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Forces For Change


DISCOVERY OF QUININE
One of the main obstacles to European penetration of large parts of Africa was malaria. Africans had lived with mosquitoes spreading Malaria for generations, many had some sort of resistance or capacity to fight a malaria attack. This was not the case with Europeans who died in great numbers. The coast of Sierra Leone was known as the White Man's Grave because of this.

Once Europeans could protect themselves from malaria with quinine, which they began to use in the 1850's, they became increasingly less reliant on Africans helping them achieve their objectives.

STEAM ENGINE
The steam engine was invented in 1804 by Richard Trevithick. The first engine used to pull carriages was Stevenson's Rocket in 1825. Only 28 years later in 1853, the first railway track on the continent of Africa was opened in Egypt between Kafr-el-Zayat and Alexandria, commissioned by the Khedive of Egypt, Abbas I.

TELEGRAPH
In 1885, the African Direct Telegraph company was formed to lay a cable from Europe to the West Coast of Africa. The first cabled news came through Reuters to Nigeria in 1910. The Nigerian Daily Times was the first subscriber.

GUN DESIGN
The old muskets first made in the 17th century took one whole minute to load before giving off one shot, which three times out of ten misfired. These gave way to the breech loading rifles in 1866 which were quick loading, (cartridges were used, not loose gunpowder), shot further and were more accurate. Even more fire power was afforded by the repeating rifles which the French adopted in 1885 in West Africa. In the 1830's, Africans and Europeans had comparable firepower. By the 1880's, Europeans had superior fire power.

Arab-Swahili slave trader Tippu Tip in conversation with explorer H. M. Stanley:
"'With this gun you can fire fifteen shots at a time.'(said Stanley). But we knew nothing of a fifteen shot gun…I asked him: 'From one barrel?' And he replied: 'They come out of one barrel.' Then I said to him: 'Fire it off, that we may see.' But he said: 'I will sooner pay twenty or thirty dollars than fire off a single cartridge.'

Then I thought in my heart: 'He is lying. That is a rifle with one barrel, and the second thing there must be the ramrod. How can the bullets come one after another out of the one barrel...

Then he rose at once, went outside and fired twelve shots. He also seized a pistol and let off six shots. After this he came back and seated himself. We were mightily astonished. I begged him, 'Show me how you load.' He showed me."


Superior European fire power was clearly demonstrated in the battle of Omdurman fought in 1898 by the British against the Mahdi; 10,800 Sudanese were killed, but the British only lost forty nine.

RUBBER TYRES
In 1890 Dunlop produced the first rubber tyres, greatly improving the comfort of a bicycle ride and later driving a car. King Leopold meanwhile, was getting into debt with his Free State of Congo. Luckily for King Leopold and most tragically for everyone who lived in the Congo, wild rubber grew there. The King set about forcing production in a regime of terror, where whole communities were destroyed. People were killed and their hands severed if they refused to collect enough rubber.

"Lined up…are 40 emaciated sons of an African village, each carrying his little basket of rubber. The toll of rubber is weighed and accepted, but…four baskets are short of the demand. The order is brutally short and sharp - quickly the first defaulter is seized by four lusty 'executioners', thrown on the bare ground, pinioned hands and feet, whilst a fifth steps forward carrying a long whip of twisted hippo hide.

Swiftly and without cessation the whip falls, and the sharp corrugated edges cut deep into the flesh - on back, shoulders and buttocks blood spurts from a dozen places. In vain, the victim twists in the grip of the executioners, and then the whip cuts other parts of the quivering body...

Following hard upon this decisive incident was another. Breakfast was just finished when an African father rushed up the veranda steps of our mud house and laid upon the ground the hand and foot of his little daughter, whose age could not have been more than five years."

From an account given by Rev. John Harris, Baptist Missionary recently returned from Congo 1906, quoted in King Leopold's Ghost, by Adam Hochschild.