Europe in Africa

By the later 19th/early 20th Century, the African continent was almost completely dominated by European powers (see map).


While Britain and France were the most dominant imperial nations in Africa, Germany–by the turn of the century–was also a growing power. This statement by German Kaiser (emperor) William II from 1901 illustrates German motivations for imperial growth.

In spite of the fact that we have no such fleet as we should have, we have conquered for ourselves a place in the sun. It will now be my task to see to it that this place in the sun shall remain our undisputed possession, in order that the sun’s rays may fall fruitfully upon our activity and trade in foreign parts, that our industry and agriculture may develop within the state and our sailing sports upon the water, for our future lies upon the water. The more Germans go out upon the waters, whether it be in races or regattas, whether it be in journeys across the ocean, or in the service of the battle flag, so much the better it will be for us.

For when the German has once learned to direct his glance upon what is distant and great, the pettiness which surrounds him in daily life on all sides will disappear. Whoever wishes to have this larger and freer outlook can find no better place than one of the Hanseatic cities….we are now making efforts to do what, in the old time, the Hanseatic cities could not accomplish, because they lacked the vivifying and protecting power of the empire. May it be the function of my Hansa during many years of peace to protect and advance commerce and trade!

As head of the Empire I therefore rejoice over every citizen, whether from Hamburg, Bremen, or L├╝beck, who goes forth with this large outlook and seeks new points where we can drive in the nail on which to hang our armor. Therefore, I believe that I express the feeling of all your hearts when I recognize gratefully that the director of this company who has placed at our disposal the wonderful ship which bears my daughter’s name has gone forth as a courageous servant of the Hansa, in order to make for us friendly conquests whose fruits will be gathered by our descendants!

Questions for consideration:

  1. What do you think the Kaiser means by a “place in the sun”?
  2. From this document, how would you describe Germany’s motivation for empire?