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The Scramble for Africa
In the second half of the 1800s, the leading European countries Britain, France, Germany, and to a lesser extent Belgium -- competed with each other to develop first informal and then formal empires in Africa. Each feared that their rivals would get more territory and eventually become more powerful, not only in Africa but across the world. This competition was known as the "scramble for Africa." It led to a series of diplomatic crises and some outright wars between European powers. These wars, fought in Africa, inflicted great damage and injury on the Africans who were not a party to the conflict. Hoping to avoid such wars, the European powers held a diplomatic conference in 1878 in Berlin, where they divided up the map of Africa into spheres of influence.
For instance, in 1898, the British and French disputed control over Fashoda, a city on a tributary of the Nile River. The French and British forces faced off, using mostly Africans that had been drafted to do the fighting. Then, without consulting the local leaders, French and British diplomats reached an agreement to divide control over the region. (This agreement would be the basis of an alliance, expanded in 1904 to include Russia, known as the Entente Cordiale.)
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