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The Scramble for Africa: The White Man's Conquest of the Dark Continent from 1876 to 1912
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The Scramble for Africa: The White Man's Conquest of the Dark Continent from 1876 to 1912

4.13  ·  Rating Details ·  1,295 Ratings  ·  84 Reviews
White Man's Conquest of the Dark Continent
from 1876 to 1912
Paperback, 800 pages
Published December 1st 1992 by Harper Perennial (first published January 1st 1991)
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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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Jul 14, 2016 Matthew Richey rated it it was amazing
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
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
Apr 08, 2013 Margitte rated it it was amazing
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 27, 2016 Marc rated it really liked it
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
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
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
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
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
Jul 21, 2013 Sven rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, history
This is not an easy read. But for anyone who wants to understand Africa today, it's an important source. The author outlines the 30 years of the "Scramble", in which 5 European powers took over almost the entire continent. They brought guns and Bibles, Christianity and horror, dreams of gold and power, and took, well..., anything they could take.

If you wonder why the Congo is such a mess, read this (and also "King Leopold's Ghost") and you'll have an idea how colonials destroyed the people and c
Pakenham is more story-teller than historian - going at the story of the scramble through the great man of history approach. He presents us with character portraits of the European explorers, African leaders etc involved - which helps explain why this book is accessible despite being 700 pages long and dealing with basically unfamiliar events (to me, at least). The problem with this approach is that Pakenham's writing often goes into bargain bin novelistic tendencies - whether it's just ridiculo ...more
The book is a general history of events from Dr. Livingstone's plea to bring the 3C's to Africa, to the end of land grabs and suppressing locals in the early 20th century, the book focuses heavily on the European end of things. Heavy emphasis on the political maneuvering between the major powers and battles fought. The political can especially bog one down if you're not already interested in it. Along the way there is still tantalizing glimpses into the cultures conquered and wiped out (although ...more
Jul 21, 2010 Tom rated it liked it
Taught me a lot about a topic about which I came in knowing very little. Wish the author had made a greater effort to tie together the many threads he had going in the over 700 page work. Pakenham has a real talent for capturing the unique personalities of the explorers and rulers who appear throughout. And to his credit, he never shows a hint of bias toward any of the colonial powers or the African regions they were trying to exploit. Overall, would recommend to history buffs but not the casual ...more
Chris Adams
Aug 24, 2015 Chris Adams rated it really liked it
The first book I've read about Europe's colonisation of Africa, is an absolute epic, at times extremely sobering, but a great read.

It's illuminating to see how the three C's (Christianity, Commerce and Civilisation) were used, along with the goal of stamping out slave trade, to justify the colonisation. Later on, particularly in the Free State of Congo, you see just how hollow these claims are, but it makes it much easier to understand how it happened in the first place.

One thing though: don't e
Mar 12, 2013 René rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: histoire
An excellent overview on how the main European powers stole and cheated their way into Africa, taking gross advantage of their superior fire-power to take people apart and destroy the fabric of several societies. It covers both the political theatre, mainly in England, France, Germany and Belgium, as well as the in-the-dirt work of well-meaning explorers as well as the worst capitalists history ever saw, including Leopold, King of the Belgians, who exploited Congo with no thought ever given to a ...more
Apr 17, 2013 Matt rated it it was amazing
Comprehensive collection of narratives from the major players in Europe's scramble to divide up Africa between 1876 and 1912. What emerges is a tale of conflict between unchecked greed and savagery on one side and patronizing care and genuine goodwill on the other. Although it is easy to focus on the many abuses, Packenham presents a balanced history with plenty of villains, but a surprising number of heroes as well. An excellent read for anyone interested in the events that created the national ...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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