Prelude to the Partition of West Africa

Prelude to the Partition of West Africa

Prelude to the Partition of West Africa

Prelude to the Partition of West Africa

Excerpt

This Is a historical study with a modest aim. At a time when there is a good deal of discussion about Imperialism in general, and about the partition of Africa in particular, it seemed there was room for a straightforward account of the establishment of European rule in that part of tropical Africa where there is the longest record of commercial and cultural contact. I began work in 1954, with some hope of covering the whole period in a single volume; as my research proceeded I learned what a formidable undertaking that would be. I hope, however, that readers will observe that there are other reasons than indolence for my decision to close the main part of the present narrative in 1885. By that year, claims had been established in the coastal regions which to a considerable degree determined the pattern of interior penetration and conquest; and in the following years the spirit of European relations with Africa undergoes gradual but decided change.

In writing substantial sections of this book I have stood upon the shoulders of those who have studied special regions of West Africa; Adu Boahen, Kenneth Diké, John Flint, and Freda Wolfson are among those whose work I have exploited. I have tried to summarize — or in certain cases to re-state or qualify — their conclusions wherever these impinge upon my theme; I have done so as briefly as seemed compatible with clarity, rather than at the length which the intrinsic importance of some of the areas in question might seem to demand. My aim has been to relate the problems of the various French and British settlements to the relations of Europe with West Africa as a whole; but I cannot hope to have escaped completely the restrictions of view retrospectively imposed by colonial frontiers.

I am even more aware of my shortcomings in relation to a second objective: that of discussing European-African relations with reference to the motivation of both sides, rather than writing as if European aims were invariably unilaterally determined, and imposed by superior technology upon more or less passive Africans. I have become increasingly convinced that the course . . .

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