German Colonial Rule
- LAST REVIEWED: 06 May 2016
- LAST MODIFIED: 25 October 2012
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846733-0020
- LAST REVIEWED: 06 May 2016
- LAST MODIFIED: 25 October 2012
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846733-0020
With the exception of Brandenburg-Prussia’s short-lived attempt to gain a foothold on the West African coast and to participate in the 17th-century transatlantic slave trade, German colonialism began only in the 1880s. As a latecomer in the struggle for colonies, Germany had to settle for four territories, called “protectorates,” in Africa: Togo and Cameroon in the west, German Southwest Africa (today’s Namibia), and German East Africa (today’s Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi) in the east. In addition, Germany obtained territories in the Pacific, such as German New Guinea and Samoa, as well as some smaller islands, and with the status of a concession territory, Kiautschou (Jiaozhou) in China. From the beginning, African men and women resisted the wrongful annexation of their territories, which led to several violent colonial wars. The Herero-Nama war of 1904 in German Southwest Africa and the Maji-Maji war in German East Africa were the most devastating ones for the local population. The German-Herero war led to the first genocide of the 20th century. Most of Germany’s African and Pacific colonies were occupied by other European colonial powers in the early stages of World War I. Only in German East Africa did General Lettow-Vorbeck and a small number of African mercenaries persevere until the end of the war. The German colonial empire ended after its defeat in the war and the Treaty of Versailles on 10 January 1920. Following the official end of German colonialism, a revanchist movement in the Weimar Republic and Nazi Germany began to try and claim the former territories, and colonial literature, films, and science blossomed. Only when the Nazis’ Russian campaign of World War II began taking its heavy toll did colonial ambitions finally end. Recent literature speaks of “imaginary colonies” in the context of revisionism of the post-Versailles years.
There are a number of excellent overviews that focus on different aspects of German colonialism. Speitkamp 2005 is a condensed, easily readable general introduction, whereas Conrad 2012 is based on an up-to-date transnational history approach. Stoecker 1987 represents the former GDR school of studying German imperialism. Forster, et al. 1988 concentrates on the early years of colonial partition, and van Laak 2005 is a short general study of two hundred years of German imperialism. Gann and Duignan 1977 deals with the German personnel in Germany’s African colonies. Steinmetz 2007 presents a comparative study of three German colonies, and Ames, et al. 2005 offers a collection of essays on all aspects of German colonialism.
Ames, Eric, Marcia Klotz, and Lora Wildenthal, eds. Germany’s Colonial Pasts. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2005.
Offers a wide range of studies on German colonialism and its legacies. Some essays focus on the period of Germany’s formal colonial empire in Africa and the Pacific, while others examine Germany’s postcolonial era, which includes the Weimar Republic and Nazi Germany and its colonial revanchism. The interdisciplinary volume includes essays in the fields of musicology, religious studies, film, and tourism studies as well as literary analysis and history.
Conrad, Sebastian. German Colonialism: A Short History. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2012.
Offers an up-to-date synthesis of Germany’s colonial ventures in Africa, Asia, and the Pacific and places them in a cultural and transnational frame. It includes excellent illustrations and maps as well as an annotated critical bibliography.
Forster, Stig, Wolfgang Mommsen, and Ronald Robinson, eds. Bismarck, Europe and Africa: The Berlin Africa Conference 1884–1885 and the Onset of Partition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988.
A comprehensive account of the Berlin Africa Conference of 1884 and 1885 and a study of the motives behind the partitioning of Africa. It includes essays on the different negotiators, economic interests, as well as missionary aspirations.
Gann, L., and Peter Duignan. The Rulers of German Africa, 1884–1914. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1977.
Although a little outdated in its approach, this study is still worthwhile reading. It focuses on Germany’s military and administrative personnel in Africa and examines their performance, educational and class background, ideology, continuing ties with the homeland, and subsequent careers.
Speitkamp, Winfried. Deutsche Kolonialgeschichte. Stuttgart: Reclam, 2005.
A short overview of German colonial history that is useful for students and a general readership.
Steinmetz, George. The Devils’ Handwriting: Precoloniality and the German Colonial State in Qingdao, Samoa, and Southwest Africa. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007.
Offers a rare comparative study of three German colonies and argues for the heterogeneity of German colonial practice and policy. The author seeks to explain these differences in Germany’s precolonial ethnographic discourse and in imperial Germany’s three-way intra-elite class struggle.
Stoecker, Helmut, ed. German Imperialism in Africa: From the Beginnings Until the Second World War. London: Hurst, 1987.
Representative of East German scholarship on African history in general, especially colonial history.
van Laak, Dirk. Über alles in der Welt: Deutscher Imperialismus im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert. Munich: Beck, 2005.
A short study of the origin and impact of German imperialism in the 19th and 20th centuries, which the author regards as part of the globalization process.
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.
- Achebe, Chinua
- Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi
- Africa in the Cold War
- African Socialism
- Africans in the Atlantic World
- Aid and Economic Development
- Arab Spring
- Arabic Language and Literature
- Archaeology and the Study of Africa
- Archaeology of Central Africa
- Archaeology of Eastern Africa
- Archaeology of Southern Africa
- Archaeology of West Africa
- Art, Art History, and the Study of Africa
- Arts of Central Africa
- Arts of Western Africa
- Asante and the Akan and Mossi States
- Bantu Expansion
- Benin (Dahomey)
- Boer War
- Botswana (Bechuanaland)
- Brink, André
- British Colonial Rule in Sub-Saharan Africa
- Burkina Faso (Upper Volta)
- Cape Verde
- Central African Republic
- Children and Childhood
- China in Africa
- Christianity, African
- Cinema and Television
- Coetzee, J.M.
- Colonial Rule, Belgian
- Colonial Rule, French
- Colonial Rule, German
- Colonial Rule, Italian
- Colonial Rule, Portuguese
- Communism, Marxist-Leninism, and Socialism in Africa
- Comoro Islands
- Conflict Management and Resolution
- Congo, Republic of (Congo Brazzaville)
- Congo River Basin States
- Congo Wars
- Conservation and Wildlife
- Crime and the Law in Colonial Africa
- Democratic Republic of Congo (Zaire)
- Development of Early Farming and Pastoralism
- Diaspora, Kongo Atlantic
- Disease and African Society
- Early States And State Formation In Africa
- Early States of the Western Sudan
- Economic Anthropology
- Economic History
- Economy, Informal
- Education and the Study of Africa
- Egypt, Ancient
- Environmental History
- Equatorial Guinea
- Ethnicity and Politics
- Europe and Africa, Medieval
- Family Planning
- Farah, Nuruddin
- Food and Food Production
- Fugard, Athol
- Genocide in Rwanda
- Geography and the Study of Africa
- Gikuyu (Kikuyu) People of Kenya
- Gordimer, Nadine
- Great Lakes States of Eastern Africa, The
- Hausa Language and Literature
- Health, Medicine, and the Study of Africa
- Historiography and Methods of African History
- History and the Study of Africa
- Horn of Africa and South Asia
- Ijo/Niger Delta
- Image of Africa, The
- Indian Ocean and Middle Eastern Slave Trades
- Indian Ocean Trade
- Invention of Tradition
- Iron Working and the Iron Age in Africa
- Islam in Africa
- Islamic Politics
- Kongo and the Coastal States of West Central Africa
- Language and the Study of Africa
- Law and the Study of Sub-Saharan Africa
- Law, Islamic
- LGBTI Minorities and Queer Politics in Eastern and Souther...
- Literature and the Study of Africa
- Lord's Resistance Army
- Maasai and Maa-Speaking Peoples of East Africa, The
- Mau Mau
- Media and Journalism
- Military History
- Modern African Literature in European Languages
- Music, Dance, and the Study of Africa
- Music, Traditional
- Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o
- North Africa from 600 to 1800
- North Africa to 600
- Northeastern African States, c. 1000 BCE-1800 CE
- Obama and Kenya
- Oman, the Gulf, and East Africa
- Oral and Written Traditions, African
- Police and Policing
- Political Science and the Study of Africa
- Political Systems, Precolonial
- Popular Culture and the Study of Africa
- Popular Music
- Population and Demography
- Postcolonial Sub-Saharan African Politics
- Religion and Politics in Contemporary Africa
- Sexualities in Africa
- Seychelles, The
- Siwa Oasis
- Slave Trade, Atlantic
- Slavery in Africa
- São Tomé and Príncipe
- Social and Cultural Anthropology and the Study of Africa
- South Africa Post c. 1850
- Southern Africa to c. 1850
- Soyinka, Wole
- Spanish Colonial Rule
- States of the Zimbabwe Plateau and Zambezi Valley
- Sudan and South Sudan
- Swahili City-States of the East African Coast
- Swahili Language and Literature
- Tanzania (Tanganyika and Zanzibar)
- Traditional Religion, African
- Trans-Saharan Trade
- Urbanism and Urbanization
- Wars and Warlords
- Western Sahara
- Women and African History
- Women and Colonialism
- Women and Politics
- Women and Slavery
- Women, Gender and the Study of Africa
- Women in 19th-Century West Africa
- Yoruba Diaspora
- Yoruba Language and Literature
- Yoruba States, Benin, and Dahomey