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Monday, 12 October 2009 01:40

Lesson 2: Berlin Conference Simulation

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(from Scramble for Africa: 1884 Berlin Conference Simulation by Deana M. Jaeschke Central Middle School, White Bear Lake, MN)


  1. Students will understand that political boundaries are human constructions by groups or individuals in political, economic, military power
  2. Students will understand that the current political map of Africa is largely a construction of European Imperialism of that late 19th and early 20th centuries
  3. Students will apply their knowledge of African climates, ecosystems, and resources.

Prerequisite Knowledge:
  • Reading and interpreting historical and political maps
  • Lecture and notes on the rise of European Imperialism

Teaching Suggestions:

  • It is teacher discretion as to when to lecture on the background information. It can be done before or after the simulation. Or, the background information can be split into two parts, one part leading up to the Berlin Conference and the second following the simulation and reporting the results of the conference.
  • Students could research the Berlin Conference and their country’s role prior to the simulation
  • The actual conference lasted from November 15, 1884 to February 26, 1885, was led by German Chancellor Otto Von Bismark. This role can be assumed by the teacher, a student or not at all.

Procedure: (This lesson can take from 2 – 3 class periods)
Berlin Conference 1884-1885 Simulation-
Teacher notes italicized


1. Students are divided into 8 country “ambassadors” and receive a role card for their country (Student Handout 6.2.1) Role cards give a historical perspective and outlines where the country had colonial outposts and where they wanted to extend control.

2. Students are given an outline map of Africa (see weblinks below)

3. Students use the internet and text books to access physical, climate, ecosystem, and resource maps to determine area desired.

4. Ambassadors utilize role card, background information on the conference, and the maps to determine which parts of Africa they would like to control and locate them on the map. Use historical information to create more in depth and historically accurate role cards.

Step 2:

  1. Dividing Time: Ambassadors caucus to determine which country gets which pieces of land. This phase can be 15 minutes to multiple class periods depending how historically accurate and structured the teacher would like the simulation.
  2. Teacher uses map outline transparency to hear periodic reports from Ambassadors
    If there is conflict among the countries in regard to territory, that's good!
It means potential war. If there is no peaceful solution to these territorial conflicts, then like nations throughout all of history, solve the disputes by strength of arms in the ancient game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. To ensure fairness, all wars must be monitored by the teacher and are best 2 throws out of 3. Loser removes their claim and cannot stake another claim elsewhere. (I tell them that those soldiers are dead, so they can't go conquer some other territory with their ghosts.)
  3. Simulation is complete when the African continent is successfully politically divided.

Step 3: Closure/ Discussion Questions/ Reflection/Assessment Activities:

Can be done in any order

  1. Students compare the simulated and actual political map created by conference Textbooks commonly print the 1914 political map and is more readily available
  2. Students discuss or record differences and predict the reasons for the actual political boundaries (i.e. the most powerful countries already controlling coastal areas of Africa were France, Great Britain, Germany, and Portugal)
  3. Why did the United States get involved with the conference but not receive or take any land?
  4. Who was not represented at the conference? Why?
  5. What challenges did this process create for the indigenous people of Africa?
    Questions 4 & 5 are perhaps the most important discussion questions as they lead to a discussion of why the indigenous peoples and representatives of the kingdoms were excluded from the process and the effects of this process. These questions can be processed in many ways and for a great deal of time.
  6. Read (or finish reading) background information regarding how the European nations extended their rule and controlled the colonies.
  7. Compare and contrast the historical and current political map of Africa
  8. Student Written Reflection: what did you learn from the simulation?

Web Links for Teachers and Students:

Berlin Conference & Berlin Act of 1885:
African political (current and historical) physical, climate, ecosystem, and resource maps
Historical Maps:


Deana M. Jaeschke
World Geography Teacher
Central Middle School
White Bear Lake, MN
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Last modified on Tuesday, 13 October 2009 06:22

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