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States and Power in AfricaComparative Lessons in Authority and Control$
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Jeffrey Herbst

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780691164137

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691164137.001.0001

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The Europeans and the African Problem

The Europeans and the African Problem

(p.58) Three The Europeans and the African Problem
States and Power in Africa

Jeffrey Herbst

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines the persistence of what the Afro-Caribbean diplomat Edward W. Blyden called “the African Problem”—the inability of Europe to conquer Africa in the same manner as other regions—throughout the brief (by historical standards) period of formal European rule. European colonialism wrought changes in Africa that were so fundamental as to mark a new era in African politics, such as creating the immediate predecessors to today’s states. The chapter explores the broadcasting of European power in colonial Africa by focusing on the cost structure facing white leaders attempting to broadcast power, the nature of the boundaries established by the Europeans, and the state system that was created by the particular needs of state-builders and which, in turn, greatly affected the consolidation of power. The chapter shows that Europeans provided a set of answers to the African problem that allowed them to avoid the costs inherent to hegemony.

Keywords:   power, African Problem, Europe, colonial Africa, European colonialism, states, boundaries, hegemony

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