Part III – History of German Colonization in Africa German East Africa Colony
The acquisition of a German colony in East Africa in 1885 is primarily associated with the name of Carl Peters. Peters, a pastor’s son from Lower Saxony with a doctorate in history, was one of the most enigmatic figures in German colonial policy. In his person, the characteristic motives that drove the colonial movement and made it grow so strongly in the mid-1880s that it seemed advisable even to the colonial skeptic Bismarck to go along with this course: the urge of the younger generation to overcome the borders that had been drawn for the German Empire in Europe, the ‘desire to provide the Empire with the retribution to which it was supposedly entitled, also and not the least economic interests and personal advancement. German East Africa Colony
In Peters’ and some other colonial enthusiasts’ case, racist undertones could not be ignored: He was, Peters declared in retrospect, “fed up” with being “counted among the pariahs” as a German and wished “to belong to a master race. This thinking also shaped Peters’ extremely violent and cruel practice of rule in German East Africa.
As a colonial power, the German Empire, founded in 1871, was a late starter. It was only in the course of the “colonization fever” triggered by the formal seizure of Egypt by Great Britain in 1882 that the Germans also joined the race for the last remaining colonial territories, especially in Africa. The pioneers of German colonial activities were mostly Hanseatic merchants who had often been active in various regions for decades, and some were also missionaries and explorers. All of them now pressed for a stronger commitment of the German Empire to support and protect their ventures and acquisitions, by the state for official protection of the contracts they had concluded with native tribal princes.
Only recently, Chancellor Bismarck, who had long rejected colonial acquisitions because he did not expect any real political or economic return from them, changed his mind under the pressure of the general colonial euphoria and the organized colonial movement. Within a year, the German Empire acquired colonial claims in Southwest Africa, Togo, Cameroon, East Africa (Zanzibar and Tanganyika), and some territories in the South Sea. In often complicated negotiations and disputes with the competing powers, their recognition was achieved. Their recognition was achieved.
The German East African Society
In East Africa, too, two large Hamburg trading companies had been involved for a long time on the island of Zanzibar. The decisive initiative for creating a large German “protectorate” on the opposite mainland did not come from these merchants but the colonial movement. It was put into action by hot-headed adventurers. At the end of 1884, the 28-year-old Carl Peters, together with two comrades-in-arms, succeeded within a few weeks in “acquiring” 140,000 km2 of land, one-seventh of the later colony, from native chiefs in the hinterland of Dar es Salaam. On February 27, 1885, the acquisitions were secured by an imperial letter of protection. With this letter, the “Deutsch-Ostafrikanische Gesellschaft” (DOAG), founded under the leadership of Peters, received the (DOAG), the status of a chartered company which was to exercise sovereign rights in the area in question and to carry out its economic development of the area.
Riots and unrest
However, the first economic advance of the DOAG already led to massive reactions of the local population. They culminated in 1888/89 in a real uprising of the coastal inhabitants, in which, above all, the Arab traders, in particular, violently resisted the new German competition. The empire, therefore, felt compelled to send an expeditionary force commanded by Reichskommissar Hermann von Wissmann to put down the uprising, ostensibly to combat the slave trade. Administratively, as in the other overseas possessions, this was accompanied by the gradual transition from the letters of the protection system to direct imperial colonial administration: on February 14, 1891, the first civil governor of German East Africa was appointed.
But even after that, the landscapes around Kilimanjaro did not come to rest. Again and again, the increasingly practiced forced recruitment of laborers, the ruthless levying of head and hut taxes by non-local collectors, or the massive direct and indirect interventions in the established economic structures triggered protests and uprisings of the local population. Between 1891 and 1897 alone, 61 large-scale “punitive expeditions” and subjugation campaigns were carried out in various colony regions. Since the Schutztruppe resisted the guerrilla tactics of the rebels with a “scorched earth strategy,” there were extremely high casualties among the native population. The number of victims today is estimated at 300,000.
Thus, oppression and violence were everywhere and almost permanently present in everyday life of the colonial rule. In the German public, these conditions were perceived only sporadically, for example, in 1895, when Carl Peters, who had been sent to the Kilimanjaro region again the year before as Reichskommissar, was suspended from his duties because he had his African mistress and her lover executed.
Significantly, Peters, who had initially been dismissed in 1897 after a formal disciplinary proceeding, was rehabilitated just a few years later. At the same time, the economic activities were anything but successful, contrary to the high expectations of the investors, who had initially invested several million marks and founded numerous plantation companies, primarily for the cultivation of coffee in the Usambara highlands. Successful.
All the companies had to pay a high price for their lack of knowledge of the country and their lack of expertise. In addition, coffee prices unexpectedly plummeted. Attempts to cultivate tobacco, coconut palms, and cotton also largely failed.
Only after the turn of the century did the situation improve. At least some plantation companies could operate profitably in coffee cultivation or with new sisal plantations close to the coast.
However, it was now much more difficult to raise new capital because of the initial negative experiences. Nevertheless, the upswing continued to such an extent that the colony could increase its expenditure of about 2O million marks from its own revenues on the eve of the First World War. However, this figure did not consider the material and immaterial costs of the local population.
Diplomatic passport of a member of the Schutztruppen in German East Afrika
This is a pretty rare document, and I am happy to have it in my collection.
FAQ Passport History pasaporte passeport паспорт 护照 パスポート جواز سفر पासपोर्ट
1. What are the earliest known examples of passports, and how have they evolved?
The word "passport" came up only in the mid 15th Century. Before that, such documents were safe conducts, recommendations or protection letters. On a practical aspect, the earliest passport I have seen was from the mid 16th Century. Read more...
2. Are there any notable historical figures or personalities whose passports are highly sought after by collectors?
Every collector is doing well to define his collection focus, and yes, there are collectors looking for Celebrity passports and travel documents of historical figures like Winston Churchill, Brothers Grimm, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Read more...
3. How did passport designs and security features change throughout different periods in history, and what impact did these changes have on forgery prevention?
"Passports" before the 18th Century had a pure functional character. Security features were, in the best case, a watermark and a wax seal. Forgery, back then, was not an issue like it is nowadays. Only from the 1980s on, security features became a thing. A state-of-the-art passport nowadays has dozens of security features - visible and invisible. Some are known only by the security document printer itself. Read more...
4. What are some of the rarest and most valuable historical passports that have ever been sold or auctioned?
Lou Gehrig, Victor Tsoi, Marilyn Monroe, James Joyce, and Albert Einstein when it comes to the most expensive ones. Read more...
5. How do diplomatic passports differ from regular passports, and what makes them significant to collectors?
Such documents were often held by officials in high ranks, like ambassadors, consuls or special envoys. Furthermore, these travel documents are often frequently traveled. Hence, they hold a tapestry of stamps or visas. Partly from unusual places.
6. Can you provide insights into the stories behind specific historical passports that offer unique insights into past travel and migration trends?
7. What role did passports play during significant historical events, such as wartime travel restrictions or international treaties?
During war, a passport could have been a matter of life or death. Especially, when we are looking into WWII and the Holocaust. And yes, during that time, passports and similar documents were often forged to escape and save lives. Example...
8. How has the emergence of digital passports and biometric identification impacted the world of passport collecting?
Current modern passports having now often a sparkling, flashy design. This has mainly two reasons. 1. Improved security and 2. Displaying a countries' heritage, icons, and important figures or achievements. I can fully understand that those modern documents are wanted, especially by younger collectors.
9. Are there any specialized collections of passports, such as those from a specific country, era, or distinguished individuals?
Yes, the University of Western Sidney Library has e.g. a passport collection of the former prime minister Hon Edward Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret. They are all diplomatic passports and I had the pleasure to apprise them. I hold e.g. a collection of almost all types of the German Empire passports (only 2 types are still missing). Also, my East German passport collection is quite extensive with pretty rare passport types.
10. Where can passport collectors find reliable resources and reputable sellers to expand their collection and learn more about passport history?
A good start is eBay, Delcampe, flea markets, garage or estate sales. The more significant travel documents you probably find at the classic auction houses. Sometimes I also offer documents from my archive/collection. See offers... As you are already here, you surely found a great source on the topic 😉
11. Is vintage passport collecting legal? What are the regulations and considerations collectors should know when acquiring historical passports?
First, it's important to stress that each country has its own laws when it comes to passports. Collecting old vintage passports for historical or educational reasons is safe and legal, or at least tolerated. More details on the legal aspects are here...
Does this article spark your curiosity about passport collecting and the history of passports? With this valuable information, you have a good basis to start your own passport collection.
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