jens-uwe guettel on the american frontier in german south-west africa


Jens-Uwe Guettel, ‘From the Frontier to German South-West Africa: German Colonialism, Indians and American Westward Expansion’, Modern Intellectual History 7, 3 (2010)

This article argues that positive perceptions of American westward expansion played a major (and so far overlooked) role both for the domestic German debate about the necessity of overseas expansion and for concrete German colonial policies during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. During and after the uprising against colonial rule (1904–7) of the two main indigenous peoples, the Herero and the Nama, of German South-West Africa (Germany’s only settler colony), colonial administrators actively researched the history of the American frontier and American Indian policies in order to learn how best to “handle” the colony’s peoples. There exists a substantial literature on the allegedly exceptional enchantment of Germans with American Indians. Yet this article shows that negative views of Amerindians also influenced and shaped the opinions and actions of German colonizers. Because of its focus on the importance of the United States for German discussions about colonial expansion, this article also explores the role German liberals played in the German colonial project. Ultimately, the United States as a “model empire” was especially attractive for Germans with liberal and progressive political convictions. The westward advancement of the American frontier went hand in hand with a variety of policies towards Native Americans, including measures of expulsion and extinction. German liberals accepted American expansionism as normative and were therefore willing to advocate, or at least tolerate, similar policies in the German colonies.

2 Responses to “jens-uwe guettel on the american frontier in german south-west africa”

  1. 1 SILLIAU

    I tried to get in touch with you through the e-mail address ; it didn’t work. I hope this way will be successful.
    I discovered the title of your article : “Pro-Slavery Thought and Transnational Scientific Racism in Late Eighteen Century Germany” through Google when I associated the words : Meiners, Blumenbach and Caucasian.
    The article itself is not available on the Internet. Am I right ?
    As you are familiar with french … je vous explique en français le but de mon travail.
    Il s’agit pour moi, de suivre l’histoire du concept de “Caucasien” depuis son origine, au 18ème siècle, jusqu’à son utilisation – principalement aux USA – dans le langage courant et dans les articles de biologie et de médecine.
    Pour l’instant, j’ai étudié la relation entre Blumenbach, Linné et Buffon et l’inflence exercée par le voyageur français du 17ème siècle, Jean Chardin.
    Nell Irvin Painter soutient que Meiners, collègue de Blumenbach à Göttingen, a aussi joué un rôle essentiel dans l’adoption du terme “Caucasien”. Est-ce aussi la thèse que vous défendez et à partir de quels documents ? (Je serais heureuse de les connaître même s’ils sont en Allemand ! ).
    Je vous prie de croire à toute ma sympathie.

    Christiane SILLIAU, Paris
    Enseignante en biologie médicale
    Docteur en histoire et philosophie des sciences (sujet de thèse : Biologie et Identité)

  2. 2 Jens-Uwe Guettel

    Dear Dr. Silliau,

    please contact me again using

    Then we can talk about Meiners!

    Best, Jens.


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