Britain, the European Powers and the Partition - Interpretations

A set of revision notes on the various interpretations of the Partition of Africa

Generally, just a brief overview of the key reasons, but should be useful as a starting point - I hope

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  • Created by: ethan
  • Created on: 25-06-09 18:01

J.A. Hobson - Overseas Investment

- Partition deliberately thought out by a shady elite of "financiers, capital investors and unscrupulous politicians
- Supported expansion over higher GB wages and improved living conditions
- Rich had too much to spend, and had to seek new markets as British did not have enough to spend
- Partition was GB Government supporting a group of "greedy capitalist" investors in Africa

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Lenin - Crisis of Capitalism

- Purely economic explanation
- Crisis in the European capitalist economic system responsible for European expansion
- Too many people after too few markets
- "puppets" of capitalist businessmen
- Only cure for imperialism a revolution

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Schumpeter - Crisis of hereditary elites

- Imperialism is "the objectless disposition on the part of a state to unlimited forcible expansion"
- Argued the group supporting expansion was old aristocratic hereditary elites
- Seeking power and imperial glory
- Felt in danger of extinction by growing business class
- Predicted imperialism would only end when aristocracy gone

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Hobsbawm - Industry and Empire

- Technology vital to Partition
- Without technological advance, would never have occurred
- Made the conquest of pre-industrial Africans easier

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Cain and Hopkins - Gentlemanly Capitalism

- Reject the link between industrialisation and imperial expansion
- Argue for continuity in imperial expansion 1688 - 1914
- Commercial, professional and landed elites important
- Joined with London elites to form a "gentlemanly capitalist" class
- Values those taught at institutes such as Eton and Oxbridge
- "Old Boy" networks ensured their desires put first, wittingly or non
- Invested heavily abroad and encouraged Government to protect it

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Gallagher and Robinson

- Based on "official" mindset at Whitehall
- Willing to rule through Informal Empire, only resorting to formal rule if necessary
- Intervention began in an Egyptian crisis, where Britain was dragged in
- This led to expansion in the rest of Africa
- Likewise in South Africa, with worries over Transvaal and Boer Nationalism
- Strategic viewpoint, rather than businesses or public opinions

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'Men on the Spot'

- Emphasises role played by 'men on the spot'
- People such as Rhodes in South Africa, Mckinnon in the East, and Goldie in the West
- Claimed they had their own schemes, gained local power, and called on Britain to consolidate

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African Nationalism

- African nationalism often vital for conquest
- African rulers, states and merchants collaborated
- Others opposed European rule
- Generally requests for inclusion in Empire etc fell on deaf ears

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AJP Taylor - The Primacy of Political and Diplomat

- Unstable Europe
- Africa used for competition between European powers
- Africa a safe arena
- Constituted an unplanned competition for European domninance

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Paul Kennedy - The Rise and Fall of Great Powers

- Context of the Rise and Fall of Great Powers
- Between 1815 and 1870 Britain greatest industrial power
- New model of Great Power status created
- Based partly on Colonialism
- Other European powers sought to gain this sort of power
- As other European powers gained colonies, Britain gained more
- Driven by a desire to maintain world dominance

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