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The Scramble For Africa, 1876 1912

4.13  ·  Rating Details ·  1,398 Ratings  ·  93 Reviews
Describes how various colonial powers like France, England and Belgium carved up a continent in a way that almost guaranteed the disasters and tragedies marking Africa's contemporary experiences.
Hardcover, 768 pages
Published 1997 by Weidenfeld and Nicolson (first published January 1st 1991)
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The Scramble for Africa: The White Man's Conquest of the Dark Continent from 1876 to 1912, is a fascinating book on the European division of African territory, known as the Scramble for Africa. In this competition for territory, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Belgium, Italy and Spain all carved territories out of the African continent, for various reasons. Spreading the "three C's" (Christianity, Civilization, Commerce) was an important motivation for many European explorers, General's and ...more
Malette Poole
Apr 23, 2011 Malette Poole rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A comprehensive look at how Africa became colonized. The surprising part is how late in the 19th Century it actually happened. Another is how Belgium, created as a "buffer state" between France and Germany and ruled by one of Victoria's favorite uncles, became a major player. The events in this book lead to actions and reactions that are still being played out on the continent of Africa.

As I progress, it is all too easy to see the results of artificial boundaries set by Europeans for their own p
'Aussie Rick'
Nov 28, 2009 'Aussie Rick' rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites, history

This massive book (738 pages plus photos & maps) offers the reader an interesting and enjoyable account of the European powers race to 'civilize' the African continent. The book covers the great explorers, the numerous battles and conflicts (between the European powers and the natives and between the European powers) and many other interesting items during this 'scramble for Africa'. I found this book to be a great read, very enjoyable and although the size may be daunting it never got borin
Azra Šabovic
Jul 14, 2014 Azra Šabovic rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, history
I must say, I really enjoyed Pakenhams handling of substantial material and complicated subject matter into an enjoyable, easy to read narrative.

The story contains multiple number of characters, where the most attention gets the Belgian King Leopold. His actions are costumed in virtuous humanitarianism showing that he is the catalyst for the motivation on the exploitation of Africa. Pakenham describes him as, "Leopold was a Coburg millionaire, a constitutional monarch malgre lui, a throwback fr
Jun 21, 2013 Al rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: general-history
This was a tremendous example of scholarship, that is as good as Packenham's book on the Boer War. While this book is long, Packenham's writing drives the narrative along. He also organized the book extremely well. The chapters are chronological, moving from one part of Africa to another, so the narrative never drags. Additionally, Packenham fleshed out the main characters in this saga in a way that makes them more three dimensional than is usually found in narrative histories of this type. For ...more
Jul 03, 2010 Tim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thomas Pakenham's sprawling story of the slicing up of a continent by European powers is fascinating, suitably large and well-written. "The Scramble for Africa" presents a panorama of villains and heroes, both white and black, but paints it with shades of gray.

Pakenham takes us all over the continent that the superpowers of the day despicably carved up at their whim with little thought about the human beings they were affecting. People being people and therefore capable of evil no matter who th
Sep 12, 2007 Paul rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Librarians
This is the only book on my "read" shelf that i actually never finished. i got about two thirds or so into it and gave up.

Don't get me wrong, this is a great work, it's just so insanely detailed that a person can't hope to retain enough info to make the read worthwhile.

After hours of reading about literally hundreds of personalities here's what i retained:

* Livingston was a good man who unintentionally hastened colonization
* Stanley was a newspaper reporter made himself famous by attaching himse
Dec 25, 2008 Jrohde rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
by far the best account of African history from mid 19th century to independence.. a must read - I liked it for the juxtaposition of historical events happening simultaneously - it gave a far better overview of the continent than the many books I have read on one country at a time. Read Meridith's State of Africa for a telling follow-on
Nov 26, 2014 Nigel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
There are times when this book is like a long, endless slog through dense jungle with water and food running low and the natives looking unfriendly and most of the porters giving up and going home; but still the far distant waters of some undiscovered river beckons the fevered brain. It is dense with detail. There are two whole continents involved and this astonishing thirty years changes at least one of them into something unrecognisable, and all for reasons that were, initially at least, perfe ...more
Nigel Kotani
Jul 09, 2016 Nigel Kotani rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Torn between 4 stars and 5, and would like to have given it 4.5, but ultimately the minor issues I had with this book were of my own making, so 5 it is.

First of all, if you like well-written non-fiction, particularly in the history genre (which, as I get older, I do more and more) then this book is up there with any I've ever read. Sweeping, epic, magnificent etc etc. It covers the colonial history of Africa from Livingstone to the handing over of Congo from Leopold to the Belgian State (with a
Nov 28, 2011 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history

THE SCRAMBLE FOR AFRICA: White Man’s Conquest of the Dark Continent From 1876 to 1912. (1991). Thomas Pakenham. ****.
It’s incredible to see what happened in Africa during these thirty-six years, and how the events shaped all of Africa’s subsequent history. This is a dense and scholarly history of the period that provides a little of the history of the “dark continent” before the stated dates, but those events were mostly involved with the exploration of the continent itself – of which very litt
Matthew Richey
Wow, this is an exhaustive work. The depth and breadth of the research is astounding. This book is extremely helpful for anyone who wants to better understand how Africa became the Africa of today. It is a complicated and tangled affair: full of good and evil intentions; humanitarian ideals and commercial results; political intrigue; wars; courage and cowardice; adventure and exploration; and an interesting and diverse cast of characters and motivations. You might be surprised with how quickly A ...more
Sep 13, 2010 Frank rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: irish-authors
I started this for the oddest of reasons: the author is from my hometown (sort of). Thomas Pakenham is the 8th Earl of Longford, whose family seat is Tullynally Castle, a few kilometers west of Castlepollard, Co. Westmeath. Besides being an internationally renown historian, he's also an arborist and brother to the novelist Antonia Frasier.

It looked to be a daunting read: it's almost as thick as it is wide. But it was brilliant. Pakenham is a great writer; witty as well as erudite, he personifies
Oct 20, 2013 Malapata rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, historia
Pakenham traza un excelente retrato de los años en los que el África subsahariana pasó de ser una zona ignorada por las potencias europeas a convertirse en el escenario en el que se jugaban su orgullo nacional. Exploradores, aventureros, militares y políticos aparecen como protagonistas de una historia que va desde el sueño del rey Leopoldo II de conseguir una colonia para Bélgica a las primeras rebeliones contra el poder extranjero.

El libro hace un repaso exhaustivo de estos años de manera cron
THE SCRAMBLE FOR AFRICA: White Man’s Conquest of the Dark Continent From 1876 to 1912. (1991). Thomas Pakenham.

I read this book, or parts of the massive work, in my thirties and it opened up thirty five years of shocking greed, colonialism, corruption and human rights abuse in a compelling, detailed and straightforward way that I haven't encountered in so much detail afterwards. Since then I still revert back to it from time to time and it never seizes to amaze me.

Thomas Pakenham's research ensu
D.E. Meredith
Nov 03, 2014 D.E. Meredith rated it it was amazing
Read this one twice. Great to dip into. Massive tome of superb erudition. Very impressive history must read. If you want to kow about Africa, colonialism and the Victorians - what better place to start? Follow this up by George Meredith's book on the African states after independence, I suggest. Maybe by way of some Niall Fergason's "Empire."
Dec 29, 2015 Kevin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It’s hard to rate a book that is fairly unlike any other book you have read. I thought this book was well written, engaging, and relatively balanced in its presentation, so I really enjoyed it. I don’t have a lot of experience reading lengthy books, so that was the biggest departure for me. This book was quite lengthy (680 pages excluding the index) and very dense, so it took me longer to read than any other book I’ve read thus far. Despite being long and dense, it really was an overview. It ser ...more
Nov 30, 2016 aditya rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: influential
This book offers a really solid overview of what happened between 1850ish and 1900 in Africa that led to the entire dark continent being colonized and ruthlessly and arbitrarily exploited by the four Great Powers (UK, France, Russia, Germany), and also by sidey powers such as the Ottomans and hustlers like King Leopold of Belgium, principally in 30-odd years, the period known to historians as "The Scramble for Africa".

Before encountering this book, I really didn't grok that a big reason for the
Peter Ellwood
Nov 17, 2016 Peter Ellwood rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Outstanding. It occasionally bowls me over to discover a history book which is gripping, and this one is as gripping as they come. Not least because the subject matter is, genuinely, so utterly swashbuckling. From the exploits of Stanley, who literally walked across Africa (for heaven’s sake!), to the astonishing pantomime-villain machinations of Leopold to get his hands on the Congo, to the marvellous stiff-upper-lip posing of quite a number of Brits: every page has something to offer.

John Turlockton
I haven't finished it yet and don't know if I will. It's so incredibly badly written it's such a huge shame. The author is so amazingly long-winded and overly verbose when there is absolutely no need. He talks about irrelevant details like what a person might have been wearing at a certain meeting, or talks for two pages about the details of a trip to get from one area to another, or spends a chapter talking about Stanley's personal relationship with King Leopold, all of this could be shortened ...more
Oct 27, 2016 Marc rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating piece of work. If you're a person intrigued by how the world got to be how it is, then this is a book for you. The political, commercial, scientific, religious and other interest frequently collide as people from Europe moved about Africa in search of fame, fortune or even at time more noble aspirations.

It is something of a microcosm for the interactions that empires have had around the world. But each place, country and Africa have their own particulars and this is what makes this b
Scott Pierce
Pakenham adequately depicts colonialist greed and bumbling in Africa. The book would have been more interesting if he had delved more deeply into any positive aspects of colonialism on the lives of those living in Africa, or long-term benefits of advanced civilization.

One point of interesting background when he covers South Africa - the Brits didn't really seem driven to rule all of South Africa, and while they annexed one of the Boer (pastoral farmers) republics (Transvaal), they didn't take th
Furious Furian
Dec 29, 2016 Furious Furian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You can't deny the ambition of this excellent book. It's a very engaging read and I found the subject matter to be very interesting. However it is also quite a daunting read, and I feel it would have benefited from some editing. There are so many place names and characters to absorb that I often found it overwhelming, particularly as the chapters are not organised in an entirely chronological sequence. The maps are quite poor as well. These gripes aside, this book is well worth your time if you ...more
Andy Ryan
Nov 29, 2016 Andy Ryan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An amazingly epic book- that covers so much but still leaves you wanting to know more about this massive continent. Pakenham brings historical figures to life, makes the politics of the time intriguing and keeps your interest by covering different colonies in each chapter while remaining a linear narrative. A brilliant introduction to African history.
Riley Feldmann
As I continue my trots through the unending pages of world history, I've found myself inexorably drawn towards Africa. In particular, the installation, running of, and eventual collapse of the colonial empires that grew in leaps and bounds on the continent during the 19th Century. The institution of colonial rule on its own is a topic worthy of years of meticulous research, as is tracking the historical trends that have shaped Africa since.

But, of course, before getting into all of that, I felt
Jul 22, 2015 Grafakos rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a thick book (680 pages of main text) covering the period from 1878-1912, when various European powers carved up most of Africa for colonization. The main focus is on Britain, France, and Belgium, which makes sense since these were the primary "carvers" during this period. There's also a bit on Germany (Southwest Africa, East Africa, Cameron, Togo) and Italy (mainly its ill-fated invasion of Ethiopia), but nothing on Portugal as it had already established its colonies before the period c ...more
Jul 03, 2013 Robert rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history

If you are not interested in Africa, this book probably isn't for you: it is extremely detailed.
I mean, for almost every European, there is like a small story of his life AND his physical appearance. Even if you just want to know some things about the Scramble, you know, to stir up conversations and seem like an educated person, this work still isn't for you. You must love Africa to dig into this.

Don't let this confuse you: this book isn't dry or boring. It is actually very entertaining, with m
Gijs Grob
Levendige beschrijving van de gebeurtenissen die uiteindelijk leidden tot de volledige opdeling van Afrika. Pakenham schrijft erg levendig, met mooie sfeerzettingen die je meteen ín het paleis, de jungle, de woestijn of de veldslag plaatsen, en met een duidelijke keuze voor sleutelmomenten. Hij heeft goed oog voor detail en partij- en machtspolitiek en zo blijkt de opdeling van Afrika mede bijgedragen te hebben aan het ontstaan van de eerste wereldoorlog. Zo wordt het boek een meeslepend relaas ...more
Jan 11, 2010 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It took me almost a year to finish this book, and finally it was the prospect of such that compelled me to push through the last 200 pages.

This must be, without a doubt, the most comprehensive examination of the Scramble for Africa. While it was very long (680 pages) I never really found it tiring to read. There is a good alternation between geography and national interaction, as well as well defined recurring characters. It almost reads like a novel.

I think some of the best books, fiction or
May 26, 2014 Anthony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At 680 pages, this is a daunting and lengthy historical text on a subject not often discussed or reflected upon in my daily thoughts and conversations. Despite this, The Scramble for Africa lives up to the recommendation that persuaded me to pick it up, as this was a surprisingly enjoyable and informative read. After having completed this book over the past month I feel more informed regarding both African and European history and have a much deeper respect for the ongoing struggles faced by the ...more
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Thomas Francis Dermot Pakenham, 8th Earl of Longford, is known simply as Thomas Pakenham. He is an Anglo-Irish historian and arborist who has written several prize-winning books on the diverse subjects of Victorian and post-Victorian British history and trees. He is the son of Frank Pakenham, 7th Earl of Longford, a Labour minister and human rights campaigner, and Elizabeth Longford. The well know ...more
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