When most of us think of World War I, we rarely consider the continent of Africa. But Africa and World War I are important stories in the histories of both. This episode looks at the impact of the Great War on the continent of Africa. We look at the fall of German West Africa, the terrible toll of the East African front, and all that took place in between the two.
The fighting of World War I in Africa was among the earliest and latest engagements of the war. The west, under German rule, collapsed quickly but a variety of uprisings and atrocities bridged the gap between that relatively quick fight and the longer and more notorious campaign in the east.
More than 1 million Africans were involved in fighting World War I, either on the African continent or in far-off lands where their colonial overlords shipped them. When we add in the known totals of Africans, men women and children, who were forced to act as carriers for the Europeans, that total grows to 2.5 million.
The French and the Germans used forced, sometimes unpaid, conscription to leverage what they saw as an inexhaustible resource of fighting men from Africa into their battle fronts.
Learn More About Africa and World War I
- The First World War in East Africa
- Africa and World War I
- French Influence in Africa
- Nearly 2 Million Africans Were Pulled Into World War I
- Malawi’s John Chilembwe Gets Statue in London’s Trafalgar Square
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Find the other episodes of our History of Africa podcast series here.