How should we evaluate colonialism? The colonial era lasted for 50-80 years in most African countries and left a lasting legacy. But many years pass before the definitive balance of its legacy can be properly struck. On the one hand, it is easy to see the destructive forces that were set loose; on the other hand, there was also a record of high-minded devotion and desire to serve the interest of the people who had come under foreign rule.
Although Western countries had been in contact with Africa since the 16th century, it was not until the late second half of the 19th century that explorers opened its interior. And it was only in the last quarter of that century that land-hungry Western European powers divided among themselves, Africa south of the Sahara. At an international conference in Berlin in 1884-1885, representatives of the colonial powers Britain, France, Belgium, Portugal, Germany and Spain convened to iron out their territorial claims. An agreement was reached on boundaries which sowed the seeds for many bitter tribal conflicts which continue to this day. Ancient tribal territories were parcelled up in such a way that one tribe was in the domain of one colonial power and the other tribes were under the jurisdiction of another.
The motives for colonization were mixed. The 19th century was the age of Western imperialism, which in some respects can be regarded as a result of nation building and nationalism. For example, German and Italian national aspirations resulted in the unification of the two states and after that it became a national ideal to make their countries just as powerful or even more so than France and Britain, and to build their own colonial empires. Furthermore, Western European colonizers assumed the superiority of their own cultures. As people of their time they looked at African culture from the little they knew and had discovered. They considered it as something backward, uncultured and unattractive. Racism also contributed to...
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