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Treaties, Borders, and the Partition of Africa

Saadia Touval
The Journal of African History
Vol. 7, No. 2 (1966), pp. 279-293
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/179955
Page Count: 15
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Treaties, Borders, and the Partition of Africa
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Abstract

The article questions the contention that, in the process of partition and the delimitation of borders in Africa, no account was taken of local conditions. The possibility of indirect African influence on the process is examined. At least some of the treaties concluded between Europeans and African rulers were genuine, and regarded as a contractual obligation by both sides. There were cases of African rulers seeking to promote their political interests by entering into an alliance with Europeans. Such treaties were sometimes utilized by European powers in their negotiations with rivals, to support their territorial claims. There were some attempts to define colonial borders so that they coincided with the frontiers of traditional African politics. Thus, treaties between African rulers and Europeans played a role in the process of the partition. In this connexion, it is important to remember that traditional African polities were often polyethnic, or encompassed only a segment of an ethnic group, and did not correspond to the modern European concept of 'nation states'. There were also occasions in which questions regarding the local economy and communications were considered when borders were delimited. The considerations employed may have been wrong. But it seems necessary to modify the generalization that local circumstances were disregarded in the border-making process.

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