German South-West Africa

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Note: The map uses the borders of the present-day, but the historical extent for German territories are depicted.

German South West Africa (German: Deutsch-Südwestafrika, DSWA) was a colony of Germany from 1884 until 1915, when it was taken over by South Africa (as part of the British Empire) and administered as South West Africa, finally becoming Namibia in 1990. With an area of 835,100 km², it was easily one and a half times the size of the mainland German Empire in Europe (without its colonies) at the time.


Early settlements

Initial European contact with the areas which would become German South-West Africa came from traders and sailors, starting in January 1486 when Diogo Cão, possibly accompanied by Martin Behaim, landed in what would become Namibia. However, for several centuries, European settlement would remain small and temporary. In February 1805 the London Missionary Society established a small mission in Blydeverwacht. The efforts of this group met with little success. In 1840 the London Missionary Society transferred all of its activities to the Rhenish Missionary Society. Some of the first representatives of this organization were Franz Heinrich Kleinschmidt who arrived in October 1842 and Carl Hugo Hahn, arrived in December 1842. They began founding churches throughout what would become Namibia. The Rhenish missionaries had a significant impact initially on culture and dress, and then later on politics. During the same time that the Rhenish missionaries were active, merchants and farmers were establishing outposts.

Early history

On 16 November 1882 a merchant from Bremen, German Empire, Adolf Lüderitz, requested protection for a station that he planned to build in South-West Africa, from Chancellor Bismarck. Once this was granted, his employee Heinrich Vogelsang purchased land from a native chief and established a city at Angra Pequena which was renamed Lüderitz. On 24 April 1884, he placed the area under the protection of Imperial Germany to deter British encroachment. In early 1884, the Kaiserliche Marine ship Nautilus visited to review the situation. A favourable report from the government, and acquiescence from the British, resulted in a visit from the Leipzig and Elisabeth. The German flag was finally raised in South West Africa on 7 August 1884. The German claims on this land were confirmed during the Conference of Berlin. In October, the newly-appointed Commissioner for West Africa, Gustav Nachtigal, arrived on the Möwe.[1]

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