Today out of eleven and a half million square miles that Africa contains, there are only about one and a half still unappropriated by Europeans. It will be of interest to trace briefly the history of the colonization of Africa. Passing over the invasion of the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, and Romans, and later on the Arabs (see Ancient History), we find that the Portuguese were the first to institute the European colonization of the continent. Cape after cape was rounded by the Portuguese on the west coast until Diaz discovered the Cape of Good Hope in 1487. Ten years later Vasco da Gama doubled the Cape and landed at and named Natal, and proceeded up the coast to Mombasa. The Portuguese founded settlements in various parts and made several discoveries in the interior. It was not until 1553 that the first British ships were fitted out for an expedition to Africa. France also, about this time, began to send vessels to Guinea, and by the middle of the Fifteenth Century there was quite a busy trade going on with Africa.
In 1588 Queen Elizabeth granted a patent for the first English chartered African Company. It is singular to note how large a part chartered companies have played in English colonization. Then in 1581 the Dutch began to look for new fields for commerce, and turned their eyes toward Africa. They rapidly excluded Spain and Portugal for by this time Spain had dispossessed Portugal and France and England, too, from the coast of Guinea: Fort Elmina was taken by the Dutch in 1637. An effort was made to arrest the advance of the Dutch in 1662, when another British company was chartered by Charles II. This caused a war, and the English captured Fort Seconda, and Cape Coast Castle. Then we find other countries founding settlements, but France was the only one to make headway. Late in the Seventeenth Century France was undoubtedly the most powerful European power in Africa. Not much was done during the Eighteenth Century, possibly because of war in Europe, but it must not be forgotten that in 1795 the English took the Cape of Good Hope from the Dutch. The beginning of the Nineteenth Century saw a great struggle between France and England in Africa as well as in Europe. In 1815 Cape Colony was finally made over to England. The French in 1830 seized Algeria, and both Nations steadily increased their possessions. For the last thirty years various European explorers, and the American Stanley, have been penetrating deep into the heart of Africa. ( See volume “Achievements of the Nineteenth Century.”) It was after Germany had become a United Empire that she, too, began to cast longing eyes on all possible colonies in Africa. In 1876 the famous Brussels Conference was held to discuss the question of exploring and civilizing the continent. The action of the King of the Belgians in his desire to form an African state on the Congo excited the ambition of other European powers and soon there began early in the eighties, the first signs of what has been termed “the scramble for Africa.” So the struggle, which seemed to reach a climax about five or six years ago, has gone on until now, when there is but little worth fighting for left, though that little is sometimes a source of trouble, as, for instance, the Fashoda incident between France and England in 1898. Out of the scramble France has come with a larger slice of territory than any other power. She possesses all the country from Algeria and Tunis to the Guinea coast, the bulk of the Sahara, the territory watered by the Senegal, and the best of that watered by the upper Niger. Then she also owns a great Nock between the Cameroons and the Congo. She has besides, Madagascar and Obok. Germany has fared badly, her possessions being of no great value. Portugal, the pioneer, has only 900,000 sq. miles left. Italy, after a war with Abyssinia, now possesses a long stretch of territory on the Red Sea. Spain possesses a large tract of desert in the Western Sahara, Fernando Po, and about 800 square miles in Guinea. The Congo Free State, an appanage of Belgium, covers 900,000 square miles and is a country capable of development. Great Britain holds the second largest share of territory in Africa. Her possessions in the South have proved more and more valuable, and British South Africa seems likely easily to surpass the rest of the continent in proportion to population and products. Thus Africa has played a large part in the politics of Europe in recent years.
The story of the acquisition of these colonies is one of constant little wars which are not at present worth a place in history except in connection with the history of the mother country, where, mention has been made of them when essential. More interesting is the story of the efforts of the independent states to preserve their integrity.
The position and condition of Egypt are unparalleled. Nominally a province of the Ottoman Empire, it is also autonomous, and under the rule of the Khedive by firmans of the Sultan in 1841, 1866, 1867, 1879, and 1892, subject to the annual payment of a tribute of £682,092.
It is at the same time entirely dependent for its existence as a sovereign state upon the will of stronger powers, England at the present moment being dominant. The title of Khedive was given by firman of May 14, 1867, and is hereditary. In consequence of a military revolt, headed by Arabi Pasha, which the Khedive was powerless to subdue, England was most unwillingly compelled to interfere, and is now in occupation of Egypt, and for many years must continue to exercise a very powerful influence over the fortunes of the country. While British troops were reëstablishing the authority of the Khedive in Egypt, a revolution, headed by Mohammed Ahmed, proclaimed himself a Mandi, broke out in the Egyptian territories in the Soudan. The Egyptian troops having been beaten in the field, General Gordon volunteered to proceed to Khartoum to withdraw the garrisons. He fell, dying nobly at his post January 26, 1885, before an English expedition, sent somewhat tardily to his relief, could reach him. Since then the whole of the upper valley of the Nile and the vast territory which had been brought under Egyptian rule, almost as far as the equator, had been abandoned until the year 1896, when a military expedition, under the Sirdar, started for the south. The province of Dongola was recovered in that year, and Berber, in 1897, and Khartoum, in 1898–a series of brilliant victories that covered General Kitchener with glory. There is a railroad from Cairo to Dongola, which is now being extended to Berber.
The most powerful state in Africa is Abyssinia, which has been able to resist all efforts for its annexation. The Abyssinians are Christians, and their Kings claim descent from Menelek, the son of Solomon, by the Queen of Sheba. They themselves were converted to Christianity probably about 600 A. D. by monks from Egypt, but have long been isolated from the rest of the Christian world. At the end of the Fifteenth Century, an attempt was made by the Jesuits, under the Portuguese power, to bring the Abyssinian church under the papacy. For a time this event seemed likely; but, before the middle of the Seventeenth Century, the Jesuit influence was over-thrown and expelled, and the Abyssinian church reverted to its eastern forms, and no trace of Jesuit influence remained. There is no popular literature, and no education; there is a legal code said to be derived from Constantine, but practically government is autocratic, qualified by the power of revolt. There is no standing army, but all are soldiers, and in the struggle against Italy, the Emperor’s army probably numbered 100,000, there being certainly that number of modern rifles in the country. England came into conflict with Abyssinia in 1867-68, when the then capital, Magdala, was occupied by a British army under General Napier (Lord Napier, of Magdala). In 1889 the Italians made a treaty with King Menelek, under which they claimed a protectorate over Abyssinia; this was repudiated by Menelek in 1893, and finally given up after the Italian defeat at Adowa (March, 1896) . The subsequent treaty with Italy confined the Italian protectorate to a mere strip along the coast. Since that date, Russian, French, and English missions have visited King Menelek at his new capital, Abdis Abba; the French mission, under Lagarde, and the English mission, under Rennell Rodd.
The Transvaal, or South African Republic, was founded in 1840 by Boers, who, dissatisfied with British rule, had migrated from Cape Colony, and its independence was recognized by the British crown in 1852. In 1877, when Sekukuni had defeated the Boers, and it was feared that the whole of South Africa might become involved in a disastrous native war, Sir Theophilus Shepstone was dispatched to the Transvaal. He found the public treasury empty, and the country in a state of anarchy; to save it from further disaster, he proclaimed it British territory. Protests against this usurpation were unheeded, and on December 16, 1880, at Heidelberg, the flag of the Republic was once more hoisted, and after the battle of Majuba Hill (February 27, 1881), Britain once more recognized its independence. By the Convention of February 27, 1884, Britain merely retained the power of vetoing any treaty which the Republic might make with all foreign powers, except the Orange Free State. Swaziland was placed under the administration of the Republic in 1894, the rights of the natives (who retain their king), being safeguarded. Dr. Jameson’s invasion of the Republic, in support of an expected rising of a portion of the foreign population at Johannesburg speedily came to an end with a surrender of the invaders on January i, 1896. But the discovery of gold and the increasing immigration, combined to put a new face on the situation. The Boers foresaw that they would be eventually outnumbered by the “Uitlanders” (as they termed all foreigners) and they dreaded interference with their privileges. Relying on their prowess, their isolation and the peculiar topography of their country, they began to arm for the conflict with the British, which they felt was inevitable. When the strain could no longer be borne, they addressed in October, 1899, an ultimatum to Great Britain, and upon its rejection, invaded British territory, proclaiming it annexed to the Transvaal. At first they bore down all opposition, investing Ladysmith, Mafeking and other strategic points, and inflicting severe defeats on the British forces in the field. But the tide of their success turned on the arrival of heavy reinforcements commanded by the veterans Roberts and Kitchener. Forced to retreat, they saw their country overrun, their capitals and strongholds seized, and finally their presidents in exile. The Boer states were proclaimed annexed to the British possessions in 1900 and since that time have experienced all the horrors growing out of Lord Kitchener’s vigorous measures to subdue the scattered bands still in arms against the invaders.
South of the Transvaal was the Orange Free State, which was founded by Dutch emigrants from Cape Colony. The country was proclaimed British territory by Sir Harry Smith, in 1848, but, by the convention entered into on the 23d of February, 1854, between the British commissioner and the representatives of the people, the inhabitants were declared a free and independent people. They immediately formed a republic and had led a quiet existence free from the internal disorders that marked the history of their northern neighbor. But when danger confronted their kinsmen, they made common cause with them and bore their share in the successes and re-verses described in the preceding section on the Transvaal.
Liberia was founded by the American Colonization Society in 1820, and has been recognized by the European powers as an independent state since 1847. During the last fifty years it has, however, lost much territory to the adjacent British and French colonies.
One absolute monarchy survives in Africa Morocco, ruled by a Sultan, who is, however, in constant conflict with his warrior chiefs. The ancient home of the Moors, whose exploits have been told in the first volume of this work, has sunk into a state of barbarism and its 314,000 square miles of territory will sooner or later fall prey to a European Nation. Constant intrigues with that end in view are conducted by the French and the English.