Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Imperial German Colonial Aspirations, 1902

The worldwide German colonial presence in 1914 was to be wiped out – and essentially forgotten – in the years following the Great War. Large and wide-spread territories were involved, not just in Africa (What are now Namibia and Tanzania, but also Togo and Cameroon). More bizarrely “German New Guinea” included  “Kaiser Wilhelmland” (Northern New Guinea), New Pomerania (now New Britain), the Bismarck Archipelago, and the Solomon, Caroline, Marshall and Mariana island groups of the Western Pacific. German y also tried unsuccessfully, to buy the Philippines from Spain in 1898, before the US could establish a presence there. Germany also had a naval base, Tsingtao, on the Chinese coast. Settlement in these colonies by Germans was sparse – there may have been more Germans living in France in 1914 than in all the colonies put together.

I posted a blog- item on life on Imperial German Navy shipboard life on June 20th, following my discovery of a German 1902 book entitled "Germany's Honour on the World's Oceans" (Deutschlands Ehr im Weltenmeer) by a Vice-Admiral von Werner. It contained fascinating illustrations (some reproduced in my blog) as well as text that reflected official support for a shift in cultural mind-set in the German public in favour of a strong navy and a greater colonial presence. Prior to this time the German Empire, building on traditions of the Prussian military, and its crushing defeat of France in 1870, had been primarily a land power with only a limited naval tradition and no overseas colonies. My earlier blog focussed on the naval side but the illustrations below – including advertisements at the back of the book for other publications – give some flavour of the importance being attached to increased German colonial development. 
Formal occupation of Angra Pequena, August 1884
Later renamed Luederitzbuchte, this settlement - and later port - was the toe-hold from which German West Africa (today Namibia) grew.

Statement of possession at Luederitzbucht, topped by Imperial German flag

A German naval brigade in action against African tribesmen
A rather satisfied-looking German officer in tropical campaigning uniform

Advertisement for children's publication "The Book of Our Colonies"

Illustration from the above book - derring-do in thc Pacific Islands
Another children's book: sub-titled "The Treasure of New Guinea"
And one in the eye for the Brits! Heroic Boers resisting British Imperialism in South Africa


  1. I had occasion to visit Tanzania last year and went to the Askari memorial for the German Colonial Troops

  2. Interesting Paul! I was also in Dar es Salaam for a conference last year and stayed in a hotel adjacent to the Askari monument! We might have run into each other had we been there at the same time. I was subsequently staying in a village about 120 miles to the west - great experience and great people! (Having spent a quarter of my adult life in Sub-Saharan Africa it's always a delight to return - this was my first time in Tanzania however).