Sweden at the Berlin Conference

The image of Sweden is one of a small, democratic, and peace-loving country without the moral burden of a colonial past. However, in NAIs latest Current African Issue this is brought into question.

‘Sweden-Norway at the Berlin Conference 1884-85’ by David Nilsson of the Royal Institute of Technology examines Sweden’s role when the rules for colonization in Africa were agreed upon.

“The big powers in Europe were keen to have Sweden and other small countries onboard. This gave legitimacy to the conference as such, the more nations the more credibility”, says David Nilsson.

At the time, Sweden-Norway had the world’s second largest merchant fleet. The colonial project could mean great economic profit also for Swedish and Norwegian traders, in transporting goods to and fro the African colonies.

“But in fact, Swedish involvement went beyond the shipping of goods. Sweden signed a trade agreement with King Leopold’s International Congo Association and thereafter hundreds of Swedish militaries, seamen and missionaries took an active part in the brutal colonial project in Congo”, says David Nilsson and continues.

“Although Sweden never acquired colonies during the “Scramble for Africa”, Swedes were still part of the colonial system. I think it is time we had a more nuanced understanding of our historic relationship with Africa.”

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