3 minutes 14 seconds
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The late 19th century wasn't great for Africa or Africans. It was when Europeans looked south and decided that Africa was filled with all this unclaimed land and opted to change that. The great powers all met
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in Berlin in 1885 and hashed out some rules for grabbing whatever they could. 1 great nation
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which attended this conference yet took no part in the Scramble for Africa was
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the United States of America, which very easily could have laid claims to lands there if it wanted to. Which raises the question, why? Why didn't the USA take part in the Scramble for Africa? Now during the late 19th century, successive US presidents had very different opinions on whether the United States should build an empire or oppose imperialism as a matter of principle. Some called for the annexation of Cuba, Alaska, Santa Domingo and Hawaii, with only half of those actually happening.
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When the Berlin Conference opened, the United States was in an imperialism-isn't-for-us mood and so its representatives there proposed a different plan. Why don't we only partially carve up the continent, open its waterways to all nations and make Africa a free trade area? The American ideas were promptly dismissed. However, the US did get some concessions in that the Congo would
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be open to all international trade, which meant that unlike the parts of Africa under the control of
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the great European powers, the US would have at least some access. By the
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way, this idea of America just wanting to trade is a
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theme of late 19th to early 20th century US foreign policy.
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So with that, it was decided that Africa would be carved up, and the US opted out for several important reasons. The first was that it already had
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a lot of spare land which wasn't densely populated and had ample resources yet to be exploited. Plus, by the time the US was done integrating its westward lands, the scramble for Africa was over, meaning that if they wanted to build an overseas empire, they'd need to take somebody else's, an opportunity which would soon present itself. The second reason was Liberia. Across the previous century, American patrons had helped to fund Freedmen's journeys to Africa to found a territory for freed slaves. In 1822, this culminated in the creation of Liberia, which was sort of an American colony but also totally wasn't.
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As such it just sort of sat in limbo. It eventually got sick of America ignoring it and it declared its independence in 1847. However, it maintained very good relations with the United States and after this, alongside the Congo, the US had much of the access to Africa for missionaries and trade that it had wanted. The third reason was that American desire to spread its influence beyond its own borders was mostly limited to
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its neighbours in South America. All of this being under the Monroe Doctrine. This was
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a pledge by the United States to protect the Americas and any independent state there from European expansion or coercion, providing that you exclude the British claiming the Falklands, Mexico being run by an Austrian briefly, and Venezuela ceding land to Britain. And so with that, the United States just sort of sat the scramble for Africa out. Much like their European cousins, the Americans were also interested in the resources and conversion of Africa. But unlike Europeans, Americans felt like
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they already had hegemony over 2 continents, and thus they had no desire to squabble over pieces of a third.
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I hope you enjoyed this episode and a special thanks to my patrons...
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Captain Seydol, Camoon Yoon, Gustav Swan, Daniel Tobien, Mrs. Et Aaron the White, Matthew Shipley, Maggie Patskowski, Alex Schwin, Corey Turner, Anthony Beckett, Copper Tone, Shuenin, Spinning 3 Plates, The McWhopper and Charles I.
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