The Berlin Conference on Africa of 1884 and 1885 is little known in the West, but it was of supreme importance for determining the shape of the modern continent of Africa.
The scramble among European powers to have colonies in Africa had gone on for some time and there was no order. King Leopold II, from Belgium, had established a private colony, the Belgium Congo, in Central Africa. His brutal rule is described in Adam Hochschild’s book King Leopold’s Ghost, published at the end of the last century, but other European powers also wanted colonies in that continent, even if they were not as brutal as King Leopold. That book estimates that about 10 million died in the Congo under Leopold’s rule, before the country of Belgium took over. The countries of Britain, France, Germany, Portugal all had colonies on that continent. We tend to forget now, in the Twenty-First Century, that once almost every country in Africa was a colony of a European power. If you take a look at an atlas produced before World War II, you will see such names as French West Africa, French Equatorial Africa, Portuguese West Africa (also known as Angola), Portuguese East Africa (aka Mozambique), German West Africa, Rhodesia (colony of Britain) and of course the Belgian Congo. South Africa was a colony of Great Britain, and finally gained independence in 1934, though it was run by the British colonists and their descendants until 1994 when the African National Congress, founded in 1912, took power. Algeria was a colony of France until 1962, and people of France remember the bitter battles in that country as it rebelled against the mother country. A movie which was made in 1966, available on YouTube that is called called The Battle of Algiers, shows this revolution.
At the time the conference was called, Germany was a young nation, formed a dozen years earlier. Some suggest that the recent birth of Germany made it unstable and was the reason it was involved in the two world wars. Germany has always had a strong nationalist movement, preaching racial purity and touting the 1000-year German heritage, that was displayed before World War II and in the current influx of refugees to Germany (the people are open but the politicians are closed). But Germany as an idea had long existed as the heart of Europe, even though there was no actual country of Germany. The recently published book Europe by Bendan Simms argues of the importance of Germany to Europe over the last 500 years, a period that we have argued in this blog is a basic measure of the history of civilization. And now Germany is the central pillar of the European Union. Just ask a Greek citizen how she feels about Germany now.
Here is a chart of the incorporation of Germany on January 18, 1871, even though the German Empire had existed as a legal entity for a couple of weeks. In this chart we see a Sun-Mercury conjunction opposite Uranus, suggesting that a revolutionary country has been born, and Mars square Saturn, indicating a problem dealing with their violence and military power.
The scramble for African colonies by European nations caused conflict between the European nations (no notice was paid to the feelings of the African natives to their colonisation, of course) and so in 1884 German Chancellor Otto Von Bismark called a meeting of the various European powers in Berlin to discuss the matter. The conference itself took place between November 15, 1994 and February 26, 1885. An editorial cartoon at the time sums up the situation: it shows Bismark dividing up a cake labeled “Africa” while diplomats from various countries await their portion. This treaty was a disaster for Africa, and the effects of it are still felt in that continent. There were a total of 14 nations involved in the conference, including Russia and the United States, but the countries named above were the most important. A large majority of Africa at the time was under local control, but after the conference the continent was split up into many countries with no thought to the original groupings of people. This led to many of the problems of Africa subsequent to de-colonization which started after the end of World War II — that the counties did not reflect the people on the ground.
Here are two charts for this important conference that few people are aware of. The first chart is for the start of the conference, November 11, 1884. You can see that the Neptune-Pluto conjunction is approaching, it will be exact in another five year, but it is still 10 degrees from exact. This conjunction is a once in every 500 year event, and indicated the start of modernism and the Twentieth Century. But more important are the two oppositions with these planets, Mercury opposite Pluto and Sun opposite Neptune, both short lasting oppositions. The Sun opposite Neptune indicates that on that day (Sun) there was delusion, that things could not be seen clearly. The Mercury opposite Pluto suggests the harsh, Plutonian conditions that were discussed in this conference. This was not a good omen for a positive outcome.
The second chart is set shortly before the end of the conference, when the final positions were been hammered out. We see that Sun is now conjunct Mars, opposite Jupiter and both are square Pluto in a T-square with Pluto at the apex. This suggests much violence (Sun-Mars-Jupiter) and repression (Pluto) as an legacy of this conference.
So this conference, that was started in delusion ended in the potential for violence and repression. And there, in a nutshell, is the history of the continent of Africa in the century following this conference in Berlin right before the beginning of the Twentieth Century.