German Imperialism

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The Scramble for Africa in the late 19th and early 20th centuries encouraged many different nations to become involved in colonialism. In this time period, competing European powers carved up the continent of Africa between themselves, due to a variety of political and economic motives. Generally, these powers benefited from these land acquisitions. However, Germany’s neo-imperialist experience was unlike that of the other powers. Within the colony of Namibia, located in South West Africa, the real advantages that Germany received were far outweighed by the disadvantages the German empire faced. Although Germany received elevated political status from occupying colonies, the economic and military efforts that were invested in maintaining and obtaining its colony of Namibia could not justify this elevated political position. Through the means of imperialism, Germany hoped that it would consolidate its position as an international power. This would be done by strengthening the German economy, spreading German influence, and gaining political status. Firstly, between 1875 and 1914, holding a large colonial empire was a symbol of national prestige. At the time, acquiring colonies was a symbol of status, and the greatness of a colony was measured in colonial possession (Cowie 1986, p48). For Germany, as an emerging power, colonial acquisition was therefore seen to be of paramount importance. If Germany wanted to be compared to the other major powers such as Britain and France, she would have to control an impressive colonial empire. During this time period, the “Kaiser Wilhelm I and his government demanded that Germany be given equal status with France and the United Kingdom, including in colonial possessions,” (Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopaedia, 2005). The Kaiser clearly outlines that Germany desired an elevated political status. But in order for Germany to be recognised as an influential state, it must first have an impressive portfolio of colonies. Hence, Germany desired to accomplish an increase in national prestige through the possession of colonies. Secondly, Germany was persuaded into colonialism by the possibility of an increase in her international power and influence. As Schuller states: “Many of Germany’s ideas on imperialism were inspired by France and Britain ... It seemed logical to seem that colonies were a good idea, because these two powers had them. A simple thought resulted; if Germany had colonies, it too would be as dominant as France and Britain ... Colonisation would prove Germany to be a force to be reckoned with.” (Schuller, 2006)

As Germany was trying to emulate France and Britain’s success, it seemed valid to think that the same process of colonial expansion could be applied to Germany’s case. Following the examples of Britain and France, all Germany had to do was acquire a large colonial empire, and she would have the same amount of power and influence that the other powers enjoyed. The lure of being able to rival magnificent powers such as Britain and France proved to be too much for Germany to resist. The possibility of international greatness was one of the contributing factors that convinced Germany to become imperialist. Thirdly, Germany was enticed into imperialism by the possibility of economic gains in Africa. During the time period, many other countries were exploiting Africa’s natural resources for a healthy profit. A German political analyst of the time Freidrich Fabri states “Colonies will have a salutary effect on our economic situation, as well as our entire national progress” (Fabri 1987). Although this statement may have been flase, Fabri, along with many other authors thought that colonising areas of Africa would not only establish Germany as a political power, but also return great profits for Germany. This belief was all that was needed to convince the German government to colonise. This opinion can also be seen in the German public, as one source...
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