In 1884 fourteen European nations along with a representative from the United States gathered at a conference in Berlin to divide up the continent of Africa. No representatives of the hundreds of African societies which they discussed were present at these meetings. in fact, the people of Africa themselves were barely considered.

berlin conference scramble for Africa
Berlin Conference to divide Africa between the European powers.

At the beginning of the 19th century, Europe dominated less than 10% of the African continent. By the end of that century, Europe controlled nearly 90% of Africa. Much of that expansion began at the Berlin Conference in 1884. A bizarre racist ideology, known as the Hamitic Theory, merged obscure Biblical references to naturalist biology, eugenics philosophy, and political propaganda to serve as the smokescreen for these endeavors.

the scramble for Africa
Areas of Africa controlled by European colonial powers in 1913 (Belgian (yellow), British (red), French (blue), German (teal), Italian (green), Portuguese (purple), and Spanish (pink) Empires)

Topics covered in this podcast episode on the Scramble for Africa:

  • The Berlin Conference
  • The Hamitic Theory and the White Man’s Burden
  • The white line of control

This podcast episode is available wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts for a limited time. After that our Patreon Insiders can get exclusive access here!

Find more of our episodes on the History of Africa podcast series here.

Learn more about this period of the history of Africa through these books and links:


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JB Shreve is the author of "How the World Ends: Understanding the Growing Chaos." He has been the host of the End of History podcast since 2012. He has degrees in International Relations and Middle East Studies. His other books include the Intelligence Brief Series. Regular posts and updates from JB Shreve are available at