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Cartography in Colonial Africa  

Lindsay Frederick Braun

Cartography, which includes maps and plans as well as the processes and contexts of their production and use, played an important role in shaping colonial encounters in Africa. The early manuscript and print maps of the limited spaces of interaction, where Europeans expressed power prior to the 19th century, tended to be broadly representative of wide areas or focused closely on key locales, usually forts or coastal settlements. Until the late 18th century most tended to be imprecise and relational, with few clear markers of dominion or signs of administrative structures, and heavily dependent on local exchanges of knowledge. As with other European fields of scientific knowledge that intersected African spaces and places, however, cartography accelerated in importance and changed in character with the expansion of colonial rule and the emergence of modern bureaucracies from the late 19th century. Although manuscript maps never lost their importance to local administrators or their place in the collection of information, cheap lithography after about 1850 assured colonial governments a greater number of precise and elaborate representations than ever before, which created a variety of notional spaces and spatial notions for the deployment of colonial power. Into the 20th century, compilation mapping from variegated data continued to yield slowly—and incompletely—to even more precise survey-based maps that claimed to approach truly objective representational accuracy. This claim of accuracy in turn abetted a variety of new economic, social, and political schemes under colonial auspices. Overall, the relationship between cartography and colonialism was cyclical in that mapped processes framed colonial visions of African territory and spatiality and translated these illusions into instruments of power to advance those colonial designs on people, land, and resources. A lack of consideration for spatialities beyond the idealized model of planimetric positional representation or, thematically, colonial priorities and schemas of organization may be the most consistent characteristic of mapping in colonial Africa. At the same time, this cartography continued to depend on the knowledge of African informants or assistants and, ultimately, the work of locally trained professionals through political independence, which created spaces for interpretation, opposition, and coproduction that shaped the map output. The colonial relationship and colonial priorities thus framed cartography in African spaces throughout the era, although the discursive nature of mapping and its processual nature meant influences traveled in more than one direction, and the map was not simply a direct imposition.

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Western Education and the Rise of a New African Elite in West Africa  

Apollos Okwuchi Nwauwa

With the arrival of Europeans in West Africa in the 15th century, which preceded formal conquest and pacification, missionaries took the lead in introducing Western education as an indispensable tool for effective evangelism. Subsequently, the various European colonial governments appropriated education as a means of consolidating colonial rule in West Africa. By the middle of the 19th century, Western education began to produce a new, educated elite, at the core of which were “liberated slaves” in Sierra Leone. Western education produced its own contradictions. On the one hand, it produced educated hybrids who were alienated from their own peoples and cultures and who collaborated with Europeans to entrench colonialism in West Africa. On the other hand, the new elite, educated both in Africa and overseas, subsequently morphed into the new nationalists who became valuable agents for the liquidation of European imperialism in Africa. The emergent institutions of higher learning and the three new universities in West African founded in the aftermath of World War II became hotbeds of intellectual discourse just as the debate over the need for adaptation and Africanization resurfaced. Following the end of colonial rule, the “new elite,” now expanding in number, continued to provide contentious, neocolonial leadership and direction for development in postcolonial West Africa. Thus, despite its undesirable effect on European colonialism, Western education played into the hands of the educated elite who appropriated and deployed its latent, potent force in order to dislodge Europeans from Africa.