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Rae Dwyer

Carmen Martinez

Gretchen Eifert

In 1878, Europe had only claimed a very limited amount of African land, but by 1914,

they had acquired nearly the entire continent. As nationalism expanded, the European countries

began to feel the need to expand their empires. The European acquisition of African colonies

between 1878 and 1914 was influenced by entitled and negative attitudes, as well as the

motivation to expand wealth and power.

As Europeans began to expand their influence around the world, they began to feel that it

was their duty to imperialize in colonies across the African continent. As stated by Prince

Leopold in 1861 the Belgians must see where there are unoccupied lands...where are to be

found peoples to civilize, to lead progress in every sense (Doc 1). In order to increase the

power and wealth of Belgium, Prince Leopold would have encouraged a sense of entitlement to

the African colonies to secure his chances at gaining more land. His nationalistic feelings for his

own countries led to the feeling of superiority over other European states to acquire land. The

governor general of French Equatorial Africa, Martial Henri Merlin stated in a speech that they

went there by virtue of the right of a civilized, fully developed race to occupy territories which

have been left fallow by backward people who are plunged into barbarism and unable to develop

the wealth of their own land (Doc 7). The entitled attitude of the French is clearly exhibited as

the Governor clearly states that it was their absolute duty to acquire the colonies and prosper off

them. As one of the leading powers in Europe, France felt that they were the most capable of
colonizing and influencing the land of Africa. As a result of the entitled attitudes of the

Europeans, the African continent was imperialized and colonized.

While the majority of Europes population felt that imperialism was a good thing, some

felt negatively towards the idea. The German Social Democratic Party was one of these groups;

in 1900 they said that World and colonial policy is pursued for the purpose of capitalist

exploitation and for displaying military force (Doc 6). They believed that imperialism was

wrong, and only used to display power to other countries. Imperialism was only a new

opportunity for the rich to get richer and exploiting the home market. The German Social

Democratic Party was feared by many conservatives and middle class liberals due to their

progressive ideas. Bismarck tried to stop them but coud not, so he joined them and their social

ideas. Eventually they gained seats on the Reichstag, and adopted a more patriotic tone. Their

ideas opposed the traditional viewpoint that many desired. Another person who felt negatively

about imperialism was William Clark. In his The Genesis of Jingoism, he said that

[capitalism] is accustomed to find in exaggerated forms of nationalism its most potent ally

(Doc 5). He is saying that people think imperialism is fueled by nationalism, but it is actually

fueled by capitalism. People are greedy and want what is best for them. The greedy people only

use nationalism as a cover-up for their underlying motives of wealth. As a writer for the

Progressive Review in London, William Clark would have naturally wanted to write the truth

about imperialism in order show people that it was motivated by greed not nationalism. Overall

the few that opposed imperialism were not successful in getting others to see their point of view

as the truth.
As a result of the growing nationalistic ideas spreading throughout the continent in the

midst of the 19th Century, several European nations gained the motivations to expand their

empires. The European continent was so full, that several countries ventured out to claim African

land. For example, Benjamin Disraeli, who was the Prime Minister of Great Britain at the time,

recommended [imperializing Africa] to the country as a political transaction, and one which [he

believed was] calculated to strengthen the empire (doc 1). In this statement, he made it clear

that political benefits would come out of this expansion, and this shows his hunger to expand and

strengthen his empire. He made it clear that he does not want to make this expansion for

financial or commercial purposes, and it is natural that as he was a political leader, he would be

focused on advancing the nation from a political standpoint: Disraeli wants to imperialize Africa

in order to expand Britains power as well. A British industrialist by the name of Joseph

Chamberlain questioned members of his country by asking if there was any man in his senses

who believes that the crowded population of these islands could exist for a single day if we were

to be cut adrift from the great dependencies which now look to us for protection and which are

the natural markets for our trade (doc 3). He went on to explain that the British Empire could

not thrive within the boundaries of the United Kingdom, so it was necessary that they expand to

Africa for the mere survival of their nation. As a British industrialist, Chamberlain was aware of

how quickly ideas can expand and was confident that nations could expand that quickly and

effectively as well. Finally, colonial official Louis Bernard of France expressed nationalism,

especially when he wrote of a victorious and conquering France (doc 8). His nationalistic ideas

led him to have a greatly positive view of his country, and those beliefs caused him to urge the

rest of France that it was necessary that they expand their empire. As a result of the growing
nationalism at this time, the stronger of European countries felt the motivation to expand their

empires even further.