Colonialism in 6 Minutes


In our Grade 9 Social Studies Class, our Canadian History classes, our US History Class, and even in our Law class, we have been looking a great deal at the continent of Africa – both historically and from a contemporary perspective. It has been really inspiring, as a teacher, to hear your views on revolution, oppression and poverty; issues that seem to plague most of the continent. The BBC and the Royal Geographic Society have created a really cool slide show outlining how Africa has been colonized and divvied up by European interests.

Click on the map to watch the slide show and then answer the following question:
As a student of history, law and/or social studies, what does this slide show say about the current state of many African countries (Libya, Ivory Coast, Somalia, Tunisia etc.) and the role the West has played in this “development”? What are the solutions?

(I know this is still Spring Break, so please think about it over the weekend and respond by April 6).
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67 thoughts on “Colonialism in 6 Minutes

  1. Clearly, the current state of affairs is not one that the West should be proud of. Over the past 200-300 years, Africa has been turned into a land where there is very little grassroots control. The borders, once determined by the people and where they lived, have since been changed to what land one of the European countries might like to have control of. It is only now that we are seeing this transfer of power back to the grassroots and back to the people who feel that what happened in the past is no longer acceptable.In the case of Egypt and Libya, the residents there have been ruled undemocratically for so many years that it has really changed their focus. They no longer want to be ruled by the same people that ruled them for 20-30 years and suppressed their rights. These are the same dictators that the West seamlessly threw money at to control the people. It is now that the political leaders of the West see their mistake. Subsidizing the dictators is Africa was clearly a mistake that Western political leaders should not have made. They have essentially added more fuel to the fire. Now that Africans have “woken up” and realized that the way they have been treated for so long was wrong. And the West will be guilty of this development of the modern African world.The solution to this whole problem is for the West to leave Africa alone. Let mob mentality set in and get the current political leaders to step down. They are doing their countries no favours. After this happens, democratic elections need to take place allowing the people decide who rules them. The West can aid in making sure the elections are fair and the political process goes smoothly. This is the only possible way that Africans may be able to regain control of their continent. I have no problem with the West, after the transition of power has taken place, trading, and engaging in other exchanges. However, give Africa some sovereignty and let’s see what happens. Let them make the tough decisions and if everything goes downhill then there are international bodies established that can deal with the problems. But for now, I think the best course of action is to let Africa recover politically, financially and socially before the West takes any further action in a continent in dire need of change.

  2. This video has shown me that countries Africa did not always have the borders they have today. They used to be separated by geological boundaries like mountains. When Africa was colonized and the boundaries were changed, people now living in the same country did not necessarily get along. This racial tension and lack of a fair government is causing a lot of problems in Africa. But a solution could be in the works with all the rebellions. Hopefully after some countries demand democracy and manage to force the dictators to step down, the others will follow in their footsteps.

  3. Something that immediately stood out to me from the video was the idea of boarders and boundaries. The original map of Africa features geological boundaries such as mountains and rivers. These boundaries were well respected and it appeared that there was a sense of peace and understanding that you were to remain in your area, to avoid problems. It was only after the Europeans came in and decided to colonize Africa, that the problems became evident.Most recently we see issues in Libya, the Ivory Coast, Somalia, etc. the issues mostly range from corrupt Government to economical issues. I defiantly think that these events can be related to the forced colonization that led large groups of people together who don't necessarily share the same views, and values. Further intrusion into Africa may only lead to more problems in the future, and not a solution. If some sort of democratic Government were put in place I believe there would be more peace, and they would be able to find solutions to some of their other existing problems.

  4. This video shows that many of the African boundaries that are shown on the map today were made by European colonialists and not made by the local tribes in Africa. The countries were divided up based on what use they provided to the Europeans by way of trade and which countries were colonizing the continent. The role that the West has played has centered on the exploitation of resources on the African continent for the benefit of Europeans. When European nations established their forms of government in African colonies they destroyed a lot of the traditional tribal political systems which had been in place before. Once independence was gained and they were free from the Europeans, corrupt dictatorships filled the power void in many countries.Part of the solution may be to support and assist the rise of democracy within the continent of Africa by whatever means possible. The West could also help provide funds to strengthen the social supports necessary for a democracy such as education and health care.-Sarah.T grade 9

  5. Though the history of Africa, we know that it is not a well-developed land. From the 15century, Africa had become to be the colony of the Europeans step by step until the end of 20century. (I add some researched information into my response) Before the Europeans came, Africa was dominated by different tribes. (Today there are still about 700 tribes in Africa.) Different tribes definetely had cultural dicarication. Each tribe had their own religion and culture. Since they were not well developed, most of the tribes had autarkic natural economy. As time went by, the isolation between tribes became grievous. Many tribes could not unite each other because of the lack of economic connection. They made the boundaries to carve up each tribes' domain and lived in peace. However, the west Europeans came. During the Berlin conference in 1885, the Europeans talked about the ways to whack Africa. More than 50 colonies appeared. The Europeans did not think about Africans' traditional society differences between each tribes and forced them to stay together. It was a hidden trouble. The Europeans had broke the society system and the boundries between tribes in Africa. Which made Aferica looked like it is today. Many African countries have straight lines as boundries. In addition, the Europeans used a method which suggested the Africans to rule each other. Conflicts started to occur because of religion and reign's disunity. This kind of situation destroyed Africa's social and economic system. Later in the 20 century, people in Africa realized that they should have rights. Many countries became to be independent, but the conflect between tribes still existed because they lived in the same reigon although they fought the same "enemy" together. Africa is still an underdeveloped land. People live in their do not have the ability to rule their own country usually because of financial deficit. Many Africans want to go back to their tribes and living just like they were in 15 century. It could be a vicious circle. The way how the Africans should deal with their problem is that they should get rid of tribalism and try to be equal. They need to be together to solve problems not fight each other. The social structure should be changed because tribalism is not a good system for today's world. People need to communicate and accept different culture.

  6. The political land borders of Africa have been causing mass tensions for years and years and now the continent is at its boiling point. Historically borders such as lakes, rivers and mountains used to exist between enemy tribes in order to keep tribes apart, and these boundaries were respected. However, once the Europeans came to Africa, everything changed. Suddenly these logical land borders disappeared and all types of different people were forced to live within imaginary lines that the Europeans created. Forcing all types of people to live within in the same area was the first downfall of Africa. The prime example of this is in Rwanda, where two enemy tribes (Tutsis, Hutus) lived among each other for decades. Eventually the tension snapped and there was a mass genocide, and now Africa has gotten to the point where another genocide or civil war is nothing new. Furthermore the west has exploited the natural resources of Africa in drastic amounts. We see that wars are being fought over mineral mines, diamonds and other products that are so valuable to the western world. Now, as citizens of the Western World it is our responsibility to help solve the problems we created. Although no easy solution exists there are things that we can do to help. We can take action against oppressive regimes like we did in Libya, we can be considerate of the products we are buying (making sure they do not come from conflicted areas) and we can give our support to the African people. Although we do not have the perfect record in the past (treatment with First Nations) the current situations and political struggles in Africa must act as an eye opener. Action must be taken before the situation gets any worse.

  7. Many parts of Africa are currently in a state of anarchy and economical despair. These fundamental issues have been in Africa for many years and they root back to when Europeans started to form settlements. In the early 1600’s the indigenous people used natural land formations such as rivers, mountains or deserts as boundaries. Once the Europeans began to colonize Africa they dramatically changed the culture. One of the biggest changes was the formation of countries and implementing borders. The borders forced groups of Africans which historically had conflict with each other to be governed by the same people. This in turn led to civil wars and mass genocides. An example of this is Rwanda. The Tutsis were force to live with, and be governed by the Hutus. For many years the Hutus abused their power oppressing the Tutsis. Eventually there was a shift in power and the Tutsis sought revenge. There was a mass killing of many Hutus.Western culture has been the main cause of the poor African economy. Many countries take advantage of the poorly governed African countries that are rich in natural resources. The Western countries take the resources out of Africa then use them to make a large profit. The African countries miss out on this opportunity to profit which results in an economy that is suffering.I think it would be very difficult to fix the problems that Africa has. However, something must be tried to prevent the continent from becoming completely devastated. It is impossible to make things the way they originally were, but some steps can be made. The countries of the borders could be reconsidered to something that is more fitting for the people of Africa. The most important thing to be done is to let Africa regain control of its natural resources. This would be a large step in the right direction which would help Africa tremendously.

  8. When one looks at Africa today, one can see that its current state is the result of years upon years of economic, social and political turmoil. This has been cause partly by Western influence on the continent. Before Africa was colonized, the people lived mostly off of the land and in small tribes. Their only borders consisted of natural barriers like mountains and rivers. With the arrival of the Europeans, Africa became divided. The Europeans set borders that were not favorable towards the Africans and began to cause conflicts as tribes became forced to live in closer quarters. An example of this would be the Hutus and the Tutsis. Although they were enemy tribes, they were forced to live within the same borders. Eventually the tension rose to a point where there was a massive genocide in Rwanda.The arrival of the Europeans also gave way to the slave trade and the exploitation of the land. This eliminated any form of middle class in Africa as people either flourished or became a slave. This was the beginning of the economic downfall of Africa. Even though slavery was abolished in North America, it is still prominent in Africa as we can see with the blood diamonds.It is clear that something needs to be changed with regards to our involvement in African affairs. The continent is amidst ongoing conflict and it is mostly caused by western influence and the fuel that it gives dictators. We could help by simply purchasing goods that are part of fair trade. We can also provide support for those living in poverty as they lack some the basic resources required to survive and to flourish. As a country, Canada should get involved in order to help solve things. We owe it to them to give them support and to aid them in making it through their current conflicts.

  9. The continent of Africa is often associated with extreme poverty, corrupt governmental systems and the image of starving children behind commercials often seen on television. Although some people may shrug off the images and blame this issue of poverty on the government and political and social unrest, digging deeper and looking to history for an answer to the roots of this poverty proves that the issues can be traced back many, many years. The current day issues facing Africa have been clearly linked to the western world and their acts of colonization and exploration throughout the continent of Africa. The slideshow illustrates the differences in borders before and after Western colonization. Initially the countries were divided based on the different tribes existing in the regions that were separated by physical boundaries such as mountain ranges and water ways. The European presence in Africa changed these borders, dividing regions without any consideration to where the tribes had already established regions. This corrupt approach was also exhibited on an economic front. Africa, a continent rich is resources was exploited by the European's as a source of cheap labour and resources that held economic potential. Although the Western world can be seen as the reason Africa faces such immense issues today, we also have to realize what can be done to help and break the vicious cycle of poverty that exists. It is important that Canadian's become more educated on the issues and become a lot more concious of where the products they are buying come from. Every day items that we use and consume such as cell phones, laptops, chocolate and luxuries such as diamonds contribute to corrupt governments and dictatorship if we are not aware of buying specific products that guarantee to not support such causes. It is not until people are educated on an issue, that the responsibility of making a difference is passed off. Through education and awareness on these issues and education within the continent of Africa, we can make a difference and hopefully, someday, see reduced poverty in Africa.

  10. I believe that the issues Africa has today is caused by the Europeans selfish acts in history. Before they arrived African's had their whole system of living worked out. They created tribal boundaries by natural occurring landforms, yet when the Europeans came they forced the AFRICANS into more straight and ORDERLY boundaries. this caused lots of CONFUSION and fighting between the tribes. They weren't used to having to live together (which happened in some cases) and were satisfied with their OWN boundaries. Once the tribes started to fight, it seems as though the controversy between different tribes has been carried on through history and occurs in present life today. For example Libya's issue with Gadaffi. Africa is in my mind the most troubled area of the world and they do need help. I think that we can help Africa, it may take centuries to do so but we can slowly help their problems. donating and volunteering for foundations there is just a small step to a bright future."I bless the rains down in Africa"

  11. In this slideshow it shows how the west has destroyed the African culture. It shows us how we have taken away their own tribal borders and replaced them with western/European type borders. The Europeans put these borders in place to suit their own needs. I think that the only way to solve this is to let Africa work out their problems on their own with no outside help.Marc Tallman

  12. Back before Europe started colonizing Africa the borders were natural. They where mountains, forests, rivers, valleys, and cannons. The tribes divided everything according to the way of life and how and what they hunted, and there disputed where settled with out guns.However when the Europeans discovered the African tribes and how physically strong they where they decided that they would be the ideal slaves because they knew about farming and they could be easily taken because they were not as technologically advance as the European countries.I think that Africa could have had its own governing body, and that the US shouldn't have put a person with the same views as the US because that means that some of the African continents could not have a say against what the US could be plan or doing. In other words i think that now that we have damaged their governing system that we should ultimately help them by supplying them with what they need and then let them choose their representative, and try to gain their respect with common goals and without bribes.

  13. Before the arrival of Western influence in Africa, it had its own culture and its people had their own way of dividing land and settling quarrels. With the arrival of Europeans these cultural habits were eroded and ultimately as can be seen in many other instances, Europeans attempted to force their culture and way of doing things on the African people. One large effect that the European influence had on the African people was the way that they split up the land. Before their arrival, Africa was split according to the natural boundaries, such as rivers and mountain ranges. But when the “civilisation” came to Africa, it split Africa up according to imaginary boundaries which completely rocks Africa and sends it into chaos, creating a situation where tribes continually desire more land and this eventually lead to wars and even genocides.All this was amplified when the Europeans left Africa and the artificial powers that they had created during their occupation of the area. Without the presence of the Europeans the tribes in power no longer had any backing, this lead to tribes that had been given less power but were physically stronger to rise up against the tribe in power. An example of such an event is the Rwandan genocide.Jan

  14. Before the arrival of people from the West, Africa’s borders where largely determined by the people who lived on the land, these borders were arbitrary and usually marked by natural land forms, such as mountains and rivers. There were many smaller pieces of land which belonged to various tribes and peoples. When the people of the West came to Africa they imposed their views and values on the African people. One of the major results of this was the division of Africa into larger countries with straight borders. This obviously didn’t take the traditional ways of the Africans into account. The African people where then under the rule of which ever country owned the land they were on. Resulting in many different tribes and people who once lived very separate lives sharing a country. Although the Europeans may have brought the idea of government with them, they did not follow through and form a responsible government in many of the countries in Africa. This has lead to much corruption in African governments. It has also meant that many of the governments are dominated by wealthy, powerful men. Much like what happened in Cuba, the United States and other places around the world; an uprising against these corrupt governments has happened and will continue to happen. This has lead to some major political revolutions such as the one currently taking place in Libya. The actions of the people from the West who came to Africa and imposed their borders and ideas of government have caused a series of events which have lead to large amounts of corruption, political upheaval, rebellions, revolutions and unfortunately the death of many Africans.Perhaps the easiest and most effective solution to this problem would be to let the African people go back to their traditional land divisions and borders. Letting each smaller tribe or group govern themselves would be much more effective as they are more likely to share views on governance and to have a similar agenda. Letting people speak for themselves will ultimately have a hugely positive effect.

  15. Before the arrival of people from the West, Africa’s borders where largely determined by the people who lived on the land, these borders were arbitrary and usually marked by natural land forms, such as mountains and rivers. There were many smaller pieces of land which belonged to various tribes and peoples. When the people of the West came to Africa they imposed their views and values on the African people. One of the major results of this was the division of Africa into larger countries with straight borders. This obviously didn’t take the traditional ways of the Africans into account. The African people where then under the rule of which ever country owned the land they were on. Resulting in many different tribes and people who once lived very separate lives sharing a country. Although the Europeans may have brought the idea of government with them, they did not follow through and form a responsible government in many of the countries in Africa. This has lead to much corruption in African governments. It has also meant that many of the governments are dominated by wealthy, powerful men. Much like what happened in Cuba, the United States and other places around the world; an uprising against these corrupt governments has happened and will continue to happen. This has lead to some major political revolutions such as the one currently taking place in Libya. The actions of the people from the West who came to Africa and imposed their borders and ideas of government have caused a series of events which have lead to large amounts of corruption, political upheaval, rebellions, revolutions and unfortunately the death of many Africans.Perhaps the easiest and most effective solution to this problem would be to let the African people go back to their traditional land divisions and borders. Letting each smaller tribe or group govern themselves would be much more effective as they are more likely to share views on governance and to have a similar agenda. Letting people speak for themselves will ultimately have a hugely positive effect.

  16. Africa is seen by many people as a continent with constant stuggle, poverty, government issues, and racism. Although this is true in many cases, especially in Northern and Central Africa, a few countries strive today in some aspects. Many corruptions have occurred though, and still are.There are a lot of problems in present day Africa however, because of history that has occurred there. Europe treated the citizens like imbeciles because of their colour, religion and ways of living. They were taken away as slaves. It was exploited, and a slave trade had begun. This may be the reason why many problems are still going on today, because of the cruel treatment towards the coloured peoples and their culture.Poverty is one of the greatest issues in Africa, as it is the poorest continent with very little supply of food and water for many communities in a vast amount of areas. This enormous problem is immensely hard to overcome, but if Canada and other parts of the world knew more of what was actually still going on today, they'd be surprised.In conclusion, the slideshow sadly depicts the ugly truth of what happened before and after Western colonization. IF this had not happened, peoples aspects on Africa and life there probably be very different. As a continent that has many third world countries, it is a major concern. Hopefully in the near future, foreign affairs may improve and the lives of many will be changed for the good in Africa.

  17. In Africa there are a lot of natural barriers between the ethnitic groups. That means their territories are seperated by rivers, mountains etc. For that reason a lot of different groups can live next to each othere, because even if they would have conflicts living together, they don't, because their teritorries have been seperated the same way over thousands and thousands of years.But when the European settlers started to come to Africa and to devide the land there, they ignored the natrual barriers and formed new ones based on longitude and altitude. Therefor different ethnic groups had to life under the same gouvernment. But because they are so different, they get in a lot of fights now which cause the main trouble and problems in Africa now.Pascale Bernard

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