Center for Research Libraries - Global Resources Network

Resources for

German Colonial Archives

James Simon
Director of Global Resources, The Center for Research Libraries


A German police chief in Cameroon and his troop. From the January 1900 issue of Die Gartenlaube. From CRL collections.

The Center for Research Libraries holds a number of resources relating to Germany’s foreign affairs and colonial operations. These primary and secondary sources illuminate the German experience of colonialism.

German Foreign Ministry Archives, 1867–1920

The German Foreign Ministry came into being on April 16, 1871, when the constitution of the German Empire came into force. While Germany did not claim colonial territories prior to this, the country and its predecessor states had many interests through its network of trading outposts throughout the world. A change in economic factors as well as public opinion shifted Germany’s stance on colonialism, and in the 1880s Germany began staking its claim in territories in which it had financial interests. Germany’s colonial “empire” grew quickly to encompass territories in Africa (Deutsch-Ostafrika, Deutsch-Westafrika, Deutsch-Südwestafrika, and Botswana), the Pacific (Deutsch-Neuguinea, German Samoa), and select other areas.

The materials in this microfilm set comprise part of the German records seized during World War II. The bulk of the Colonial Department records in the Foreign Ministry were transferred to the Deutsche Zentral Archive, Potsdam (see Reichskolonialamt below). However, portions of the colonial collection remain in this set, particularly those dealing with international issues. These materials are represented by registers of incoming and outgoing correspondence, arranged chronologically by region. CRL has scanned a sample portion of material relating to German East Africa, further described in the guide to the collection.

Germany. Reichskolonialamt

The German Ministry for Colonial Affairs (Reichskolonialamt) grew out of the Colonial Department of the Foreign Ministry. Formed officially in 1907 as an independent division, the Ministry was arranged in several administrative units: Division A was in charge of political affairs as well as general administrative and legal duties; Division B handled financial and technical matters; Division C handled personnel issues; and Division M functioned as military command for the armed forces in the protectorates.

CRL holds the complete set of the Reichskolonialamt microfilm set “R1001.” This set covers Akte 1-9788 of the archives, and features strong holdings on colonial policy, affairs relating to the African colonies, economics and trade, land and forestry, foreign affairs, and command of the colonial force.

The microfilm set is accessible through the printed guide available at CRL, or by an online finding aid at Das Bundesarchiv in Germany. The aid is entirely in German, though the introduction has been translated into English.

Deutsche Kolonialzeitung, 1884–1922

This bimonthly publication was issued by the Deutsche Kolonialgesellschaft (German Colonial Society, a merger of the earlier Deutsche Kolonialverein and the Gesellschaft für deutsche Kolonisation). The title was decidedly propagandist, but served a vital function of reporting the colonial life and the colonial agenda to residents of Germany. The Society has been credited for the popularization of colonization in Germany, leading to the shift in policies by Bismarck. The title continued to publish until 1929, when it was absorbed into Übersee- und Kolonialzeitung.

Deutsch-Ostafrikanische Zeitung, 1899–1916

This title was first published in 1899 in German for settlers in German East Africa (Tanzania). The paper featured local items as well as news from Germany and Europe. The newspaper achieved a high distribution, though frequently opposed colonial policy being issued from Germany. It was published until the British occupation of German East Africa.

Numerous other items are held relating to the history of German colonial activities. The following is a small selection of early dissertations published in Germany on the subject.

Author: Class, Paul, 1887– Title: Die Rechtsverhältnisse der freien farbigen Arbeiter in den deutschen Schutzgebieten Afrikas und der Südsee. Imprint: Ulm, 1913

Author: Fasching, Theodor Title: Die Organisation der Rechtspflege in den deutschen Schutzgebieten Imprint: München: M. Steinebach, 1914

Author: Kuhn, Hellmuth Title: Die deutschen Schutzgebiete, ihr Erwerb und ihre oberste Verwaltung Imprint: Berlin, Ebering, 1913

Author: Lücke, Joachim Heinrich Title: Bevölkerung und Aufenthaltsrecht in den Deutschen Schutzgebieten Afrikas Imprint: Hamburg, L. Friederichsen & Co. (L. & R. Friederichsen) 1913

Author: Meyer, Erwin Title: Das Finanzwesen der deutschen Schutzgebiete Imprint: Erlangen, K.B. Hof - und Universitätsbuchdruckereim 1912

Author: Schrader, Rudolf, 1895– Title: Die zwangsarbeit in Ostafrika nach deutschem und britischem kolonialrecht, Imprint: Hamburg, Druck von Ackermann & Wulff nachflg., Grosardt & Gowa, 1919

Author: Wright, Milton S. J., 1906– Title: Die wirtschaftsentwicklung und die eingeborenen politik in den ehemaligen afrikanischen schutzgebieten Deutschlands von 1884 bis 1918 . . . Imprint: [Wertheim a.M., E. Bechstein] 1932