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If not Leopold, who'd have the Congo?

TheIO

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Had a conversation earlier about the Belgian Congo (as you do), specifically about who'd end up owning it if there wasn't a Belgium.

Except that even if there was a Belgium, there'd be no guarantee of it being Belgian, because the Belgian government didn't want it - hence why King Leopold, who very much did want it (or indeed any colony) had the Congo Free State, having backed Stanley to the hilt after the latter returned from his crossing of the Congo.

But if, for whatever reason, Leopold wasn't able or willing to do so, and thus there isn't a Belgian Congo - who'd get it?
 

SenatorChickpea

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Yeah, the awarding of that huge amount of territory- plus the Belgian territories around the Great Lakes- to a single nation was fairly improbable.

It's why it's always a warning sign when a timeline has an 'Austro-Hungarian Congo' on the map.
 
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Gary Oswald

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It's why it's always a warning sign when a timeline has a 'Austro-Hungarian Congo' on the map.
It's one of the things I did take for granted, before I read up on the region, because there were so many timelines, that were like 'well it's the Berlin Conference, time to find a minor power which the French and British will entrust central Africa to so the other one didn't get it'.

But even the slightest amount of research makes it clear that Leopold got the Congo because Leopold was already in the Congo. He had men on the ground, treaties on the ground and the recognition of the USA.

The Berlin conference was Europe recognising de jure what was already true de facto.
 

Simreeve

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Maybe nobody, because apparently Leopold claiming it was what prompted the 'Scramble for Africa' and Congress of Berlin. if he'd left it alone then possibly no European power would have bothered seizing -- rather than just trading with -- anywhere in Africa much further inland than their already-existing outposts.
 

Gary Oswald

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Maybe nobody, because apparently Leopold claiming it was what prompted the 'Scramble for Africa' and Congress of Berlin. if he'd left it alone then possibly no European power would have bothered seizing -- rather than just trading with -- anywhere in Africa much further inland than their already-existing outposts.
The Berlin Congress yes. That was 1884 and happened as the European response to Leopold's claims being recognised by the USA.

And in general having a competitor on the ground spurred on everyone else. Stanley was originally hoping to be conquering for the UK, but the Brits weren't interested. But then once the belgians are there, the germans want to go in, and then the brits have to go in to stop the germans getting it etc, etc.

The problem with no Leopold, no Scramble is Leopold's activity in Africa began in 1879.

That's after the French wars of conquest in Senegal and Mali have started. That's after the British annexation of the Transvaal and the Xhosa lands. That's after the Portuguese return in force to Mozambique. That's after the Italians are in the Horn of Africa. It's after the german interest in Africa has been awakened. It's after the Uk have basically vassalized Zanzibar. It's after the arrival of Cecil Rhodes to Kimberley.

The dominos are very much already falling. Leopold sped them up, he didn't push the first one.
 

Simreeve

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The Berlin Congress yes. That was 1884 and happened as the European response to Leopold's claims being recognised by the USA.

And in general having a competitor on the ground spurred on everyone else. Stanley was originally hoping to be conquering for the UK, but the Brits weren't interested. But then once the belgians are there, the germans want to go in, and then the brits have to go in to stop the germans getting it etc, etc.

The problem with no Leopold, no Scramble is Leopold's activity in Africa began in 1879.

That's after the French wars of conquest in Senegal and Mali have started. That's after the British annexation of the Transvaal and the Xhosa lands. That's after the Portuguese return in force to Mozambique. That's after the Italians are in the Horn of Africa. It's after the german interest in Africa has been awakened. It's after the Uk have basically vassalized Zanzibar. It's after the arrival of Cecil Rhodes to Kimberley.

The dominos are very much already falling. Leopold sped them up, he didn't push the first one.
Okay, I sit corrected.
 

Gary Oswald

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Okay, I sit corrected.
I mean I'm not saying you're wrong and I'm right. Ultimately speculation on counter factuals can only ever be guesswork. My own views are no more than views, they can be justified but they can never be proved correct or, for that matter, incorrect.

I just personally think the Scramble was pretty much inevitable by the late 1870s. I don't think it had to happen as fast as it did or even be as prevalent but it was obvious to most people that it was happening just from the way Africa was being talked about in Europe, the very public exploration of the continent and the increasingly aggressive moves of Europeans in the existing ports. I can certainly see timelines where places like the Sudan and Sokoto and other interior countries survive in the way Ethiopia did, but no expansion at all is I think a difficult sell.

But it's certainly the more interesting scenario. I tend not to be that interested in "no leopold=congo divided between the european powers" scenarios cos well you're not changing much, it's just swapping one colonial master for another,

But "no Leopold = no scramble" is a really bold scenario that allows you to look into how the various African polities were changing as they got exposed to European visitors and had access to European trade and how those developments would have played out if they weren't halted by conquest.

We can argue about plausibility but it's certainly the more fun setting for a story.
 

SenatorChickpea

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If I were trying to handwave a 'no-scramble' scenario, I'd probably alter the Franco-Prussian War. The trauma of that played a big part in France's push to expand the empire, which in turn contributed to other European publics wanting more land.

I doubt it would slow down German unification so much, but at this stage even five to ten years extra time makes a lot of difference in Africa.
 

Yokai Man

Well-known member
If I were trying to handwave a 'no-scramble' scenario, I'd probably alter the Franco-Prussian War. The trauma of that played a big part in France's push to expand the empire, which in turn contributed to other European publics wanting more land.

I doubt it would slow down German unification so much, but at this stage even five to ten years extra time makes a lot of difference in Africa.
Maybe if Bismarck died in '66 like he nearly did OTL. @AndyC talked about it in one of his articles about near assassinations.
 

DaleCoz

Well-known member
I wonder how much discovering the Kimberley diamond mines and South African gold mines fueled the rush for Africa. Enormous previously unknown riches on the frontier had to hint that there might be a lot more hidden in the interior. To some extent, the powers grabbing African territory were doing the equivalent of buying lottery tickets. They didn't know if there were more diamond mines and gold mines in the territory they were grabbing, but given the military imbalance at the time, it was a relatively low-cost gamble that there would be something there to pay for grabbing the territory.
 

Abdul Hadi Pasha

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It'd be divided between Portugal, France, Germany and the UK, the same way all of the rest of Africa was.
Possibly. Zanzibari warlords were in the eastern areas of the Congo and if Leopold didn't get his Free State, they would have had more time to consolidate and expand. If Germany is unable to blackmail the British into giving them German East Africa, you might see a British-indirectly-controlled Zanzibari empire form. That's probably not possible unless something ends the British occupation of Egypt.

In any case, the Congo being available will radically change everything else. This would be Target #1 for the Scramble and I'd say France is the best positioned to take advantage, and that would likely force them to give elsewhere. I doubt anyone will let Portugal have much, but if they could act decisively and fast, they might get away with a lot. But nobody was interested in Portugal's exclusionary economic policies.
 
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