African History Colonialism and imperialism of the European countries had a crucial impact on the various aspects of the African history and the Africa that emerged at independence – mostly in the 1960s – was different from the Africa that the Europeans had encountered prior to colonial rule. The colonization of Africa, with its long history, has been most influential in transforming the various elements of the socio-cultural, political and economic spheres of the continent. Africa’s contact with Europe convincingly illustrates how the interaction between people of different geographical and cultural backgrounds can positively and negatively influence the shaping of their development throughout history. "The debate about the impact of colonialism is a heated one. Apologists for colonialism point to the roads, railways and bridges built by the colonial powers as proof of their contribution to African development These claims have, however, been challenged by leftist scholars When all is said and done, there are only two objective ways of reading the "balance sheet" of colonialism. The first is to assess the level of development Africa attained before its encounter with Europe. The second is to examine the rate at which Africa collapsed in C.19th." (Fowale) Therefore, there have been positive as well as negative results of the colonization of Africa by the Europeans which made drastic changes in the history of Africa after the period of colonization. The pre-colonial Africa was influenced by various movements such as the growth and consolidation of Islam and the development of many kingdoms and empires. The interaction with the colonizers influenced the various aspects of the culture of the continent and the Africa that emerged at independence was different from the Africa that the Europeans had encountered prior to colonial rule.
One of the major arguments which point to the positive impact of the colonial rule in the African continent has been that Africa achieved tremendous growth and development throughout the period of colonialism and these positive influences of the colonial rule in Africa played a major role in the transformation of the continent. As a direct result of the benefits of the colonial rule, the Africa emerged as a different continent at independence, from the Africa that the Europeans had encountered prior to colonial rule. During the period between 1880 and 1935, several great changes occurred in the history of Africa due to the serious challenges raised by the European colonialism. The establishment of colonialism in the African continent involved fundamental changes in the nature of the relationships between the colonizers and the colonized. Significantly, "an overwhelmingly majority of African authorities and leaders were opposed to this change and expressed their determination to maintain the status quo and, above all, to retain their sovereignty and independence." (Boahen, 1) Therefore, it is essential to realize that the colonial rule which claims to have brought about incredible changes in the history of Africa was not acceptable to the people of the land.
The internal and external pressures of colonialism have contributed heavily to the transformation of Africa and other important influences on the distinct changes in African society included famine and disease, and several territorial conflicts. "The nineteenth century saw immense changes in Africa. Some were driven by famine and disease. Some changes were the result of the territorial ambitions of African rulers. As the century progressed alliances with merchants and missionaries from Europe began increasingly to have a bearing on how African leaders achieved their goals." (The story of Africa) The Europeans established their power over the various sectors of African people which greatly influenced the transformation of the culture and social life of Africa. The conflicts and rivalries in Europe affected the people in Africa directly during the last two decades of the 19th century and the European powers divided Africa up amongst themselves by the 1880s. Thus, there were enormous changes in the overall appearance of Africa by the time it gained freedom from the European colonizers.
In short, it is essential to agree with the view that the Africa that emerged at independence – mostly in the 1960s – was different from the Africa that the Europeans had encountered prior to colonial rule. The positive as well as negative impacts of the colonial rule in Africa point to the changes that were brought about by the European colonization in the history of Africa. Thus, ethnic rivalries which were not serious in pre-colonial Africa became a serious concern at the time of Africa’s independence from the colonial rulers. The research evidences from the studies on the conceptions and characterizations of colonialism in Africa prove the claim that colonial rule considerably influenced drastic changes in the history of Africa.
Boahen, A. Adu. Africa under colonial domination, 1880-1935. New York: University of California Press. 1990. P 1.
Fowale, Tongkeh Joseph. "Colonialism and Imperialism, Africa’s Twin Woes: The Twilight of African Development and Civilization." Suite 101. Oct 26. 2009. .
"The story of Africa." Africa and Europe (1800-1914). BBC. Oct 26. 2009. .