The continent of Africa provided some of the earliest and many of the latest colonies of Empire. The earliest colonies, on the West Coast of Africa, were a legacy of the fabulous fortunes that could be made out of the Slave Trade in that area. Gold and Ivory were other lures for early traders of all European countries. Fortunately for many Africans the climate and naturally occuring diseases meant that most Europeans found it difficult to live in the equatorial areas of Africa. Malaria was the chief barrier to early colonisation.

Advances in technology eventually provided Europeans with the means to colonise Africa at a time of peculiarly intense competition between the European powers. Hence, the Scramble for Africa provided the British Empire with a substantial increase in her African territories. The already impressive African presence was further added to with the defeat of Germany in the Great War and the confiscation of her colonies.

The Dark Continent held intense fascination for many of the British public. Missionaries and explorers brought back stories and tales of wonderful beasts, colourful peoples and incredible geography. It is not hard to see why Victorians were so keen on expansion of Empire into this the most mysterious of continents.

British Empire clickable map

Africa Maps

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by Stephen Luscombe