As the migrating Boers came into contact with Zulus, fighting quickly broke out. At first, Zulu regiments held their own. But in the end, Zulu spears could not defeat Boer guns. The struggle for control of the land would rage until the end of the century.

Impact of the Slave Trade

For centuries, Europeans had taken Africans as slaves to work the plantations and mines of the Americas. Arabs and Africans had also traded in slaves. Beginning in the early 1800s, European nations slowly outlawed the slave trade, though it took years to end.

In Britain and the United States, abolitionists promoted the idea of returning freed slaves to Africa. In 1787, the British organized Sierra Leone in West Africa as a colony for former slaves. Later, some free blacks from the United States settled in nearby Liberia. By 1847, Liberia had become an independent state.

Slavery still existed, however. Arab and African slave traders continued to seize people from Central and East Africa to work as slaves in the Middle East and Asia well into the 1800s. Thus the demand for slaves remained and the slave trade continued in Africa. As reports of this slave trade spread, abolitionists and European explorers demanded action to end it.

Illustration of a village with thatched roofs with villagers outside.

Freetown, Sierra Leone, was settled by freed slaves from all over the world. Many had their origins in regions of Africa. Sierra Leone became a center of education for Africans.

European Contact Increases

From the 1400s through the 1700s, Europeans traded along the African coast, but they knew very little about the continent. They relied on Africans to bring slaves and trade goods, such as ivory and gold, from the interior to their trading posts on the coast.

European interest in Africa increased during the Age of Imperialism. Spurred on by trading companies and a desire for adventure, Europeans explored the rivers of Africa. In the past, difficult geography, resistance by Africans, and diseases had all kept Europeans from moving into the interior of Africa. In the 1880s, medical advances and river steamships helped Europeans move inland.

Explorers Push into Africa's Interior

In the early 1800s, European explorers began pushing into the interior of Africa. Daring adventurers like Mungo Park and Richard Burton set out to map the course and sources of the great African rivers such as the Niger, the Nile, and the Congo.

Some explorers were self-promoters who wrote glowing accounts of their bold deeds. While they were fascinated by African geography, they had little understanding of the peoples they met. All, however, endured great hardships while exploring Africa.

Missionaries Follow Explorers

Catholic and Protestant missionaries followed the explorers. All across Africa, they sought to win people to Christianity. The missionaries were sincere in their desire to help Africans. They built schools and medical clinics alongside churches. They also focused attention on the evils of the slave trade.

Still, missionaries, like most Westerners, took a paternalistic view of Africans, meaning they saw them as children in need of guidance. To them, African cultures and religions were “degraded.” They urged Africans to reject their own traditions in favor of Western civilization.

Livingstone's Explorations

More than anyone else, David Livingstone, a British doctor and missionary, captured the imaginations of Westerners. For 30 years, he crisscrossed Africa. He wrote about the many peoples he met with more sympathy and less bias than did most Europeans.


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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments