German Southwest Africa

German Southwest Africa
   The largest of the German colonial possessions in Africa, approximately three times the size of Germany itself. The initial German acquisition of the territory was almost solely the result of the efforts of Frans Lüderitz and Heinrich Vogelsang who together purchased land from the local Khoikhoi people in 1883. In 1884, Berlin announced that Lüderitzland was to become a German protectorate, and, after some diplomatic difficulties with London, the claim was recognized by Britain. Berlin then promptly annexed adjacent territory until the western coast of Africa north of the British Cape Colony and south of Portuguese Angola was a German protectorate. This policy represented a reversal for the German government under the leadership of Otto von Bismarck, who had hitherto been skeptical of the benefit of overseas possessions to the Second Reich. It marked Germany’s belated participation in the intensified competition among European powers for African territory. Although it was not financially solvent until 1912, German Southwest Africa was the object of such vigorous promotion by the Kolonialverein, especially for cattle breeding, that a significant immigration of European farmers resulted. Territorial pressure on the indigenous Herero - a semi-nomadic, cattle-herding people of the interior threatened by the enclosure of grazing land on which they assumed usufruct rights - exploded into violent revolt when disease then diminished the Herero herds. A number of colonists were murdered, but the German reaction quickly transformed the Herero Revolt of 1904–1907 into one of the most brutal of the colonial wars prosecuted by Europeans in Africa. In Germany the revolt occasioned the “Hottentot Elections” of 1907 in which pro-colonial parties inflicted a defeat on the anti-colonial Social Democrats.
   See also <>; <>; <>.
    Hull, Isabel V. Absolute Destruction: Military Culture and the Practices of War in Imperial Germany. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2005;
    Pakenham, Thomas. The Scramble for Africa. New York: Random House, 1991.

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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