Map of Africa, Southern Europe and the Middle East, 1803.
In 1800, Egypt was under Napoleonic occupation and other parts of the Northern Africa were controlled by the Ottoman Empire. The rest of the continent was comprised of local kingdoms such as Buganda, Rwanda, and Burundi in South East Africa and included the Sokoto, the Oyo, and Benin in West Africa. Africa’s coastal areas were well mapped due to the European trade stations and frequent voyages along the coast. However, this was not the case for the continent’s inland; large areas remained unexplored due to difficult accessibility, the disapproval of the local population, and numerous tropical diseases. The major progress in European explorations of Africa in the mid-19th century was partly a consequence of the recent discoveries in medicine (quinine) and the weapon industry. The explorations proved that Africa’s interior was rich in raw materials and a real scramble to grab as large a slice of the continent as possible was started by European competitors. This period in the continent’s history is often referred to as the Scramble of Africa.
“Travels into the interior of Africa” by the British explorer Mungo Park narrates an early attempt to map the continent’s inland.