Assess the significance of strategic concerns in influencing Britain’s relationship with its African empire in the period c1870 – c1981

Topics: Africa, British Empire, Egypt Pages: 3 (1167 words) Published: January 28, 2014
Assess the significance of strategic concerns in influencing Britain’s relationship with its African empire in the period c1870 – c1981 The last three decades of the 19th century saw an unrelenting wave of expansionist policy followed by most, if not all of the major European powers over the African continent, and so has been dubbed as the “Scramble for Africa”. France, Belgium, Portugal, Germany, Italy and Britain all laid claim to vast swathes of African land and by the turn of the century controlled roughly ninety per cent of the continent. The question this essay seeks to answer is why this “scramble” was triggered. There are a variety of arguments that have been put forward by historians: the economic arguments are the most important as the vast availability of much needed and highly prized goods (precious metals, diamonds, metals, ivory, palm oil, etc.) would ensure a rich market. The second most important factor could be argued as one of the key triggers for the “Scramble for Africa” was the strategic factors of the Africa Continent, in terms of the protection of trade routes and of valuable assets. Also the “civilisation and evangelisation” argument plays a role, but largely as an appeaser for the British public. Upon completion of the Suez Canal in 1869, British interest in Egypt increased, as the canal opened up a much more effective trade route to the “Jewel in the Crown”; India. The Suez Canal drastically decreased the time taken for ships to sail from Britain to India, from a six week journey that entailed navigating the Cape, to a two week journey, resulting in better improvements in communications between the Viceroy and Whitehall and greatly increasing the profits of trading companies as shipments could be made more frequently. The importance of the Suez Canal to Britain was paramount; the Nationalist Rebellion in 1882 saw the occupation of Egypt by British forces, in order to protect the European population (an estimated fifty European...
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