Brill’s Digital Library of World War I

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Colonial War

(1,529 words)

Author(s): Zimmerer, Jürgen
Colonial War The war against the German colonies of Africa, Asia, and the Pacific, led by the forces of Japan, Great Britain, France, Belgium, and their respective colonies. The spread of the war to the colonies was undertaken …

Smuts, Jan Christiaan

(365 words)

Author(s): Zimmerer, Jürgen
Smuts, Jan Christiaan (May 24, 1870, Bovenplaats [Cape Province] – September 11, 1950, Irene [near Pretoria]), South African general and politician. Born the son of a Boer farmer, Smuts became one of the most important politicians of South Africa. Between 1899 and 1902 he served as a Boer general in the Boer War against Great Britain. In 1907 he entered the cabinet of Louis Botha in the Transvaal and also worked under him in the government of the South African Union, founded in 1910. On the o…

German East Africa

(848 words)

Author(s): Zimmerer, Jürgen
German East Africa Situated on the coast of the Indian Ocean, between Portuguese Mozambique to the south, British East Africa to the north, and the Belgian Congo to the west, German East Africa comprised the modern states of Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi. Declared a territory of the German Reich in 1885, with 7.5 million inhabitants the country was the most populous German colony, and at 995,000 km2 also the largest. Some 5,300 Europeans lived in the colony in 1914. The British g…

Botha, Louis

(310 words)

Author(s): Zimmerer, Jürgen
Botha, Louis (September 27, 1862, Greytown, Natal – August 27, 1919, Rusthof, Pretoria), South African general and politician. Botha was perhaps the most gifted member of the Boer military and one of the leading politicians of South Africa. He demonstrated his superior tactical skills as a general in the Boer War (1899–1902). Serving as prime minister of the Transvaal from 1907, Botha worked towards reconciling the Boers and the British. From 1910 he headed the government of the newly established …

German Southwest Africa

(920 words)

Author(s): Zimmerer, Jürgen
German Southwest Africa German colony on the Atlantic coast in southern Africa between Angola to the north, South Africa to the south, and Botswana to the east; the modern Namibia. Placed under the protection of the German Reich by Bismarck in 1884, German Southwest Africa was the only German African colony suited for substantial European settlement. Accordingly, the influx of German emigrants was actively encouraged. The arbitrary attitude of the German administration towards the African population was marked by a high degree of cruelty. Thus in the war against the Herero and the Nama, which lasted from 1904 to 1907, a large part of both peoples perished. On the eve of the First World War, 15,000 Europeans and 150,000 to 200,000 Africans lived in German Southwest Africa. In 1914, a force of 5,000 men under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel von Heydebreck stood ready to defend the colony, backed by reservists, volunteers, and police units. For strategic reasons, the British government gave South Africa the task of taking German Southwest Africa as early as 1914. Occupying the two ports of Swakopmund and Lüderitz Bay, and destroying the important radio station at Windhoek, would deprive the German navy of its bases, and disrupt its worldwide communication network. The South Africans under Louis Botha and Jan Smuts were prepared to f…

Sub-Saharan Africa

(719 words)

Author(s): Zimmerer, Jürgen
Sub-Saharan Africa Africa without the Arab North, and without the settler colonies in the South. Sub-Saharan Africa was both a theater of war and a source for the recruitment of soldiers and laborers du…

Lettow-Vorbeck, Paul von

(330 words)

Author(s): Zimmerer, Jürgen
Lettow-Vorbeck, Paul von (March 20, 1870, Saarlouis – March 9, 1964, Hamburg), German general. Lettow-Vorbeck was celebrated during the First World War as the commander of the German colonial forces in German East Africa. He began his military career in 1881. In 1900/1901 he took part in the suppression …