Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany was reputed to have been personally involved in and responsible for Germany’s shift to a policy of global expansion (Weltpolitik). Yet the history of the Herero War in German Southwest Africa raises a number of questions. How far did Kaiser Wilhelm II’s prerogative power over the German colonies actually extend, and to what extent did he seek to exert this power to its limits? This chapter shows how the German monarch, notionally possessing prerogative power in the colonies that approached the unlimited, was remarkably absent from decision-making. Whatever the causes of the genocide of the Herero, it cannot be seen as a result of the so-called ‘kingship mechanism’.
The Kaiser and Kaiserin’s voyage to the Levant, 1898
Matthew P. Fitzpatrick
Monika Wienfert has argued that during the nineteenth century 'many European monarchies can be said to have functioned rather successfully as national symbols and as means of effecting a national integration of peoples that were still, in many ways, heterogeneous'. To some extent, this was evident in the royal pair's voyage to the Holy Lands, which was the occasion of symbolically important acts of gift-giving when the Kaiser formally gave over holy sites to both Protestant and Catholic Germans. Le Matin argued forthrightly that the Kaiser's visit 'directly threatens the secular authority in the Christian Levant', while Le Soleil expressed concern that Wilhelm II would be given Syrian coastal territory as a colony by the sultan. The cloud of the Armenian massacres persisted throughout the Kaiser's tour, however, with German officials fearing that Armenian protestors might seek to disrupt the visit.
With an eye to recovering the experiences of those in frontier zones of contact, Savage worlds maps a wide range of different encounters between Germans and non-European indigenous peoples in the age of high imperialism. Examining outbreaks of radical violence as well as instances of mutual co-operation, it examines the differing goals and experiences of German explorers, settlers, travellers, merchants, and academics, and how the variety of projects they undertook shaped their relationship with the indigenous peoples they encountered. Whether in the Asia-Pacific region, the Americas or Africa, within Germany’s formal empire or in the imperial spaces of other powers, Germans brought with them assumptions about the nature of extra-European peoples. These assumptions were often subverted, disrupted or overturned by their own experience of frontier interactions, which led some Germans to question European ‘knowledge’ of these non-European peoples. Other Germans, however, signally failed to shift from their earlier assumptions about indigenous people and continued to act in the colonies according to their belief in the innate superiority of Europeans. Examining the multifaceted nature of German interactions with indigenous populations, the wide ranging research presented in this volume offers historians and anthropologists a clear demonstration of the complexity of frontier zone encounters. It illustrates the variety of forms that agency took for both indigenous peoples and Germans in imperial zones of contact and poses the question of how far Germans were able to overcome their initial belief that, in leaving Europe, they were entering ‘savage worlds’.
Framing German frontier encounters historiographically, this chapter offers an overview of the current literature on German imperialism. It argues for a portrait of frontier encounters that stresses heterogeneity, but rejects particularist arguments that position German approaches to indigenous peoples as uniquely sympathetic. Rather, it sees Germans firmly meshed within a pan-European project of imperial expansion that engendered both violent and non-violent frontier entanglements.
Through a study of archival and press material, this chapter foregrounds the textual and teleological differences between two initially discrete discourse communities. It also charts the political convergence of the two, by highlighting the attempts to overcome the conceptual chasm between the Templers' millenarian, utopian plans and the secular imperialist agenda of the German Colonial Society and Pan-German League. By mapping these shifts, the chapter reveals the steady incorporation of the Templers within secular, nationalist imperialist plans, their ongoing religiosity notwithstanding. Prior to the German Templers, a number of other, predominantly American, religious colonies in Palestine had failed in their own attempts to establish a presence on behalf of the global Christian community. As religious communities motivated by an eschatological teleology, the Templer religious colonies represent not so much an intrinsically 'irrational' mode of colonialism, as a form of colonial praxis informed by a peculiar form of religious rationality.