Between 1870 and 1914, Britain, France, Germany, and other European powers scrambled to carve up the African continent. They set up dozens of colonies and ruled over the lives of millions of people. Although people in Africa resisted, they could not hold back the tide of European conquest.
Europeans began trading along the African coast in the 1500s. Centuries later, they began moving into the continent's interior.
Africa is a huge continent, nearly three times the size of Europe, with diverse regions and cultures. Before the scramble for Africa, people living on the continent spoke hundreds of languages and had developed varied governments. Some people lived in large centralized states, while others lived in village communities. Many still lived in nomadic societies.
North Africa includes the fertile land along the Mediterranean and the enormous Sahara. For centuries before 1800, the region had been part of the Muslim world. In the early 1800s, much of North Africa, including Egypt, was still ruled by the weakening Ottoman empire.
In the great savanna region of West Africa, an Islamic reform movement brought change. It began among the Fulani people in what is today northern Nigeria. There, the scholar and preacher Usman dan Fodio (oo SMAHN dahn foh DEE oh) denounced the corruption of the local Hausa rulers. He called for social and religious reforms to purify and revive Islam. Under Usman and other leaders, several new Muslim states arose, built on trade, farming, and herding.