Colonization of Africa: Why Not Earlier?

Ighayere

Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
2,627
Benin City, Nigeria
This would have played a major role in limiting European conquests to coastal areas only.
We might think this if we were only going on assumptions, and yet, this was not actually the case - attempted conquests were defeated in the coastal areas in parts of Africa. Since we have sources on the attempted conquests, we do not need to rely just on assumptions. From what evidence we do have it would be more reasonable to conclude that European conquests or defeats depended mostly on the strength of the opponents they were facing.
 
Jan 2015
505
Large Fields
Did the major European powers usually use "thousands of their own regular troops" to conquer the indigenous peoples of the Americas though?

If I recall correctly they mostly used a rather limited number of their own troops, plus lots of allies from among the indigenous American peoples. But you can correct me on that if I'm overgeneralizing from certain examples.
Europeans mostly relied on their colonial militia for securing their colonies, but they did send a lot of professional regular troops in the American frontiers in both armies and navies during times of war. The French and Indian War, the War of Jenkins' Ear, the American War of Independence, and the War of 1812 are such examples. If you include all the privateers and other sailors, the numbers would increase dramatically.

Overall though, I would not overestimate the capabilities of the European armies of the time of the colonization of the Americas when compared to all of the African armies. The Portuguese for example attempted to conquer the Bissagos (or Bijagos) Islands in 1535 and were soundly defeated. The Bissagos Islanders also conducted some raids against fortified Portuguese settlements in later decades, which had some success.

If they had problems dealing with the Bissagos Islanders, who, while formidable, were not the greatest powers in western Africa, I doubt they would have had much success against stronger opponents.
Good point there. I will admit that I'm probably giving too much edge for Europeans, but look how they brought the most powerful empires in the western hemisphere to their knees with only a handful of troops. Of course factors such as disease and diplomacy greatly helped conquests of the Americas, but there were battles where European forces alone took huge American armies. The Battle of Cajamarca is a good example.

Again like another poster stated, I wouldn't compare Europeans conquering the Americas two Africa. Two completely different siuations. The indignous people of the Americas not only did not develop an immunity to old world diseases, but they were still using stone-age weapons unlike Africans who were well into the iron age. Not only that, but the Native Americans of North America had no organized state/empires like the ones found in Africa.
I would agree with everything you said except for the fact that the Americas had no organized political structures. The Aztec and Inca empires are great examples. Both empires had unified structures including government, infrastructures, military, and etc.

The industrial revolution played a large role in colonization. Machine gun. Nuff said.
European colonization began before the invention of machine guns, which was officially invented in 1860s.

1. While the Romans did in fact beat the Nubians(though a lot of text still has not be diciphered to get a general outline of what happened), they were not able to "conquer" the Nubians and their land, which in fact the Romans had intentions of doing. And I have sources if need be.

2. The Berber raids go back to me saying Northwest Africa was mostly sparsely populated with hardly any organized state besides Carthage. The Romans already conquered those people, but again Northwest Africa wasn't even that developed at the time unlike Northeast Africa and West Africa like Tichit Walata/Ghana.
Rome didn’t conquer Nubia because it chose not to. It actually had a pretty good chance of annexing the area. Rome made advances all the way to Napata, sacking the city, and forcing the heir to flee. Why are we talking about ancient Africa anyway? I already mentioned that I wasn’t talking about Roman conquest of Africa in the first post. Demographics and geography are now different from centuries ago.

but the Barbary States were not that well organized and were mostly bandits than an actual organized state like say the Malians, Somalis or Ashantis.
I don’t think so. The Barbary corsairs are said to raid all the way to Iceland and Guinea. They were a huge naval menace in the Mediterranean in the past. There is a reason why the U.S. dispatched an expedition against them. They also received tributes from European monarchs as appeasements. Their activities would continue until French colonization in 1830.

That's not proof... Comparing the conquest of America and Africa is apples and oranges. Like I said there is context behind why the indigenous people of the Americas were conquered and why Africans were. Both had different reasons. Africans were not effected by old world diseases nor did they only use stone age weapons. Those two played a big role on why the Americas was conquered. The same can not be said for Africa. Again apples and oranges....
Why not? I somehow displayed European form of colonialism. After all, American colonization methods affected how Europeans later colonized Africa.

Spain conquering Tripolo and Tunis iirc was during a time when those lands were controlled by the Ottomans.
Only indirectly. The Spanish took them from the Berbers, tributaries of the Ottoman Empire.

Egypt is the only good point and even so Napoleon was conquering many parts of Europe. I showed two instances of African states beating a European power prior to colonization. Again the industrial revolution gave the Europeans the machine gun, gunboats, warplanes and other advanced weaponry of that nature. Which made it easier for the to steamroll through Africa. Even so African states like the Somalis were able to keep fighting the British, until the British were able to aerial bombard them. The Ashanti was able to fight the British for 4 or 5 wars much after the British were industrialized. The West African Mandingos iirc were able to fight the French for 16 years.
You also need to take into account for limited supplies and external diplomatic pressure that may have slowed down European efforts of colonization. Europeans supported different African states to fend off their rivals and sometimes hindered their rival’s supply routes. Without these obstacles, I bet a European power would be able to colonize easier.

If Africans states who were less advanced than industrialized Europe, were able to keep fighting/resisting them for so long, where is proof that a non-industrialized Europe prior to colonization would be able to conquer much of Africa?
I already provided numerous examples…

Wasn't India known to Europeans since the Greeks? Correct me if I'm wrong.
Not really. Greeks were trading already with Phoenician colonies in Africa and Egypt. Persia was the easternmost extent Greeks knew about until the conquests of Alexander.

Napoleon rather overran a lot of European armies as well. I'm not sure that using his conquest of Egypt as superiority of "European" as opposed to a particularly brilliant and aggressive general.
Maybe, but technology played a major part, especially the infantry drills. The reason why the Mamelukes got beaten back was because of their heavy reliance on cavalry. Look at the Battle of the Pyramids for example, where three huge infantry squares fought off thousands of Mameluke cavalry. That doesn’t take too much brains.
 
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Ighayere

Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
2,627
Benin City, Nigeria
Europeans mostly relied on their colonial militia for securing their colonies, but they did send a lot of professional regular troops in the American frontiers in both armies and navies during times of war. The French and Indian War, the War of Jenkins' Ear, the American War of Independence, and the War of 1812 are such examples. If you include all the privateers and other sailors, the numbers would increase dramatically.

But those wars were not wars to conquer the native peoples of the Americas. Those were wars between rival European countries.

I do not really see the relevance of those wars to the comparison you were making on the first page of this thread which seemed to be about European armies vs. indigenous American armies or African armies.


Good point there. I will admit that I'm probably giving too much edge for Europeans, but look how they brought the most powerful empires in the western hemisphere to their knees with only a handful of troops. Of course factors such as disease and diplomacy greatly helped conquests of the Americas, but there were battles where European forces alone took huge American armies. The Battle of Cajamarca is a good example.
I think that the Aztec and Incan methods of warfare and their weapons and tactics were different enough from those in Africa that we would not really be able to use the experiences of pre-industrial Europeans against Aztecs or Incans to determine how pre-industrial Europeans would fare against Africans.
 

notgivenaway

Ad Honorem
Jun 2015
5,743
UK
Because there was no resistance or medicine against cholera, yellow fever, typhoid, malaria, and other tropical diseases. Yes, South America has these also, but not to the same level or extent.

It was only in the 19th century when quinine was invented that colonisation became possible.

I won't say it's an issue of weaponry or arsenals. Hand to hand, Europeans in the 15th/16th centuries still were highly capable. I'd say the only reason the British defeated the Asante, Benin, and the Zulus was due to better weaponry.
 

notgivenaway

Ad Honorem
Jun 2015
5,743
UK
That requires a very simple answer - diseases.

Europeans lacked the immunity to many African tropical diseases like Malaria, Yellow fever and dengue. They would die like flies if they ever attempted to colonize Tropical Africa as they did in the Americas.

The other reason is the people they would encounter in Africa itself. North, West Africa and also some parts of Central Africa (Kingdom of Congo) had highly organized political entities with the technology, military expertise and familiarity with European warfare. They could form formidable adversaries to the Europeans.

That was not the case if you'r talking about Pre-Colombian civilizations in the Americas. They still used stone-made weapons and were completely unfamiliar with "Old-world" type of warfare. Africans had mastered Iron-working, were physically more fit than a typical Amerindian and their way to do war was closer to the European way.

But Europeans indeed colonized earlier the Southernmost region of Africa - Cape Town colony.
The Aztecs and Incas had iron working, didn't they? I'd also say people as far south as Kongo had no idea of the Romans, Greeks, Byzantines or any other major European power unti the Portuguese showed up.
 

robto

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
6,172
Lisbon, Portugal
The Aztecs and Incas had iron working, didn't they? I'd also say people as far south as Kongo had no idea of the Romans, Greeks, Byzantines or any other major European power unti the Portuguese showed up.
The Aztecs and Incas didn't had Iron made weapons didn't they did Iron working extensively.

True people as far south as Kongo had no idea of major European and Mediterranean powers, but their warfare was similar to European warfare in the sense they fought to kill and take as prisoners the ones that survived, whereas the ancient Amerindians fought in a very ritualistic manner and very rarely killed their opponents.
 
Nov 2014
802
Maryland
That requires a very simple answer - diseases.

Europeans lacked the immunity to many African tropical diseases like Malaria, Yellow fever and dengue. They would die like flies if they ever attempted to colonize Tropical Africa as they did in the Americas.
Sure. The slave trade and the sugar plantations killed off fully half of all whites who worked in the areas, from what I read.

Until they could deal with the terrible diseases whites could not colonize Africa. Quinine helped.

Boats! also. Until Europeans developed larger and better ships, I don't see how they could be expected to do much colonizing. And navigation and sailing techniques.

Until they had better medical and other technology, they couldn't colonize effectively on a large scale. I suppose Europeans had long colonized on a small scale -- the Portuguese-built Great Zimbabwe, the sugar-slaves brought back to work in Spain as early as the 15th century.

I want to include Rome in European colonization of Africa, however. Romans colonized Egypt and Carthage and went WAY south after exotic animals for the colliseum show sports. The elephants, giraffes, lions in plenty, crocodiles, all sorts of animals, show that Rome had a major presence in sub-Saharan Africa, though they may have depended on traders for the animal captures.
 
Nov 2014
802
Maryland
Rome didn’t conquer Nubia because it chose not to. It actually had a pretty good chance of annexing the area. Rome made advances all the way to Napata, sacking the city, and forcing the heir to flee. Why are we talking about ancient Africa anyway? I already mentioned that I wasn’t talking about Roman conquest of Africa in the first post. Demographics and geography are now different from centuries ago.
Why not? Same deal, IMO. Europeans needed high technology and a strong organization to invade and colonize or control Africa. Rome had that and acted on it to profit from its presence in Africa, and then Rome fell and the Dark Ages pushed everyone back to their own territories, substantially.

Then with the rise of Europe, they could go after Africa again, same as Rome did.

Might as well ask why China didn't colonize Africa, as they now are, in default of the Western pull-back. Well, because they weren't advanced enough, that's all! And now they are, so they are sending over hundreds and hundreds of thousands of Chinese men to colonize Africa.

And it's their turn, too, so good luck to them.
 

notgivenaway

Ad Honorem
Jun 2015
5,743
UK
The Romans only knew the Saharan areas. Not as much tropical diseases there, and I doubt a legion could fight effectively in a rainforest or a savannah. Roman tactics were optimally suited to open spaces, fields and deserts, like the Plains of Zama. If they got defeated by Arminius in the Germanic forests, they'd have no hope in a tropical forest which is far more dense.
 

robto

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
6,172
Lisbon, Portugal
I suppose Europeans had long colonized on a small scale -- the Portuguese-built Great Zimbabwe, the sugar-slaves brought back to work in Spain as early as the 15th century.
Portuguese didn't build the Great Zimbabwe and there's no proof of European presence in Great Zimbabwe or any European had ever set foot on that city till late 19th century.

I want to include Rome in European colonization of Africa, however. Romans colonized Egypt and Carthage and went WAY south after exotic animals for the colliseum show sports. The elephants, giraffes, lions in plenty, crocodiles, all sorts of animals, show that Rome had a major presence in sub-Saharan Africa, though they may have depended on traders for the animal captures.
Those animals during the Ancient Period could have been found in the wild in North Africa and the Middle East as well. They were wild lions in the Balkans, elephants in the wild could be found in Morocco and crocodiles could be easily seen in the Nile river.

Romans could very easily capture those exotic animals without going to sub-Saharan Africa.
 
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