The Conquest of Africa

  • Bill Freund


Within the last quarter of the nineteenth century the slow process of European political penetration of the African continent gave way to a scramble for colonies that resulted in a partition of all the lands south of the Sahara apart from the Republic of Liberia and Ethiopia. A materialist assessment of imperial conquest will necessarily consider how this process related to the contradictions within capitalist economy and society in Europe as well as events in Africa. For more than sixty years the terrain of discussion has been dominated by one long pamphlet, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, written during World War I by the leading figure of the Russian Revolution, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin.


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  1. For a general view of imperialism by a Marxist contemporary, V.l. Lenin, Imperialism: the Highest Stage of Capitalism (International Publishers edn., 1939) remains compelling. On very similar lines, seeGoogle Scholar
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  51. There is a large and controversial literature on various aspects of the conquest of South Africa. It is surveyed and assessed in Atmore and Marks, cited for the previous chapter and included in the E. Penrose collection on European imperialism. This analysis is extended in Marks and Stanley Trapido, ‘Lord Milner and the South African State’, HWJ, 8 (1979). Some of the process of revision is encapsulated in a series of writings on the Jameson Raid: G.A. Blainey, ‘Lost Causes of the Jameson Raid’, EHR, N.S. XVIII (1965); R.V. Kubicek, ‘The Randlords in 1895: A Reassessment’, JBS, II (1972) and R. Mendelsohn, ‘Blainey and the Jameson Raid: The Debate Renewed’, JSAS, VI (1980).Google Scholar
  52. The growing force of Afrikaner nationalism is discussed in Floris van Jaarsveld, The Awakening o f Afrikaner Nationalism (Human & Rousseau, 1961). A classic study of the politics of confrontation between Britain and the South African Republic isGoogle Scholar
  53. J.S. Marais, The Fall of Kruger’s Republic (Clarendon Press, 1961). Transvaal society is re-interpreted in Stanley Trapido’s contribution to the Atmore & Marks book cited earlier, ‘Reflections on Land, Office and Wealth in the South African Republic 1850–1900’. Norman Etherington has written a very important consideration of Confederation, ‘Labour Supply and the Genesis of South African Confederation in the 1870s’, JAH, XX (1979). On the Boer War itself,Google Scholar
  54. Peter Warwick, ed., The South African War (Longman, 1980) is the most useful first resource to date.Google Scholar
  55. The intrusion of Rhodes’ chartered company north of the Limpopo and the consequent conflict with Lobengula and the Ndebele state has often been recounted, for example in Philip Mason, The Birth of a Dilemma (Oxford University Press, 1958)Google Scholar
  56. and Stanlake Samkange, The Origins of Rhodesia (Heinemann, 1968). There are new interpretations in J. Cobbing, ‘Lobengula, Jameson and the Occupation of Mashonaland’, RH, IV (1973) and Ian Phimister, ‘Rhodes, Rhodesia and the Rand’, J SAS, I (1974).Google Scholar

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© Bill Freund 1984

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  • Bill Freund

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