Interethnic relationships in India characterised the history of Europeans from the arrival of the Portuguese in the sixteenth century. The German religious communities which emerged in India during the nineteenth century point to the complex relationships which existed between the migrants from Europe and indigenous people. The perspectives of Christianity, orientalism and racism, which determine European views and actions in India, led to the development of a series of perceptions which the Germans in India, whether short-term visitors or longer term residents, perpetuated. Many travelogues devoted positive attention to the Indian landscape, although descriptions of cityscapes often contained negative language focusing upon poverty and disease. Heathen and heathenism became part of the everyday discourse of nineteenth-century missionaries. The discourse of the German missionaries in their numerous publications about India rejected and even ridiculed Hinduism and Islam.
Ahmednagar became the most enduring and emblematic camp in India during the Great War, and also held the largest number of prisoners. Despite the tiny numbers of Germans in India compared with the larger communities in other parts of the Empire, internment camps would emerge there as part of an imperial system of incarceration. The largely integrated German communities of Britain, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa faced official and unofficial Germanophobia which gripped the British Empire. Despite the violent nationalism created by the First World War, Christian brotherhood ultimately survived in India. Most male members of the German community in India in 1914 experienced internment, although its nature remained humane. The Foreigners Ordinances and the Trading with the Enemy laws dealt with German firms in India. Following the legislation against enemy businesses, the Basel Trading Company required its directors of German origin to resign and then face internment.
The events of the First World War brought to an end a continuous presence of Germans in India dating back at least as far as Ziegenbalg. Walter Leifer's pioneering volumes on the relationship between Germans and India does not regard the end of the First World War as a caesura. The German activity which had characterised the pre-War years also re-emerged. The German missionaries who moved to India formed part of broader missionary networks which incorporated other parts of the world. The events of the First World War would mean that German globalisation came crashing down, especially with the successes of the British Empire, a process which involved the elimination German diasporas. The Germans employed by the Basel Mission in India do not only live in the British Empire but also form part of Swiss imperialism.
The Germans in India need contextualisation against both more general nineteenth-century emigration of Germans and the consequent development of German settlements throughout the world. The experiences of J. Maue point to the two areas of the history of the Germans in India which have left the largest footprints: the experiences of German missionaries; and interment during the First World War. Europeans from several countries played a role in its establishment with help from a variety of European states. While historians have devoted relatively little attention to the German missionaries in India, scholars and scientists have attracted significant consideration. Indra Sengupta has traced the development of the academic fascination of Germans with India back to the eighteenth century. Despite the growth of indology, many German scholars solely relied upon manuscripts in German libraries. Stefan Manz devoted particular attention to businessmen, industrialists and educators in his microstudy of the Germans in Glasgow.
The narratives of the spiritual awakening, training and the passage to India provide various parts of the process which brought Germans to their new place of work and residence. Ships of the East India Company played a large role in transporting people and goods to India, although later in the nineteenth century new companies emerged including the British India Steam Navigation Company. Structural factors as well as networks played a central role in the elite migrations which took place from Germany to India in the century before the First World War. Scholars of the German diaspora have adapted the concept of network migration, even though they may not have done so in an overt fashion. The highly educated elites covered here produced their own ego documents which allow us to establish the deeply personal nature of each decision to undertake intercontinental migration.
The journey to India and the initial move towards the first place of settlement meant the beginning of an itinerant life for missionaries and scholars. The arrival of railways made travelling within India easier and quicker. The greatest problem facing the Germans who travelled to nineteenth-century India was the environment. Despite the problems encountered upon first arriving in India, especially by the missionaries, the various elite German groups made attempts to reconstruct the type of housing in which they had resided in Europe. The type of work which the missionaries carried out divides into a series of categories, broadly defined as preaching, administrating, teaching, healing, researching and providing industrial work. Some missionaries spent most of their lives in India, where they died, often prematurely, as a result of the contraction of a tropical disease.
By the beginning of the twentieth century, something resembling a German community had actually evolved in Bombay, as several commentators noted. Whatever interaction the Germans in India may have had with wider European society, it seems clear that a distinct secular German community had evolved and become politicised by the outbreak of the First World War. Children remained at the centre of the German missionary families, whether or not they followed in the footsteps of their parents, as in the case of British children, whether or not they had missionary parents. While relationships between the Basel missionaries and other Europeans operated upon an equal footing, interaction with Indians partially worked on the basis of a racial hierarchy, with Germans at the top. Within the emerging religious communities of mixed ethnicity, German identity survived.
While most of the Germans who suffered expulsion during the First World War lived within British shores, the Royal Navy brought Germans from throughout the world to face incarceration in the their network of camp. This book offers a new interpretation of global migration from the early nineteenth until the early twentieth century. It examines the elite German migrants who progressed to India, especially missionaries, scholars and scientists, businessmen and travellers. The book investigates the reasons for the migration of Germans to India. An examination of the realities of German existence in India follows. It then examines the complex identities of the Germans in India in the century before the First World War. The role of the role of racism, orientalism and Christianity is discussed. The stereotypes that emerged from travelogues include: an admiration of Indian landscapes; contempt for Hinduism; criticism of the plight of women; and repulsion at cityscapes. The book moves to focus upon the transformation which took place as a result of this conflict, mirroring the plight of Germans in other parts of the world. The marginalisation which took place in 1920 closely mirrored the plight of the German communities throughout the British Empire. The unique aspect of the experience in India consisted of the birth of a national identity. Finally, the book places the experience of the Germans in India into four contexts: the global history of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; German history; history of the British Empire in India; and Indian history.