The Berlin West Africa Conference
DOI link for The Berlin West Africa Conference
The Berlin West Africa Conference book
In May 1884, the Portuguese, faced with the imminent frustration of the Anglo-Portuguese Treaty, conceived the notion that a conference might be held as a means of securing international support for their claims in the Congo region. The British were unenthusiastic, particularly over the reference to the Niger, and asked for clarifications about the purpose of the Conference. The Belgian delegation to the Conference was instructed to adopt an low key stance and to take no initiatives, but behind the scenes, Beernaert ensured that it promoted Leopold's interests. Apart from establishing the principle of free trade, the Conference of Berlin was, in fact, of less practical significance than has been generally supposed. Contrary to popular belief, it did not initiate the 'partition of Africa', since Leopold's various bilateral agreements were extraneous to its proceedings. In the words of the British delegate to the Conference, 'international duties on the African coast remained much as they had hitherto been understood to be'.