The Colonizability of Africa

by zunguzungu

At Subabat’s tumblr, we find this 1899 map by cartographer John George Bartholomew:

With the explanatory note helpfully transcribed by Hi-C:

The pink: Healthy colonizable Africa, where European races may be expected to become in time the prevailing type, where essentially European states may be formed.

The yellow: Fairly healthy Africa: but where unfavourable conditions of soil or water supply, or the prior establishment of warlike or enlightened native races or other causes, may effectually prevent European colonization.

The gray: Unhealthy but exploitable Africa: impossible for European colonizaiton but for the most part of the great commercial value and inhabited by fairly docile, governable races; the Africa of the trader and planter and of despotic European control

The brown: Extremely unhealthy Africa

Sort of speaks for itself really. But to give the thing some context, it occurs in Harry Johnston’s A History of the Colonization of Africa by Alien Races, which has all the kinds of staggering 1899 racisms that you’d expect it to (this, for example, is Harry Johnston’s stern “Word of Warning to the Negro” on their post-emancipation duties). That said, the thing I noticed this time that I never had before was the fact that the Arabian peninsula was considered part of Africa (see how it’s also shaded yellow?). Which makes as much sense as saying it isn’t, I suppose, and it was certainly just as much a heart of darkness to Europe in 1899 as the continent itself was. But still, so thoroughly have I incorporated the myth of continents that I take for granted Egypt’s “Africanness” as much as I take for granted the Arabian peninsula’s non-Africanness.

But I really take note of this just to pull from my own archives my favorite bit of Harry Johnston weirdness. In his later book, The Rise of the Native, he observes that “the world of the twenty-first century be divided into two camps: a cream-coloured Mediterranean type of white man, and a brown-skinned negroid.” But that’s just the set-up. The next bit is where it gets real: after speculating that “these two types— perhaps then of equal political standing—” will probably not mix genetically any further, he decides that it won’t matter because we’ll all be wearing our robot suits:

“The godlike heads of our descendants may be shaved all over or electrically depilated; and with hair completely out of fashion we may have ceased to care about its colour or its undulations. Eyes may be screened with lenses for the telescopic or microscopic development of sight; body and limbs be so perpetually protected from heat and cold, germs and bruises, by some closely-fitting, antiseptic garment that only the beauty of its shape be visible and nothing of its skin-colour. In 2100 A.D. there may be no physical or mental reason why negroid and Caucasian should not become one flesh.”