TheyalsocreatedfederationsinWestAfricaandCentral
Africa.Inthecolonialcapitalsthegovernorswereresponsibletotheministerofcoloniesin
Paris.MostlawsandpoliciesweresentfromParis,andthegovernorswhoruledwithgeneral
councilswereexpectedtoenforcetheminlinewithFrance'scentralisttraditions.Thecolonies
werealsosubdividedintosmalleradministrativeunitsasfollows:cerclesundercommandantdu
Cercles,subdivisionsunderchefdesubdivisions,andatthenextlevel,cantonswere
administeredbyAfricanchiefswhowereineffectliketheBritishwarrantchiefs.
WhileFrancetriedtomaintainthishighlycentralizedsystem,insomepartsofitscolonieswhere
itencounteredstronglyestablishedcentralizedstatesystems,theFrenchwerecompelledto
adoptthepolicyofassociation,asystemofruleoperatinginalliancewithpreexistingAfrican
rulinginstitutionsandleaders.ThusitwassomewhatlikeBritishindirectrule,althoughthe
Frenchstillremainedcommittedtothedoctrineofassimilation.Intheassociationsystem,local
governmentswererunwithAfricanrulerswhomtheFrenchorganizedatthreelevelsand
grades:chefdeprovince(provincialchief)chefdecanton(districtchiefs),andchefdevillage
(villagechief).Inpractice,theFrenchsystemcombinedelementsofdirectadministrationand
indirectrule.
Ingeneral,theFrenchadministrativesystemwasmorecentralized,bureaucratic,and
interventionistthantheBritishsystemofcolonialrule.TheothercolonialpowersGermany,

Portugal,Spain,Belgium,andItalyusedvariedadministrativesystemstofacilitatecontroland
economicexploitation.However,nomatterthesystem,theywereallalien,authoritarian,and
bureaucratic,anddistortedAfricanpoliticalandsocialorganizationsandunderminedtheirmoral
authorityandpoliticallegitimacyasgoverningstructures.