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Telecommunications and colonial rivalry : European telegraph cables to the Canary Islands and Northwest Africa, 1883-1914

Telekommunikation und kolonialer Wettstreit : europäische Telegraphenkabel zu den Kanarischen Inseln and nach Nordwestafrika, 1883-1914
[journal article]

Márquez Quevedo, Javier

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Abstract 'The first submarine telegraphic cable which linked the Canary Islands with the Spanish mainland was inaugurated in 1883. After only one year, the cable reached Senegal, and a decade later, the islands were already connected to Brazil. At a first stage the network was exploited by prestigious English and French companies which had been in charge of its construction and its technological aspects. Beyond the local socioeconomic significance this first telegraph cable had for the local society, the Canary Islands, given their geostrategical situation, became a stage for the rivalry between the European countries as regards the colonization of Africa. Part of the communications with Northwest Africa, and with South America, had a necessary intermediate landing site on the islands. Issues regarding the ownership of the network, the control of its functioning or the possibility of its interruption were vital for the imperialist projects of Western powers in their open competition with each other. Telegraph cables are a good example of the degree of intervention to which this geographical area was subjected by industrial capitalist countries. This article analyses the way in which this telecommunications system influenced the geopolitical situation of the Canary Islands and their African hinterland. Also, it deals with the hidden fights between the European powers in their quest to hold control of this system, as well as the resulting pressure the Spanish government experienced in the pre-First World War years.' (author's abstract)
Keywords North Africa; developing country; Africa; historical development; geopolitics; France; German Reich; Great Britain; control; European; political intervention; colonialism; telecommunication; telegraphy
Classification General History
Method historical
Document language English
Publication Year 2010
Page/Pages p. 108-124
Journal Historical Social Research, 35 (2010) 1
ISSN 0172-6404
Status Published Version; peer reviewed
Licence Creative Commons - Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works