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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

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  1,891 ratings  ·  116 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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4.14  · 
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 ·  1,891 ratings  ·  116 reviews

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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
'Aussie Rick'
Nov 19, 2009 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
Malette Poole
Feb 29, 2008 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
Aug 22, 2007 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
John Farebrother
Jul 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is the ultimate book on the colonisation (read occupation) of Africa by mainly European powers in the latter quarter of the 19th century (the only country to resist the tsunami and remain independent was Ethiopia). Readers unfamiliar with Africa might assume, as I did, that the conquest of Africa took place at the same time as imperial adventures in the Americas and elsewhere in the world, but in fact most of it happened much later, in a short but intense burst of European megalomania and k ...more
Azra Šabovic
Jul 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, favorites
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
May 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read this book back when it first appeared. It is a bit of a slog but I still remember the story today and I have not found an account of the enhanced colonial acquisition of Africa leading up to WW1 that surpasses this book, although there are fine accounts for particular people and regions. I remember few books as I do this one.
An incredibly detailed and sometimes very hard to push through read. It is rewarding if you have patience with it, and I imagine it feels much like an encyclopedia to someone who is more familiar with the subject. Would recommend to any proper history nerd.
Jun 14, 2013 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
Jun 13, 2010 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
Jul 03, 2010 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
Apr 08, 2013 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
Dec 25, 2008 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
Jul 01, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018
This is a convenient sequel to my previously read book on ‘The Age of Empire’ but this time looking at the new imperialism of the late 19th century from ‘the other end’ aka Africa. Like, in 1870 less than 10 per cent of Africa were under formal western control, 40 years later only 10 per cent (Ethiopia and Liberia) were not. The ‘Scramble for Africa’ (1991) is a 700-page deep dive into these 40 or so years of the European powers’, mainly UK, France, Germany (and less so Belgium and Italy) dealin ...more
Aug 24, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, read-in-2019
The good: comprehensive, with adroit handling of high-level storytelling.

The bad: More than a few orientalist or racialist comments or farmings that erode my confidence in the tight, Eurocentric telling of Africa’s colonization.

There’s a lot more to learn, but I’m grateful to have gained this piece of the story.
Jan 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
A brilliantly constructed narrative that weaves together the many narrative threads of the various European powers grabbing pieces of Africa, occasionally coming into conflict with each other, or the local population. Provides valuable context on how the map of modern Africa developed, and a lesser known chapter in world history of the 19th century. Quite readable.
Nov 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 25, 2014 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
Jun 25, 2015 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
Nigel Kotani
Jul 09, 2016 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
Matthew Richey
Jul 04, 2016 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
D.E. Meredith
Dec 26, 2011 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."
Jem Bruce
Jun 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Excellent. Superbly written and despite being non-fiction this book reads like a novel. Very compelling and I could not put it down. A wealth of historical information and a great read - as was Pakenham's book, The Boer War. Thoroughly recommended.
Dec 29, 2015 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
Apr 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Scamble for Africa covers largely the period of 1875-1905 in Africa and the transition of informal empire (business ties and trade dominance by companies based in European countries) to political rule by these countries.

The process to imperialism proceeds largely along a path of logic which leads to a completely perverse outcome, the main determinant of this process is simple greed (personified in the abominable character of Leopold, King of the Belgians). First, there are the business ties
Nemanja Sh
Dec 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a truly remarkable read. It's not an easy book, it's very long and each page contains a great deal of information. This lecture needs to be slow and thorough as through it you lay the foundations of the understanding of Africa.

Throughout these pages you start to understand what happens when corporations get detached from morality and when they get a free hand at running business as they please. However, the only reason why the book did not receive five stars is because of the last chap
Elizabeth Elwood
Jul 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was a fascinating read. I found it a little difficult to get into it at first as it starts in the Victorian Era, and given my limited knowledge of the history of Africa, I could have used a prologue that provided a brief synopsis of the earlier explorers. However, once into the first couple of chapters, I became completely engrossed. The book darts around with different sections for different parts of the Continent, but gradually the larger picture emerges. There is a tremendous amount of d ...more
This is a great work, it's just so insanely detailed that it can quite fatigue a person.

"After hours of reading about literally hundreds of personalities," Paul (another reviewer) said, "here's what I retained."

* Livingston was a good man who unintentionally hastened colonization
* Stanley was a newspaper reporter made himself famous by attaching himself to Livingston
* King Leopold was insane
* Europeans really screwed up Africa and perhaps fought a proxy WWI in the process
* Braza should have a m
Daniel Frank
May 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Reading this book was a serious slog, but ultimately, I learnt a tremendous amount of fascinating and important information. One of the good and bad features of this book is that it is incredibly detailed. Good, because you are exposed to tons of little captivating stories, but bad, because this book is very narrow in scope (and simply misses a lot). That being said, reading this book + extensive wikipediaing was sufficient to give me a good background understanding of Africa as a whole.
Apr 16, 2019 rated it liked it
An important book for the thoroughness of its coverage of a subject that receives too little attention. But he spends too much time on the political machinations of European politics, when what I wanted to hear about were the adventures to be had in Africa. A subject I hope a more compelling writer will take up...
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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