The Portuguese carved out colonies in Angola and Mozambique. Italy reached across the Mediterranean to occupy Libya and then pushed into the “horn” of Africa, at the southern end of the Red Sea.

Germany was newly united in 1871 under the expert leadership of Bismarck. At first, Bismarck had little interest in overseas expansion, but eventually realized the importance of colonies. In the 1880s, Germany took lands in Southwest Africa (now Namibia) and East Africa (now part of Tanzania) as well as what are today Cameroon and Togo. A German politician, trying to ease the worries of European rivals, explained, “We do not want to put anyone in the shade, but we also demand our place in the sun.”

African Resistance

Europeans met armed resistance across the continent. In North Africa, the Algerians fought French expansion for years. In West Africa, Samori Touré (sah MAWR ee too RAY) fought French forces. Elsewhere in West Africa, the Ibo and Fulani struggled for years against the British advance. In southern Africa, the Zulus resisted British domination, handing them several grave defeats before the British finally succeeded.

Women Leaders of the Resistance

In West Africa, the British faced the powerful Asante kingdom in a series of wars. When their king was exiled, the Asante people put themselves under the command of their queen, Yaa Asantewaa (YA uh ah sahn TAY wuh). She led the fight against the British in the last Asante war.

Another woman, Nehanda (neh HAHN duh), was a spiritual leader of the Shona people in what is today Zimbabwe. Nehanda inspired the Shona to resist British rule. In the 1890s, she and her husband were captured and executed by the British. Her courage, however, inspired later generations to fight for freedom.

Ethiopia Remains Independent

In East Africa, the ancient Christian kingdom of Ethiopia successfully resisted European colonization and remained independent. Like feudal Europe, Ethiopia had been divided up among a number of rival princes who ruled their own domains.

In the late 1800s, however, a reforming ruler, Menelik II, began to modernize his country. He hired European experts to plan modern roads and bridges and set up a Western school system. He imported the latest weapons and European officers to help train his army. Thus, when Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1896, Menelik was prepared. At the battle of Adowa (AH duh wuh), the Ethiopians smashed the Italian invaders. Ethiopia, along with Liberia, were the only African nations to preserve independence.

Illustration of a battle inside of a city, where one group of soldiers on foot uses bayonets against another group on horseback wielding bows and arrows.

French troops capture the city of Mascara in December 1835, during the French–Algerian War.


What advantages do the Algerian troops have? What advantages do the French troops have?

Resistance Against Germany

In East Africa, the Germans fought wide-ranging wars against groups resisting foreign rule. During the 1890s, the Uhehe harried German forces. The Germans gained control by using terror. Any groups linked to the resistance were killed or driven off the land. Some were turned into forced laborers for settlers. In 1905, another rebellion, the Maji Maji War, erupted. In that conflict too, the Germans triumphed only after burning acres and acres of farmland, leaving thousands of local people to die of starvation.

Two factors limited African resistance in East Africa. First, the slave trading states in East Africa had disrupted many small societies and made some Africans more sympathetic to European expansion. Second, the outbreak of rinderpest, a cattle disease, caused a disastrous famine. The epidemic, which killed 95 percent of all cattle in some areas, led to malnutrition and other diseases that affected people's ability to fight the invaders.

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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