Anthropology: The Birth of Colonialism in Africa and Modern Day Challenges

In the history of Africa, colonialism engraved the crucial points linked to anthropology. African independence started mostly about 1960, paving the path to sustainability after years of heavy pressure. Ghana was the first country that announced independence from Great Britain in 1957. Colonialism is the way to see Africa as one country.

The dehumanizing power of European countries follows the traces of slavery. The ideological components of colonianism, like tribe, native or barbarism were rooted deeply anthropology. The powerty and political turbulence characterise the slow growth of anthropology in Africa.

Ethnology in the recent times has substituted anthropology, giving into focus the nation in its origins. The western world has become primitive in the sense of the etnographic history of Africa.


The Birth of Colonialism in Africa

Colonialism in Africa started to happen around 1800. in modern terms, giving the European countries their prestigious status. The major European countries (among which Great Britain, France, Germany, Portugal, Spain and Italy) expressed their conquering forces upon the African territory. In South Africa, colonialism took the shape even already in 1652, empowered by the Dutch forces with the rise of slavery.

The map of colonized Africa by flags
The map of colonized Africa by flags- Credit:

Colonialism takes roots already in ancient times by the arms of the Greeks, Romans, Arabs and Malays. One of the first colonies was the Greek property under the Egyptian sky, named Naucratis, dating from the 5th century BC. Phoenicians played an important role by establishing Carthage at the place of today’s Tunisia. Finally, Carthage was destroyed by the Romans around 150 BC.

Uninhabitated islands of Africa firstly came into the hands of the Europeans, such as the Cape Verde and Sao Tome islands.


Scramble for Africa- The Beginning of a New Era

New Imperialism steps forward by formalizing the new politics by Otto von Bismarck. It happened at the Congo conference during 1885., also known as the Berlin conference. African labour was the major working force during the First and Second World War.

Map of Africa before and after the Scramble for Africa
Map of Africa before and after the Scramble for Africa- Credit:

The Scramble for Africa was the title of the colonization process created by the seven Western European countries, also known as the Conquest of Africa. The whole process started at the Berlin conference, after which 90% of the African territory got under European power by 1914. Only Ethiopia and Liberia kept their independence during that time.

The Congo Free State was established as the private colony of King Leopold II of Belgium. This large country in central Africa was not a part of Belgium. Congo played a crucial role in the world trade, especially considering ivory, rubber and minerals. It existed from 1885 to 1908.


Moroccan Independence- The Strongest Colonial Relation

French influence upon Morocco is probably the strongest colonial relation. The Treaty of Fez established the French protectorate in Morocco in 1912. Few months later, Spain gained the protectorate in Morroco in the northern and southern parts. Actually, the southern part of the Province of Sahara was named as the Spanish colony.

Typical architecture of islamic Morocco
Typical architecture of Islamic Morocco- Credit:

The sultan played only a fake figure in Morocco while the colonial power experienced the growth until 1956. Already in 1947, the sultan Muhammad V gave a courageous speech in Tangier taking out the fog of the French control. Sultan soon ended in exile in Madagaskar but returned in 1955. The final negotiation led to the independence of Morocco successfully proclaimed by the Treaty in Paris 1956.

German Influence

Already in 1905. Morocco experienced the seeds that led to the path of independence. The German Emperor Kaiser Wilhelm II gave a speech in Tangiers motivating Moroccan independence and challenging France. Germany founded a support only by Austria-Hungary and thus France held a stronger support with the European countries.

Early Colonisation in South Africa

South Africa traces the first movements of colonialism in modern terms, beginning already in 1652. After the Portuguese discovery of South Africa in 1488 by Barlotomeu Dias, Vasco da Gama glorified the further explorations. Vasco da Gama was the first European traveling to India by the sea. The Cape of Good Hope was his point of interest.

Panoramic view of the Cape town, the capital of South Africa
Panoramic view of Cape town, the capital of South Africa- Credit:

The Dutch rulers signed their name around the Cape of Good Hope starting from 1652. Between trading the spices as the main objective, colonisation wasn’t their intention. The Cape of Good Hope served as the serving shelter to the passing ships. Slaves from the Dutch colonies in Indonesia were transferred to Cape Town.

Dutch people started to grow their farms in the interior of the Cape bringing new immigrants from France and the Netherlands.

Khoikhoi People and the Impact of Dutch Rule

The Khoikhoi people of South Africa showed initial resistance to the Dutch settlements by attacking the Dutch farms. Khoikhoi people had the privilege to remain the free citizens as Dutch people were not allowed to enslave them. They were usually becoming the servants working as trackers, herdsmen or shepherds.

The Dutch settlers established their laws and customs until coming into the hands of Great Britain in 1806. Finally, the South Africa became the Republic in 1861.


The Balance of Powers- Constant Rivalry Between Great Britain and France

Occupying African territory by the European countries wasn’t limited to the coastline. The eternal revolt between France and Great Britain started with the British occupation of Egypt in 1882. The violent war was a direct consequence beside the fact that Great Britain won.

The local situation in Africa influenced political domination. Great Britain was leading the role of the major conqueror but the French forces took the game starting from the 1870s, considering Lagos, Niger and Ivory Coast.

The aerial view of Abidjan at Ivory Coast
The aerial view of Abidjan at Ivory Coast- Credit:

The world economy was influenced by the coastal countries, but that didn’t stop spreading to the inland and attacking new colonies. The Republic of Liberia was the only one left untouched.

The hierarchical system of the colonial regimes was pretty powerful where labour jobs for Africans started to increase. The British colonial system considered even more sophisticated and gentle measures, taking into account the African rulers.


French Colonial Empire in Africa

Senegal was the basis of the French strategic movement towards colonialising African countries. The rivalry between Great Britain and France was focusing on the teritorries near the sea. The eight countries in West Africa grouped together stretching the Empire of France. These were: Mauritania, Senegal, French Sudan (now Mali), French Guinea (now Guinea), Côte d’Ivoire, Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso), Dahomey (now Benin), and Niger.

The traffic system from Senegal to Niger included the construction of the railway which took about 42 years to finish. High costs of transport supported only cotton and thus the whole economic strategy was questionable.

The map of Senegal in western Africa
The map of Senegal in western Africa- Credit:

French control over the African countries was focusing on agricultural production in the coastal countries. The export of peanuts became the economic treasure of Senegal. The Ivory Coast counted the huge success in the export of coffee, cocoa and banana.

Today’s Relationship Between France and Its Former Colonies

African countries under French rule celebrate the indepedence since the early 1960s. France’s pervasive power doesn’t stop here. The political system in African countries was initiated by France, educational system still dreams of independence guided by the French language.

Today, the panorama of French influence in Africa is known as Françafrique. The model of government established by France still exists. France’s military presence starting with the Cold War introduced a relation filled with dependence. The eternal point of trade is the main interest of France’s influence.


Decolonization- The Long Process of Accepting Human Rights

Decolonization of Africa happened after the Second World War in the period between the 1950s till 1975. The Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union made a significative influence on this transition.

Natural resources such as gold and rubber went out the African sovereignity provoked by the thought of imperialism. Inspired by the Atlantic Charter made as an agreement between Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, the decolonisation flows in the first line. Acknowledgment to truly respect the rights of people and their choice of government is the leading thought.

The Atlantic Charter as it was signed between US president Franklin Roosevelt and UK president Winston Churchill
The Atlantic Charter as it was signed between US president Franklin Roosevelt and UK president Winston Churchill- Credit:

With the Republic of Liberia being untouched by the colonialism the African countries are slowly started the decolonialisation process. South Africa forms the Union of South Africa already in 1910, and announced independence. Egypt gained independence from Great Britain in 1922 but the British influence stays strong.

Following by the northern African countries, Ghana became the first sub-Saharan African country that announced independence.


Economic Development in Africa During Colonialism

Colonialism started with soft European interests to deepen the trade and export with the roots in African agriculture. Dependence on European goods increased a new wave of trade.

From the field to the table in African agriculture
From the field to the table in African agriculture- Credit:

The influence of colonialism on the development of African countries came into effect during the independence period. Political development took dependence upon colonialism and stopped the local relations between authorities. Due to the fact that ethnic and racial conflicts started to grow, the inequalities also started to increase.

Though one of the reasons for colonialism is to make African countries more subtle, it’s questionable would the african contribution to the world trade happen anyway. The international trade before colonialism experienced the organical growth. The adjacent consequence of the colonialism is that the prices of African goods fell down.

The Relation Between Antropology and Colonialism

Africa is deeply rooted in the study of anthropology as it unveils human values and the struggle for existence and freedom. Colonial expansion gave a shape to anthropology in that sense. The history of the human race owes its existence to Africa.

Scientific research has been done at the various universities and research centres in Africa, particularly in Senegal, Ghana, Morocco, Egypt, Uganda, Zambia and South Africa. General poverty in Africa brings anthropology in its essence.

The book about anthropology in Africa
The book about anthropology in Africa- Credit:

Anthropology developed in the 19th century as the science of human culture and behavior with colonialism on its wings. Anthropology developed as a colonial science and thus originated in Africa.

Historical consciousness that creates anthropology has to create a border with the past. The monopolism that colonialised society created leads us to the core of the question – their culture and ethography.


Politics of Ethnography in the Eyes of Colonialism

Ethnography stands in close connection with anthropology and the science of human culture and behaviour. Colonial ideas stay in the image of etnography even after the colonialism ends.

The differences between Anthropology and Ethnography in the caricature
The differences between Anthropology and Ethnography in the caricature- Credit:

Ethnography pools the roots in ancient Greece. Herodotus explored the traditions and cultures of the ancient world.

Anthropology of colonialism has left the inseparable traces of the antropologhy in general. The answer to this phenomenon lies in their historical roots. The differences of human beings were not always underlined in the same basket.

Local cultural heritage offers the role that stays mirrorless, in its unique and pure heart. The science of identity which faces the soul of ethnology flows with the rhythm of the native languages.


African Cultural Heritage in the Light of Anthropology

African culture is based on dance, music and oral tradition. African dance is the first association when mentioning the indigenous culture of this vast continent. Gestures, masks and costumes that characterise African dances show the way of communication. Traditional African masks and their role in the dance symbolize purification.

African dance Indlamu from South Africa by Zulu tribe
African dance Indlamu from South Africa by Zulu tribe- Credit:

The unique history of Africa dwells in the language of nature, of wildness and pure heart. Sharing represents the heart of African traditions and the way of life. The rich tradition of African art and crafts is the most ancient testimony of their culture and how diverse it is from country to country.

African Values in the Sense of Culture

Values are distinctions about understanding life and what is right and wrong. Value can be classified as political, religious, moral, aesthetic, cultural and personal. Values as an inseparable part of the culture. Theft is unacceptable in some countries of Africa, particularly considering Ibibio people from Nigeria. Ethics and aesthetics create the unique entity and identity in the philosophy of the values.

African religious values permeate deep into everyday life. The core institution that creates political values is the family. Disobedience to the leader is considered to be equal relation to the God. African art is immensely rich and thus aesthetic value contributes to African society at a high level.

Economic values in African countries are based on hard work and cooperation.


Conclusion- Anthropology and Its Colonial Essence

Colonial history identifies the heart of anthropology, though it may be questionable the deep essence of anthropology. How the European countries developed their golden empire follows the mysterious world of interests and economic power.

Imperial interests connected with the raw agricultural treasure lead European countries to create another continent of their own. Colonialism shaped the new world, erasing the power of union and authentic richness that belongs to the African countries.

Postcolonial anthropology seeks to preserve the rich and unique African traditions and cultural heritage. The modern Empire needs to seek beyond their selfish interests and explore the essence of anthropology.


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