Studies in German Colonial History


The study of Germany as a Colonial Power can be undertaken from a number of different points of view. The acquisition of overseas possessions by the Reich was an important aspect of Bismarck's work and no examination of his policy would be complete without considering his achievements in the field of colonial expansion. The establishment of German authority in the interior of the overseas territories, the setting up of organs of administration, the 'colonial scandals', and the 'new era' of colonial policy in which Dr. Dernburg played a leading role are a significant aspect of German history in the reign of Wilhelm II. The desire of the Pan-Germans to expand their overseas empire at the expense of other countries (such as Portugal) and the economic penetration of the Ottoman Empire (the Berlin-Baghdad railway project) contributed to bringing about that distrust of Germany which was a factor in causing the arms race in the early twentieth century. The campaigns which led to the conquest of the German colonies were no mere 'sideshows' for they contributed to the defeat of the Reich in the first World War.

Examined from these points of view the rise and fall of the German colonial empire may be regarded as one aspect of the foreign and imperial policies of Bismarck's Reich. The overseas possessions were also significant in Germany's domestic affairs. On the one hand the colonies were a unifying factor in the new Reich since they were --like Alsace and Lorraine--truly 'national' territories which were a part of the Empire and did not belong to any one of the Federal States into which Germany was divided. On the other hand the colonies were a cause of internal strife in Germany. The political parties were sharply divided on questions concerning colonial policy and the future of the overseas possessions was a vital issue in the hotly contested Reichstag general election of 1907.

Again, it is possible to view the German colonial empire from an African or from a Pacific angle rather than from a European point of view. An examination of such aspects of Germany's work in her colonies as exploration, missionary activities, land policy, plantations, railways, and native welfare shows the profound effect of the German impact upon Africa, Shantung and the Pacific islands.

No European country has held overseas possessions for so short a period as Germany. The colonial empire began in 1884 when Bismarck placed under imperial protections the establishments set up by Lüderitz at Angra Pequeña. It ended in 1919 when the Treaty . . .

Additional information

Publisher: Place of publication:
  • Chicago
Publication year:
  • 1962


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