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The Railways
"Neither imperialism nor colonialism is a simple act of accumulation and acquisition…
Out of imperialism, notions about culture were classified, reinforced, criticised or rejected."

Taken from Culture and Imperialism,
 Edward W. Said.

Territorial claimsThe nineteenth century saw immense changes in Africa. Some were driven by famine and disease. Some changes were the result of the territorial ambitions of African rulers. As the century progressed alliances with merchants and missionaries from Europe began increasingly to have a bearing on how African leaders achieved their goals.


At the beginning of the century, Europeans were still hugely ignorant of the continent. The systematic colonisation of Africa, which gathered momentum in the 1880's, was not even on the horizon in the first half of the 19th century. Europeans had confined themselves to trading mainly along the coast. Inland the trade in slaves and commodities was handled by African and Arab merchants.

With the British abolition of the slave trade in 1807, the British navy took to patrolling the coasts, intercepting other nations's slave ships.

In the last two decades of the 19th century conflicts and rivalries in Europe began to affect people in Africa directly. In the 1880's European powers divided Africa up amongst themselves without the consent of people living there, and with limited knowledge of the land they had taken.

In 1914 conflict in Europe came to a head and the First World War broke out. The contribution of African people to the war effort was crucial.

Listen HereListen to Africa on the Eve of Colonialism, the seventeenth programme in the BBC landmark radio series The Story of Africa, presented by Hugh Quarshie

Listen HereListen to Partition & Resistance , the nineteenth programme in the BBC landmark radio series The Story of Africa, presented by Hugh Quarshie