European Colonization of Central Africa

European Colonization of Central Africa

Henry Stanley’s successful search for Dr. David Livingstone did much to publicize the possibilities for imperialistic development in central Africa. Stanley tried but failed to interest the British government in . the vast area that he had explored. He then turned to King Leopold II of Belgium, who did want the region.

After much national and international maneuvering, Leopold, acting as a private citizen, carved out a personal empire of 900,000 square miles.


Leopold’s rule of the Congo provides an example of the worst aspects of imperialism. His only interest was in extracting as much wealth as possible from the colony. Forming a corporation, he sold concessions to speculators who shared his interest in a quick profit. Their exploitation of the Congo’s supply of natural rubber became an international scandal. Leopold, who never visited Africa, established trading monopolies and introduced a system of forced labor. Thousands of Africans died in Leopold’s “service.” Finally, faced with international criticism of conditions in the Congo, Leopold transferred ownership of his private colony to the Belgian government in 1908.


North of Leopold’s Congo, Pierre de Brazza traveled to the lower Congo River in 1880 and signed treaties establishing a French protectorate. The affected region officially became the French Congo in 1891. The French extended their claims to the northeast, gaining control of a large region north of the Congo and adjoining French West Africa. Combined with the French Congo, this region formed French



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