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Africa during the Scramble: The Witch Hunters of Madagascar

Alex Richards

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#3
The thing I find fascinating there is the 1830s- that sense of an attempt being made by both Britain and the Merina at some sort of mutually (though weighted) beneficial partnership.

And it all falls apart because even Britain attempting to make money by supporting native industries rather than just running it all themselves doesn't really work out. And even the Merina attempting to modernise through domestic industrialisation doesn't really work either.
 

Youngmarshall

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#4
The thing I find fascinating there is the 1830s- that sense of an attempt being made by both Britain and the Merina at some sort of mutually (though weighted) beneficial partnership.

And it all falls apart because even Britain attempting to make money by supporting native industries rather than just running it all themselves doesn't really work out. And even the Merina attempting to modernise through domestic industrialisation doesn't really work either.
Yes. There just isn't easy solutions wherein you do this one simple trick and then Africa is rich forever. Even a set up with as much potential as that can just go entirely tits up.

Its difficult to think of how to save that effort, too. The British partnership is almost certainly one that ends at best with the economic and political vassalage of the Merina, the British are pretty naked in that ambition and they're just not delivering enough in terms of new profits for that to be worth it for the Malagasy. Possibly if you have different men in Mauritius with more experience in terms of working with the climate of Madagascar, the lack of roads and the uneducated workforce, they'd be able to be more successful at opening the Malagasy markets but it's one of those situations wherein I'm really skeptical of van Rijn style solutions.
 

Redolegna

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#5
The picture at the top of the article is a great example of colonialism being unequivocally bad for all involved but being able to be made to look great. I knew that particular one from several French textbooks, but never in quite as large a format. And it has everything going for it: the motion, the colours, the feeling of dominance...
 

Alex Richards

Lifetime cathedrals built: 8
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#6
The picture at the top of the article is a great example of colonialism being unequivocally bad for all involved but being able to be made to look great. I knew that particular one from several French textbooks, but never in quite as large a format. And it has everything going for it: the motion, the colours, the feeling of dominance...
So sort of the French equivalent of this one being our default text book image for colonialism?

1589376381827.png
 

Redolegna

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#7
So sort of the French equivalent of this one being our default text book image for colonialism?

View attachment 20860
We don't have a single figure as identifiable as Rhodes, although Ferry would have been if he had had more success, I feel..

And that picture is more a shorthand for his speech on the 'duty to inferior races' he invoked, in the same vein as Rudyard Kipling, often presented with two rebuttals: that of Déroulède, saying he wants Alsace-Lorraine back (his 'daughters') not some far-flung colonies ('servants'); and that of Clemenceau who rejects the logic of superior and inferior civilizations or races altogether.
 

Death's Companion

General Ugg Apologist.
#8
Ah Ethiopia the perfect combination of a strong African Nation facing a pathetic European one.

Obviously there were also the strong links to Russia, the relative logistics strain the Italians faced, the Ethiopians having a decent exposure to Europe and the Middle East and Asia and also had the logistics to field very large armies which were equipped on par with the Italians.


I'm talking about the next article rather than this one because its very hard to comment on. A bunch of conquering and mass slaving feudal imperialists getting devoured by a richer more technically advanced bunch of mass slaving/or exploiting the fuck out of free labour in unequal economic systems globalist Imperialists.

A simplification but it does seem that what happened was kind of inevitable. The sides too unbalanced, the crippling structural weaknesses too readily apparent.

Ethiopia on the other hand is fascinating in that its almost the reverse the perfect set up for a European disaster in Africa. Even if the Ethiopians were no strangers to badness themselves its hard not to see it as a positive outcome that at least one African state fought free for a time.
 

Youngmarshall

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#9
Ah Ethiopia the perfect combination of a strong African Nation facing a pathetic European one.

Obviously there were also the strong links to Russia, the relative logistics strain the Italians faced, the Ethiopians having a decent exposure to Europe and the Middle East and Asia and also had the logistics to field very large armies which were equipped on par with the Italians.


I'm talking about the next article rather than this one because its very hard to comment on. A bunch of conquering and mass slaving feudal imperialists getting devoured by a richer more technically advanced bunch of mass slaving/or exploiting the fuck out of free labour in unequal economic systems globalist Imperialists.

A simplification but it does seem that what happened was kind of inevitable. The sides too unbalanced, the crippling structural weaknesses too readily apparent.

Ethiopia on the other hand is fascinating in that its almost the reverse the perfect set up for a European disaster in Africa. Even if the Ethiopians were no strangers to badness themselves its hard not to see it as a positive outcome that at least one African state fought free for a time.
Yeah, I'm a little ahead of myself at the moment due to the mountains of writing time quarantine gave me so I wrote the Ethiopia one last week and I do think it's a more interesting article than this one or the Omani one simply because it isn't 'feudal imperialists get inevitably devoured by global imperialists'.

I will say is that one of the things I get into next week is how much Ethiopia's victory was due to a perfect storm of conditions and how that could have happened anywhere. I don't think it was something where it had to be Ethiopia, in other circumstances it could have been Madagascar.
 

Youngmarshall

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#12
The way the Italians handled Menelik II diplomatically in the lead up to the war was astoundingly incompetent. I have no idea what they were thinking. Arguably a more experienced colonial nation wouldn't have made those mistakes.

The whole 'oh Ethiopia got lucky they were only facing Italy' thing I've seen elsewhere is not that convincing to me as a whole though. The French and British were also normally operating with small armies on the end of their supply chains too. And given the defeats the British suffered in South Africa and the humiliation the Spanish underwent in Morocco, it feels insulting to argue that no other European army could have run into trouble like that.

Also it rather ignores how cleverly Italy isolated Ethiopia after the Battle of Adwa. They very successfully laid the path for the sequel war which they won handidly.

This is the next article but I think for an African nation to pull off an Adwa they needed.

a) A good leader who had managed to command a united state that could muster a large army (this is not unique to Ethiopia but it's certainly not all that common, a lot of African states such as the Yeke or Merina Kingdoms were basically collapsing already before the Europeans even turned up). One of things I do empathise in the article though is this wasn't the case for Ethiopia either until the decade of the battle. That unity can emerge very quickly.
b) An enemy who is willing to give up. Adwa is most notable for the aftermath in which Ethiopia and Italy agreed a peace. Africans elsewhere did win victories as great as Adwa, Annual or Khartoum are perfect examples, but the Europeans then came back with more men. It needs to not be worth it for them to do that. (Yes, this happened to Ethiopia too, but 40 years later rather than 5).
c) The Ethiopians were a battle hardened army which had been armed by Europeans to fight against a mutual enemy, in this case the Sudanese. The next article goes deep into what weapons they had and where they got them from but in short, a previously good relationship with Europeans was very useful.

I don't think there's any region in Africa where some state could not emerge that ticks a) and c) and I don't think there's a colonial power that couldn't be b) in the right circumstances either. I don't think it had to be Ethiopia and I don't think it had to be Italy.
 

Redolegna

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#13
The way the Italians handled Menelik II diplomatically in the lead up to the war was astoundingly incompetent. I have no idea what they were thinking. Arguably a more experienced colonial nation wouldn't have made those mistakes.

The whole 'oh Ethiopia got lucky they were only facing Italy' thing I've seen elsewhere is not that convincing to me as a whole though. The French and British were also normally operating with small armies on the end of their supply chains too. And given the defeats the British suffered in South Africa and the humiliation the Spanish underwent in Morocco, it feels insulting to argue that no other European army could have run into trouble like that.

Also it rather ignores how cleverly Italy isolated Ethiopia after the Battle of Adwa. They very successfully laid the path for the sequel war which they won handidly.

This is the next article but I think for an African nation to pull off an Adwa they needed.

a) A good leader who had managed to command a united state that could muster a large army (this is not unique to Ethiopia but it's certainly not all that common, a lot of African states such as the Yeke or Merina Kingdoms were basically collapsing already before the Europeans even turned up). One of things I do empathise in the article though is this wasn't the case for Ethiopia either until the decade of the battle. That unity can emerge very quickly.
b) An enemy who is willing to give up. Adwa is most notable for the aftermath in which Ethiopia and Italy agreed a peace. Africans elsewhere did win victories as great as Adwa, Annual or Khartoum are perfect examples, but the Europeans then came back with more men. It needs to not be worth it for them to do that. (Yes, this happened to Ethiopia too, but 40 years later rather than 5).
c) The Ethiopians were a battle hardened army which had been armed by Europeans to fight against a mutual enemy, in this case the Sudanese. The next article goes deep into what weapons they had and where they got them from but in short, a previously good relationship with Europeans was very useful.

I don't think there's any region in Africa where some state could not emerge that ticks a) and c) and I don't think there's a colonial power that couldn't be b) in the right circumstances either. I don't think it had to be Ethiopia and I don't think it had to be Italy.
My contention is not that Italy didn't screw things up (they did) and then righted the ship somewhat by isolating Ethiopia, it's that calling them pathetic is very much a value judgment which tells us nothing but about a personal bias. Calling them a weak state, or one with an army not suited to do what their ambitions reached up to, that's fine by me. Calling them pathetic, that detracts from the achievements of both the Ethiopian leadership and rank-and-file while being badly redolent of the 'they're Italians, nothing to contribute to this' which we saw produced actual victims by both France and the Uk deciding to ignore first-hand expertise on the handling of COVID-19 just a few weeks ago.
 

Death's Companion

General Ugg Apologist.
#14
The way the Italians handled Menelik II diplomatically in the lead up to the war was astoundingly incompetent. I have no idea what they were thinking. Arguably a more experienced colonial nation wouldn't have made those mistakes.

The whole 'oh Ethiopia got lucky they were only facing Italy thing' I've seen elsewhere is not that convincing to me as a whole though. The French and British were also normally operating with small armies miles on the end of their supply chains too. And given the defeats the British suffered in South Africa and the humiliation the Spanish underwent in Morocco, it feels insulting to argue that no other European army could have run into trouble like that.

Also it rather ignores how cleverly Italy isolated Ethiopia after the Battle of Adwa. They very successfully laid the path for the sequel war which they won handidly.

This is the next article but I think for an African nation to pull off an Adwa they needed.

a) A good leader who had managed to command a united state that could muster a large army (this is not unique to Ethiopia but it's certainly not all that common, a lot of African states such as the Yeke or Merina Kingdoms were basically collapsing already before the Europeans even turned up). One of things I do empathise in the article though is this wasn't the case for Ethiopia either until the decade of the battle. That unity can emerge very quickly.
b) An enemy who is willing to give up. Adwa is most notable for the aftermath in which Ethiopia and Italy agreed a peace. Africans elsewhere did win victories as great as Adwa, Annual or Khartoum are perfect examples, but the Europeans then came back with more men. It needs to not be worth it for them to do that. (Yes, this happened to Ethiopia too, but 40 years later rather than 5).
c) The Ethiopians were a battle hardened army which had been armed by Europeans to fight against a mutual enemy, in this case the Sudanese. The next article goes deep into what weapons they had and where they got them from but in short, a previously good relationship with Europeans was very useful.

I don't think there's any region in Africa where some state could not emerge that ticks a) and c) and I don't think there's a colonial power that couldn't be b) in the right circumstances either. I don't think it had to be Ethiopia and I don't think it had to be Italy.
I'd argue against that.

At the end of the day Britain's equivilent had them make every wrong move possible, they just came back with a bigger and better army because they cared more about winning that wondering why the fight was happening. If several thousand men were killed and rumours reached the British Press that their boys were being castrated then they'd do what they did in South Africa and in Sudan, try again because they had to.

I imagine the French would be very similar in outlook, I don't think any of the Great powers would allow such a humiliation to happen and go unavenged.

Furthermore unlike the armies that conquered the rest of Africa, the Italian force was composed in large part of conscripts who were notably inexperienced in local conditions, under equipped with outdated equipment and did not want to be there. That is a recipe for disaster, the regular units with long term experience in Africa faired better but apparently even they were more interested in comfortably seeing things out rather than embarking on the conquest.

Sending an army that does not want to be there, does not have the tools in its own assesment to do the job and is at the spearhead of a country that wants the victory without paying the price. Seems a recipe for a disaster however you go.

The Ethiopians were better equipped, better led and had a strong manpower advantage over many of other states you've mentioned and they had prolonged contact with Europeans and European allies.


Yeah you could make other states share those traits. But I don't think those would matter against Britain or France.
 

Death's Companion

General Ugg Apologist.
#15
My contention is not that Italy didn't screw things up (they did) and then righted the ship somewhat by isolating Ethiopia, it's that calling them pathetic is very much a value judgment which tells us nothing but about a personal bias. Calling them a weak state, or one with an army not suited to do what their ambitions reached up to, that's fine by me. Calling them pathetic, that detracts from the achievements of both the Ethiopian leadership and rank-and-file while being badly redolent of the 'they're Italians, nothing to contribute to this' which we saw produced actual victims by both France and the Uk deciding to ignore first-hand expertise on the handling of COVID-19 just a few weeks ago.
The Ethiopians were a formidable state who would go on to fight admirably against tanks and poison gas and managed a very well run campaign. I think they would have been capable of beating any European army of the day with the right factors but any of the other European powers likely to try such a campaign would be back but would likely fail differently in the first place because they'd not be sending half trained conscripts across the globe with outdated weapons in a campaign they thought was a bad idea.

Italy in my eyes was perhaps the only power this could happen to in this way and the most likely for it to happen to and fits the trend of both world wars and its interventions in the interwar period. Great ambition, inadequate means.*

*When it came the second time it won the fight it could not lose but bankrupted the state.