African History 5.10: African Colonies in the First World War

By the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, almost every inch of Africa was colonized. There were a few inches that weren't, but those had already been pegged as spots for future Starbucks.

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World HistoryAfrican History

Transcript

00:27

be a surprise that parts of it got dragged into the whole boondoggle.

00:31

“Boondoggle” being the polite way of describing the horrible violence of World War I. [Explosions going off on a map of the world]

00:36

In this epic age of imperialism and power-grabbing, European empires weren't exactly BFFs.

00:42

So one huge cause of World War I was growing tension between them. [German and France falling out]

00:47

European empires were basically like Ninja Turtles yelling at each other over the last

00:50

few scraps of African pizza. [Ninja turtles waving their arms in the air]

00:53

Tensions were high not only between Allied and Central Power countries, but also within

00:57

the alliances.

00:58

In fact, a world war almost kicked off a decade earlier in 1905 when the British and French

01:04

started going at it over part of the Sudan.

01:06

But…fortunately the world dodged that one. [Britain and France playing dodge ball with the world in the middle]

01:09

When European nations ran out of places to snatch up, they increasingly eyed each other’s [Guy drawing on a map with a highlighter]

01:14

empires.

01:15

As any Sith Lord will tell you, there’s not much else for a power-hungry empire to [Starwars characters shooting at a each other]

01:19

do…

01:20

Germany only had a few poor colonies that were getting poorer…what with all that genocide. [People looking unhappy next to landfill]

01:25

To rev up their colonial game, the German government started building up a navy to rival [A german ship]

01:29

Britain's.

01:30

Britain was all like…don't you be threatening our overseas colonies, man…and tried to

01:36

build up an even bigger navy. [British ship appears]

01:38

Of course, France had to keep up with the Joneses, so they started militarizing their [French tank appears]

01:42

colonies, too.

01:43

Then, in the midst of this trigger-happy environment, a Serbian resistance fighter in Sarajevo assassinated

01:50

Franz Ferdinand, Arch Duke of the massive Austro-Hungarian empire. [Franz Ferdinand is shot]

01:54

This gave everybody the excuse they needed to try out all those nifty navies and armies

01:59

they’d been building.

02:01

The result?

02:02

A great big war for Europe and with it, most of Africa. [German and British tanks shooting at each other]

02:06

Of all the tragic losses of life in World War I, the fighting in Africa was among the [Africa with an unhappy face]

02:10

most tragic.

02:12

And that’s saying a lot.

02:13

The majority of African soldiers were conscripted, meaning that they were forced to either join

02:18

the army or be arrested by the colonial governments.

02:21

The choice was fight and probably die, or go to prison and probably die. [Man is prison uniform picks up a gun]

02:26

And plenty of Africans chose to fight.

02:28

To add insult to injury, many Africans dragged into this situation were old enough to remember [Guy sat thinking]

02:33

being independent of European empires. [He has memories of happier times]

02:36

But now they were being made to fight other Africans to serve their brutal overlords. [The man is whipped and dragged away]

02:40

How sad is that.

02:44

Here’s hoping that one day history looks a little less like the Star Wars movies where [Starwars clone soldiers marching]

02:47

the Empire wins…