Why Africa Was Of Strategic Interest In The 19th Century

The exploration of Africa was a popular topic in the mid nineteenth century.

Why Africa?

Because it was predicted that Africa housed the source of the Nile River.

Why was that important?

Europe had a growing appetite for expansion, and mapping the Nile and its source would put them in a favorable strategic position to control that resource.

Some of the most remembered adventurers were Dr. David Livingstone and Henry Morton Stanley

Their findings were somewhat inconclusive.

Lake Victoria was a key source for the Nile but the lake has feeder rivers of considerable size, making one ultimate source of the Nile undefined.

This idea of exploration into truly unknown territory is an elusive concept to us in the very developed 21st century.

Although it’s worth noting, the risks faced previously seem extremely severe to modern day.

The number of times explorers got malaria made it almost seem like a common state.

In the book “Into Africa”, recapping the exploration into Africa, there’s a particularly interesting insight on a “new” technique of separating the ill from the well known as quarantining.

This was developed by Florence Nightingale during the Crimean War.

(If you’re reading this in the future, think back to what was going on in the world in 2020-21 and you’ll find this very interesting.)

Although Dr. Livingston had a lot of ethical lapses, his frequent promiscuity while married being being one very notable one, he had a remarkable cheerful and adventurous spirit.

He’s known to embrace Africa’s challenges, even her extreme temperatures saying, “A merry heat doeth like a good medicine.”

In many ways the strategic interests for Europe in the mid 19th century hold true today. Countries scope out valuable resources and rely on determined and resilient people to find them.

Photo by Tommy Nguyen on Unsplash.

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