African perspectives on colonialism summary

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african perspectives on colonialism summary

African Perspectives on Colonialism by A. Adu Boahen

Chapter One is titled “Eve of Colonial Conquest“ and gives a background to colonialism through a look at the fundamental economic, political, and social changes that occurred in Africa just a few decades before Colonialism took root. Of the drastic shifts that transpired in Africa up until 1880, Boahen begins with the shift from the abolished slave trade to the trade of “natural products”, which he names as the most significant economic change in Africa by 1880 . He explained some of the consequences of this shift, such as a transition from wars and raids to peace and stability, a more “equitable distribution of wealth” , and the African rural economy becoming more integrated into the global economy. The second most important economic change that Boahen identifies is the emergence of three trade systems: the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, and the Indian Ocean coasts systems and the interconnection of all these systems . He discusses the economic and social consequences of the linking of these trade systems and claims that the following changes were due mostly in part to this linking: unified local trade networks, the rise of a new elite of traders who in certain areas replaced the former aristocracies, and a spread of culture and language. Of political trends, he touches on the push toward greater centralization seen in various parts of Africa and the efforts of modernization that were in progress by 1880. Modernization was seen in the use of new technologies, in militaries and in experimentation in the constitutional field. For this experimentation in the constitutional field, Boahen exemplifies the Fante Confederation and comments on the objects of the confederation as outlined in its constitution. According to Boahen, it was the social field that saw the more revolutionary changes and it was religion that was changing the most. Christianity, which had hitherto been confined to coastal regions, spread inland and the establishment of missionary societies resulted in stratification into a small group of converted African educated elites and a vastly larger group of traditional and illiterate Africans. Boahen identifies the development of African religious nationalism and an intellectual revolution as being direct consequences of the emergence of this educated elite . In basic terms, the educated Africans were exposed to the racist theories Europeans held toward them and the realization left them with feelings of humiliation which spurred a turn toward their own culture and identity. Ethiopianism was a movement to start churches that were run by Africans themselves and fit with their own culture and traditions. Beyond Ethiopianism, the educated elite actively produced writings and speeches that refuted the racist European ideas and practices. This campaign caused an intellectual revolution that took form in Pan-Africanism and the ideology of African personality. Near the end of the chapter Boahen used the words of African leaders of the time to represent the optimism and readiness to face challenges paired with a determination to protect their sovereignty and way of life which characterized the time period and is congruent with the central idea of the chapter. In the beginning of the chapter, Boahen points out the “resourcefulness and adaptability” of the Africans while dealing with the changes in their economy due to the end of the slave trade, and the idea that Africans showed readiness to handle adversity was shown again in the discussion of consequences from changes in the religious field.


Chapter two is titled “Imposition of the Colonial system” but is less concerned with the imposition of colonialism in Africa and is, as Boahen states on page 34 and 35, really concerned with the initiatives and reactions of the Africans in the midst of the imperialistic activities of Europeans that occurred in the final couple of decades of the nineteenth century. Boahen uses the chapter to look at the events of the Scramble which he separates into three stages, and the strategies employed by Africans to maintain their independent power which he also divides into three categories. The chapter starts off with a quick look at explanations of the circumstances that caused the scramble to which Boahen responds by stating “the nature of the internal conditions of Africa and the presence or absence of the slave trade could not did not and precipitate the Scramble” and that “besides the strong economic forces precipitating the Scramble, there were also political and social forces”causing it. Be that as it may, Boahen agrees that the most significant and decisive factor force leading to the Scramble was economic. Of the political forces at hand, Boahen names the “exaggerated spirit of nationalism in Europe” as the most important political factor. The exaggerated nationalism manifested itself in an interest to display greatness through possessing colonies. Of the separate stages of the Scramble, the first was the finalizing of treaties between African rulers and European imperial powers under which the African rulers were given protection and agreed not to enter treaties with other European powers while the European powers gained exclusive rights to trading and other things. The second stage involved the event of European imperial powers signing treaties between each other. These treaties were predicated on the “earlier treaties of protection which defined their spheres of interest and delimited their boundaries”. The last stage of the scramble was of European conquest of their spheres and the act of occupying them. During the first stage, a majority of Africans were took very welcoming stances in respect to the treaties and the Europeans they negotiated with. Their accommodating attitudes were consequences of African rulers being treated as equals of the Europeans, the fact that a lot of African rulers required protection and assistance against rivals or other European powers, and the reality of Africans being misled into agreement with the treaties by means of clauses and implications that were not elucidated to them. The Africans neither participated or had knowledge of the process occurring in stage two, but they “realized the full implications of the race in progress” by stage three. In order to protect their sovereignty during stage three, Africans made use of the three main strategies: submission, alliance, and confrontation. In cases of submission, rulers either submitted because of the futility of confrontation or because their need of protection from the Europeans was dire. Boahen addresses the classification of African rulers who formed alliances with European powers as “collaborators” by historians and says the term should be avoided because it implies that African rulers allied with European powers for selfish ends but in actuality they did it to achieve sovereignty for their state. Confrontation was seen in two forms: peaceful or diplomatic methods, and armed and militant and relatively few cases of confrontation saw a cling to diplomacy alone.


Chapter three is titled “The Operation of the Colonial System”. In order for the colonial system to support the need for raw materials and markets for the sale of manufactured goods , a set of prerequisites (such as primary means of production being met, health structures, infrastructure, and education of Africans necessary for employing them) needed to be satisfied but were met by establishing administrations that did this by means of exploiting Africa and Africans. “It was in the economic field, of course, that the colonial powers exerted their greatest efforts… All the colonial administrators ensured that land was made available to Europeans, mainly through confiscation and the expulsion and resettlement of the indigenous peoples”. Some colonies forced Africans to grow cash crops, yet in all colonies Africans were shoved out of the import-export business as a consequence of expatriate firms and companies being handed exclusive free rein to import the manufactured goods being produced and to control pricing of imports and exports . In his examination and explanation of the African’s reactions to the nature of the colonial system, Boahen divides the colonial era into the periods from the 1890s to roughly the end of World War I, 1919 to 1935, and 1935 to the 1960s . Boahen asserts that the illiterate and traditional rulers from the rural areas had different reactions to the actions of the colonial system during the first indicated period, in terms of objectives and strategies, than those of the urban populations and educated elite . The most common strategies and objectives among rural areas which were rebellion and insurrection with intention to overthrow the new colonial system were all met with brutal suppression. The other strategies of the rural and illiterate Africans were migration, refusal to work, and rejection of the colonial schools, languages and churches. Educated elite and urban workers’ aim was to reform the colonial system, with the main objectives of correcting certain abuses, providing facilities (namely in the areas of education and economics), and sufficient representation on the executive and legislative councils. To attain these goals, they utilized literary media, petitions, and sometimes strikes or boycotts. The difference between the reactions of the Africans in the first two periods, Boahen claims, were (with a few exceptions) “more of a degree than of a kind”, of “an intensification and a more sophisticated of the old strategies” and involved a greater number of people. Another notable difference between the first and second periods under inspection was the introduction of trade unions during the latter. By the period from 1935 to the 1960s, efforts to reform the colonial system grew even in intensity and sophisticated due to the events of the world wars and economic factors.


Chapter four, the final chapter, is titled “The Colonial Impact” and it is in this chapter that the thesis of the book appears on page 109: “...given the opportunities, the resources, and the power and influence of the colonial rulers, they could and should have done far more than they did for Africa. And it is for this failure that the colonial era will go down in history as a period of wasted opportunities, of ruthless exploitation of the resources of Africa, and on balance of the underdevelopment and humiliation of the peoples of Africa.” Throughout the chapter, Boahen names the beneficial and harmful consequences of the impacts that colonialism had on Africa in the economic, political, and social fields in what he calls “the colonial balance sheet”. He starts first by addressing the effects colonialism had on the political field, beginning with the “era of continuous peace, order, and stability” that set in after the violence and instability that ensued during the first three decades of the colonial era had passed. The next positive political impact he claims is the independent states of Africa coming into view. Boundaries that were drawn arbitrarily resulted in problems, one of which is the problem of nation-state building when state boundaries have been drawn around regions hosting several ethnocultural groups with their own distinct languages and cultures. Another problem that came from these boundaries was the encumbrances caused by unequal access to resources. The third positive political impact of colonialism that Boahen lists is the introduction of a new bureaucracy of civil servants and judicial system which he notes have remained intact in the African states. “The generation of a sense of nationalism as well as the intensification of the spirit of Pan-Africanism” is the next positive impact he evaluates. He states that the nationalism came from a hatred of colonialism and left behind the problem of creating a “more positive force of nationalism” in the nonexistence of colonialism’s exploitative and degrading presence. I appreciate the sarcasm the well justified sarcasm Boahen uses when he speaks of the legacies of colonialism in Africa here, especially with regards to the professional armies. The last political impact Boahen articulates on is the delay in political development and maturation of African states. “If colonialism meant anything at all politically, it was the loss of sovereignty and independence by the colonized peoples.” He argues that underdevelopment and “technological backwardness” was a consequence of this loss of sovereignty. Important economic impacts of colonialism Boahen names are infrastructure and modes of communication, the development of the primary sector of Africa’s economy. Land in Africa raised in value, Africans were enabled to acquire wealth, and African economy became integrated into the world economy. But, these economic developments of colonialism still had their negative side. Of these negative effects, Boahen starts with the fact that the infrastructure provided was inadequate and very unevenly distributed which resulted in uneven economic development. He also argues that the colonial system led to delayed developments in industry and technology. Since Africans were pushed to “produce what they did not consume and consume what they did not produce”, they were left relying on importation of basic dietary staples. Colonialism, he says, put an end to inter-African trade which stunted the spread of language and culture and led regions to depend on metropolitan places for trade. Some of the social benefits of colonial impact Boahen identifies are population growth, urbanization, and the spread of Christianity, Islam and Western education.
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African Perspectives on Colonialism. A. Adu Boahen. This history deals with the twenty-year period between and , when virtually all of Africa was.
A. Adu Boahen

How Africa’s colonial history affects its development

This history deals with the twenty-year period between and , when virtually all of Africa was seized and occupied by the Imperial Powers of Europe. Would you like to tell us about a lower price? If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support? Read more Read less. The Best History Books of See his picks.

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. By using our website you consent to all cookies in accordance with our updated Cookie Notice. The supply of African slaves to American plantations reached an all-time high in the late 18th century Klein After anti-slave trade legislation finally shut down the Atlantic slave exports, commodity exports filled the gap. It was a game-changer, since it put a halt to the continuous drain of scarce labour and paved the way for the expansion of land-intensive forms of tropical agriculture, engaging smallholders, communal farms, and estates.

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Making of Modern Africa: Colonialism Take a look at the past, our history; although there is only one factual outcome, there are an infinite number of opinions, perspectives and almost always more than one side to a story. Adu Boahen, and hopefully through this, we can gain a stronger understanding of Colonialism in Africa and how Boahen and Laumann compare and. Adu Boahen's African Perspectives on Colonialism neatly classifies African responses to European colonialism during both phases of invasion and occupation during the 19th century with precise labels according to their nature or time period. However, the reactions can also be loosely grouped into two diametric characterizations: peaceful and violent. Although creating this dichotomy seems a gross generalization and oversimplification of the colonial African experience, it more importantly allows. The Different Impact of Colonialism Africa has been impacted many ways throughout history such as the struggles of the slave trade, independence from colonialism, economic and political development. The colonization of Africa played many roles when it came to the impact of Africans.

5 thoughts on “African Perspectives on Colonialism by A. Adu Boahen

  1. African Perspectives on Colonialism book. Read 12 reviews from the world's largest community for readers. This history deals with the twenty-year period.

  2. It also neglects the colonial-era power dynamic of which African societies and institutions were essential components.

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