History Abridged: The Berlin Conference 1884–1885

Historian feature

Published: 26th April 2021

The Berlin Conference 1884–1885

History Abridged: This feature seeks to take a person, event or period and abridge, or focus on, an important event or detail that can get lost in the big picture. Think Horrible Histories for grownups (without the songs and music). See all History Abridged articles

In 2020 there was lots of talk about decolonising society but the reality of the empires that European powers had around the world is frequently simplified or not fully understood. These empires were often vast and the different countries that were forced under European dominance were hugely diverse. How countries came to be part of another state’s empire varied, but inevitably the common denominators were power, control of resources and trade. In this History Abridged we look at the Berlin Conference and how it influenced the relationships between Europe and Africa.

The Berlin Conference began on 15 November 1884; the countries represented at the time included Austria-Hungary, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden-Norway, Turkey, and the United States of America. It was called by the German chancellor Otto Von Bismark, at the request of Portugal, although Bismark was quite happy to play a role in settling who controlled the vast continent... 

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