In order to establish the significance of the strategic considerations in bringing about the expansion and dismantling of the British Empire in Africa, we need to acknowledge the different entities that clearly affected the strategic considerations in the years 1880 – 1980 and were significant contributory factors. Namely these may be recognised as being the scramble for Africa, the inter-war period, the aftermath of World War Two, the Suez Crisis and Zimbabwe’s independence. This essay will demonstrate the predominant factors driving policy at each of these events which majorly affected British economic considerations in her quest of the colonisation of the African continent and its riches and allowed her dominance to thrive.
The scramble for Africa in the 1880s saw the unclaimed parts of the continent divided amongst the main colonial powers in Africa. The scramble for Africa was primarily driven by strategic, political and ultimately economic considerations. The control of the Suez Canal was of great strategic interest to the imperial nations, Britain knew what the considerable shortening of the route to India and the far East would mean in economic terms “The Canal is liable to be widened and deepened when required, to cope with the development in ship sizes and tonnages.”1 This meant that Britain could now go to and from India without passing round the southern tip of Africa to acquire the raw materials quickly because Britain now had territorial possessions. This also helped Britain’s communication with India, greatly increasing the efficiency of travel between the two countries by passing the southern tip whilst reducing costs. The strategic significance of the scramble for Africa also led to rivalry between the main colonial powers in Africa such as Great Britain, France and Portugal. This supports the interpretation that political considerations was also of significance because exploitation was of global and British interest. Success of the exploitation in Africa raised the status of British politicians. This is evident from Martin Pugh as he suggested ‘the most striking symptom of imperialism (…) was the apparent growth of enthusiasm for Empire displayed by ordinary citizens.’2 This rose a sense of pride amongst the British encouraging politicians to impose what poet Rudyard Kipling described as the ‘White Man’s Burden’ on Africa. The prestige of politicians in Britain was therefore due to mass public support allowing Britain to expand her empire in Africa. Britain also expanded her empire in Africa because of economic considerations. Africa’s wealth, such as copper was of great significance to the British. As Bentley and Ziegler suggest Britain was interested in Africa because of ‘abundant supplies of… copper in central Africa. This benefitted the British as African economic fortune allowed her to exploit and better her own economy. With regard to the scramble for Africa, strategic considerations were of more significance to the expansion of the British Empire in Africa because the geographical position of Africa as a continent and its resources allowed her empire to expand and become significantly expanding her global reach over her European competitors, dominating international trade due its control of the Suez Canal.
The securing of markets and raw materials, especially in times of economic depression, was a crucial factor.
As industrialization grew and spread throughout Europe, competition for raw materials increased. Consequently, some European industrialists encouraged their governments to colonize African countries as a method of guaranteeing sources of raw materials.
By contrast… Interwar years – the period between the end of World War I and the beginning of World War II 1918 – 1939