HIST317: Reading Presentation The Scramble for Indian Ocean Africa Africa and the Victorians: The Official Mind of Imperialism, Ronald Robinson; John Gallagher This book is intended by the authors to be a contribution to the general theory of imperialism; it does not deal with the history of the regions of Africa during the Victorian age, but rather with the international stresses which led to the Partition of Africa and the hesitations and internal conflict and debate within successive British Cabinets in connection with the “Scramble for Africa” The historians claim to have destroyed the old theory of ‘economic imperialism’—England chose some of the poorest parts of Africa The authors utilize Foreign and Colonial Office records and the private papers of the Third Marquess of Salisbury whose decisions and indecisions provide them with something of a chart for tracking down the “mind of imperialism” The ‘imperialism of free trade’ stressed above all the relentless expansionism of Victorian Britain and insisted that the choice of mode was a purely tactical consideration shaped by circumstance The book includes an introductory chapter on the spirit of Victorian expansion and two background chapters—one on tropical coastal Africa, west and east, and one on South Africa— which brings us to 1880 Then, the three stories alternate—Egypt and the Eastern Question; tropical Africa, east and west; and South Africa up to the Boer War—concluding with the authors’ reflections on nationalism and imperialism
Through it all runs the influence of the European power struggle and of British home politics on African problems There were several reasons for the establishment of British colonies and protectorates in Africa—among them the suppression of slavery, the support of missionary enterprise, and the protection of trade—but, in the authors’ view, the main cause was the official thinking of British statesmen obsessed with the need for securing the routes to India and the Far East. We can see what the policy-makers had in mind when the partition of Africa became—unexpectedly—an object of diplomacy: “The conception of the central importance of the Cape in imperial strategy was generally accepted among the British leaders. The safety of the whole empire, it seemed, might hang one day upon control of the naval base at Simon’s Bay” (60). In 1870 half the English army was in India—and was paid there. Economic historians have suggested that only gold imports from India enabled Britain to maintain the free trade policy on which her prosperity depended Therefore India was vital and must be defended: this was a cardinal point of national policy Defense depended on the lines of communication, through Egypt or round the Cape.
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