Berlin, Conference of

Berlin, Conference of, 1884–85, international meeting aimed at settling the problems connected with European colonies in Africa. At the invitation of the German chancellor Otto von Bismarck, representatives of all European nations, the United States, and the Ottoman Empire met at Berlin to consider problems arising out of European penetration of W Africa. The stated purpose of the meeting was to guarantee free trade and navigation on the Congo and on the lower reaches of the Niger. In fact, the territorial adjustments made among the powers were the important result. The sovereignty of Great Britain over S Nigeria was recognized. The claims of the International Association, a private corporation controlled by King Leopold II of Belgium, were more or less recognized; these applied to the greater part of the Congo. These territorial awards ignored French claims to parts of the Congo and of Nigeria and the historical claim of Portugal to the mouth of the Congo. The attempts to guarantee free trade and the neutrality of the region in wartime and to set up rules for future colonial expansion in Africa were hailed, but soon the agreements proved too vague to be workable.

See S. E. Crowe, The Berlin West African Conference (1942).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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