Savage worlds

German encounters abroad, 1798-1914

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’.


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