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German East Africa

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German East Africa was a large German colony that existed for some three decades from the 1880s to the end of World War I


Map of German East Africa

German East Africa was nearly 1,000,000 km2 (390,000 sq mi), larger than any European country except Russia. The capital of the colony was Bagamoyo from 1885 to 1890 and Dar-es-Salaam from 1890 onward.


During the First World War, there was a campaign in East Africa. The Germans and their African allies faced enormous disadvantages, surrounded by colonies of unfriendly powers on all sides, and with the British in control of the sea and able to bring in troops from India. They fought a brilliant guerrilla campaign, held out for the duration of the war, and did not surrender until news of the overall armistice in Europe reached them.

After they surrendered, Britain took over Tanganyika and Belgium got control over the region that is now the countries Burundi and Rwanda.

An excellent historical novel covering the campaign, mainly from a German point of view, is William Stevenson's The Ghosts of Africa (ISBN 0-345-29793-8). C.S. Forester's novel The African Queen (ISBN 0-316-289108) and the movie based on it also take place in East Africa during the war; the German ship that the lead characters conspire to sink is based on a vessel that is still in service as MV Liemba.


German East Africa included what are now the following countries:

Zanzibar is an island that is now also part of Tanzania. Germany exerted influence there as well until 1890. Then in the "Heligoland Zanzibar Treaty" (a name coined by Bismarck to dismiss the treaty that his successor had made), Germany gave up its claim there and Britain transferred Heligoland to Germany.

See also[edit]

  • British Empire — the empire on which "the sun never sets" due to its great size
  • French Empire — French colonies from the early 20th century to the 21st century
  • World War I — while this war only lasted a few years, it had a huge impact on world history, but proved to be only the first of two such devastating wars
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