German-East African Society

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The flag of the DOAG

The German East Africa Company (Engl. German East Africa Company ) was on 28 March 1884 by Count Behr-Bandelin and Carl Peters as Society for German Colonization established (GfdK) in Berlin. It was supposed to establish German arable and trading colonies overseas.

First expedition to East Africa

Carl Peters
Starting areas of DOAG 1885
DOAG coat of arms

In the fall of 1884 the company sent an expedition to East Africa. Carl Peters, Joachim Graf von Pfeil , Karl Ludwig Jühlke and the businessman August Otto traveled to Zanzibar and crossed over to the opposite mainland. In the hinterland of the mainland possessions of the Sultan of Zanzibar , Peters visited local chiefs and presented them with German-language " protection treaties ", which he was able to get twelve local rulers who were ignorant of the German language and script to sign. Thus, claims to power in the regions of Usegua , Nguru , Usagara and Ukami were acquired .

The Reich government was hostile to these claims. Bismarck had refused in advance any support for the Peters trip. Even after his return, Chancellor Bismarck expressed disapproval of what Peters presented to the government: "a piece of paper with Negro crosses underneath".

Upon his return, Peters threatened that the Belgian King Leopold would also be interested in East Africa, whose empire in Central Africa was being negotiated at the Congo Conference . Bismarck gave in - also out of consideration for the colonialist national liberals in the Reichstag - and had an imperial letter of protection issued for the acquisitions of the company and its legal successors. This laid the foundation stone for what would later become the colony of German East Africa .

Attempts to found a community colony

After the letter of protection was issued, Peters founded the limited partnership "German-East African Society Karl Peters and Comrades" on April 2, 1885 , which was entered in the commercial register in Berlin . The East African claims were transferred to this society. The limited partnership was canceled as early as March 1886 and Peters became the sole partner. In February 1887 it became the "German-East African Society" (DOAG) with Carl Peters as its first president.

In the period that followed, the company concluded further contracts with local rulers, extended their claims to other areas in the country such as the area around the Uluguru Mountains and Usambara and explored the south of the later colony. A few trading posts and a few experimental stations were established where the cultivation of cultivated plants was tried out. The company used more energy on expeditions across the hinterland of the colony in order to be able to make the most comprehensive claims possible to other areas, which should undermine the countermeasures of Zanzibar (see: Overview of the expeditions ).

The recognition of the company's claims by the German Reich led to protests by Sultan Bargash of Zanzibar, who viewed the areas claimed by the DOAG as part of his mainland territory. Bargash also sent envoys and troops under General Lloyd Mathews through the hinterland of the coast to raise the red flag of Zanzibar and now also to obtain the signatures of local rulers under alliance agreements with the sultan.

The threatening conflict between the Zanzibari military and the scattered DOAG agents was ended by the deployment of a German fleet squadron. On August 7, 1885, the German admiral Eduard von Knorr appeared with five cruisers from the East African cruiser squadron off Zanzibar and aimed his cannons at the sultan's palace. In the face of this threat, Bargash had to acknowledge the German claims in the hinterland of the Zanzibari mainland possessions and allow the DOAG to use the port of Dar es Salaam with reduced tariffs. Further north, behind the rival German colony Wituland , the DOAG tried to acquire areas on the Somali coast between Buur Gaabo and Aluula . In the south, Madagascar and the Comoros - where DOAG representatives were also active - were accepted by Germany as a French zone of influence in 1886.

In the following years, the governments of Great Britain and Germany negotiated a delimitation of their spheres of interest and agreed on October 29, 1886 to divide East Africa into zones of interest, with Germany being assigned the southern part and Great Britain the northern part (today's Kenya ). Both sides initially agreed to recognize the sovereignty of Zanzibar in a 10 mile wide stretch of coast.

The agreement did not correspond to the intentions of the DOAG, since without free access to the coast their claims to the hinterland would be largely worthless. Since 1886, Peters negotiated about getting control of some ports from the Sultan. After Bargash's death, his successor was ready to reach further agreements. On April 28, 1888, the DOAG signed a contract with Sultan Chalifa ibn Said of Zanzibar, according to which the company was to take over the administration of the Zanzibari territory on the mainland and the collection of the coastal tariffs in the name of the Sultan for an annual rent.

In August 1888, the company then tried to administer the Zanzibari coastal towns in accordance with the coastal and customs treaty with the Sultan. The treaty had caused unrest among the locals as they saw themselves abandoned and betrayed by the sultan. The flag-raising of the DOAG led to open protests by the population in Pangani and Lindi. In Pangani these escalated - not least due to the domineering demeanor of the local DOAG agent Emil von Zelewski - into acts of violence that were to become the beginning of a sustained uprising by the coastal population , in which the rule of the DOAG collapsed. The imperial government intervened first through units of its East African naval squadron and finally through the dispatch of the Reich Commissioner Wissmann, whose mercenary troops ( Wissmann troops ) , made up mainly of Sudanese and Zulu , finally put down the uprising.

While the fighting was still going on, Peters tried to further expand the DOAG area in the area of ​​Lake Victoria as part of the so-called German Emin Pascha Expedition and obtained the signature of the Kabaka of Buganda , Mwanga II. , Under a protection treaty. In 1890, DOAG also took over the property in Witu from the German Witu Society . However, these plans and approaches were thwarted by the German-British understanding, which regulated a delimitation of the two powers’s global spheres of interest in the “ Helgoland-Sansibar Treaty ”.

The empire called upon by the DOAG to help took over the entire administration of the colony after the victory in East Africa by a treaty dated November 20, 1890. The company's tasks were now limited to economic activities.

Activity in the colony of German East Africa

Building society

The organs of the new company were: General Assembly, Board of Directors, Management, and Auditors. The board of directors, consisting of 21 to 27 members, was responsible for overseeing the entire management. The management consisted of two directors. According to the statute, supervision of the company was assigned to the Reich Chancellor . After the capital of more than 3.5 million marks needed to create this company had been raised in 1887, the new company was constituted, the capital of which was around 7 million marks.

The statutory activity of the society in Africa was described with the expansion of colonial holdings, the creation of stations and plantations and the stimulation of trade.

The DOAG never got around to exercising control over the areas it claimed. If one had ever wanted to implement the claims, it would have meant a confrontation with every single one of the local rulers, who by no means gave their signatures the meaning claimed by society. But that would have overwhelmed the DOAG's financial, organizational and military capabilities by far.

The DOAG's economic activity was limited to the establishment of trading posts and agricultural test stations, some of which it operated itself and some of which were operated by subsidiaries such as the German-East African Plantation Society or the German Planters Society. In the first few years, all of these companies were at a loss, which was due to a lack of specialist knowledge on the part of the German operators, unfavorable traffic conditions, the shortage of workers and the resistance of the local leadership.

Conversion into a cooperative

Reservoir of the
Derema plantation of the German-East African Society, around 1910
Farm yard of the main Nguelo plantation of the German-East African Society, before 1905

After the uprising of the coastal population in 1889, the administration of the colony was transferred to the German Empire. The German-East African Society has now been given the status of a privileged cooperative. The most important privileges granted to it consisted of the exclusive right to acquire abandoned land, a privilege in relation to the extraction of minerals , a privilege in the construction and operation of railways, and a right to establish a bank with the privilege of issuing notes , and finally in the right to mint .

The German-East African Society took out a loan of 10,566,000 marks under a guarantee from the government, which in turn committed itself to an annual payment of 600,000 marks for the provision of customs income. In a new contract concluded with the German Reich on November 15, 1902, the company waived all of its previous privileges in exchange for the return of its share certificates in the possession of the Reich with a nominal value of 475,000 marks, only instead of their almost unlimited right of land occupation and a portion of field taxes and subsidy taxes that should apply until 1935.

The company's operations then consisted of the operation of its own trading business, the management of seven plantations (including a cotton plantation in Kikokwe , two coffee plantations in Derema and Nguelo , and a coconut plantation in Muoa ).

Overview of the expeditions

In the years 1885 and 1886, the company sent numerous expeditions to eastern Africa and the offshore islands. With a few exceptions, these were not expeditions in the scientific sense, but served the colonial conquest and the establishment of European bases. The basis for this was formed by unequal and often misleading "contracts" with regional rulers - or local interlocutors, who were mistaken for them. Following the colonial practice of the time, the corporate agents interpreted the results of the negotiations according to the interests of their clients. Some expeditions led to areas that were formally not or only for a very short time under German colonial rule ( Kenya , Comoros , Madagascar and Somalia ). In this regard, however, "acquisitions" were the subject of the colonial balance of interests between Germany, France, Great Britain and Italy.

Surname time Attendees Events / results Target areas
First Usagara expedition October - December 1884 Karl Ludwig Jühlke , August Otto , Carl Peters (head), Joachim Graf von Pfeil The claim to the regions Useguha, Nguru, Usagara and Ukami was derived from the first expedition ( see: First expedition to East Africa ). The issue of an imperial letter of protection on February 27, 1885 created the territorial basis of the so-called protected area and marked the start of German colonial policy in East Africa. Otto died of illness during the expedition.
Eastafrica blanc-map without borders usagara.jpg
First Nyassa expedition February 1885 Joachim Graf von Pfeil The expedition was the first attempt to expand the protected area . Graf von Pfeil set out on February 12, 1885 towards Lake Nyassa in the southwest of what would later become the colony of German East Africa. From the company's point of view, the result of the expedition was considered a failure, as no new land cession was achieved.
Eastafrica blanc-map without borders nyassa.jpg
Second Usagara expedition February - March 1885 Morris (gardener), Karl Wilhelm Schmidt (geologist), Kurt Weiß The expedition primarily serves the development of the existing protected area . The Simatal station in Usagara, previously created by Count von Pfeil, has been expanded. However, a decision taken at short notice to advance to Lake Tanganyika could not be implemented.
Eastafrica blanc-map without borders usagara.jpg
Tana expedition March - April 1885 Claus von Anderten, Ernst von Carnap-Quernheimb , Gustav Hörnecke (manager), Andreas Küntzel (farmer), Albert Söhnge (businessman) The target area was initially supposed to be Lake Victoria in the northwest of the later colony, but due to the competing intentions of the Denhardt brothers in Witu , it was relocated at short notice. The advance now led to the Tana River in what is now Kenya in order to establish claims by society there. It failed because of the intervention of British representatives at the Sultan of Zanzibar, under whose influence the Kenya coast was.
Eastafrica blanc-map without borders tana.jpg
Nyanza expedition April 1885 Albrecht von Bülow, Major Diedrich von Devivére (leader), Emil von Kleist, Ernst Liedtke After the previous expedition to Tana had been "diverted", the next one was supposed to lead to Lake Victoria. However, it did not get beyond the coastal town of Saadani . The reasons for this may have been the inexperience of the participants or the alcoholism devivéres. The trip was canceled and not resumed.
Eastafrica blanc-map without borders nyanza.jpg
First Kilimanjaro expedition April-June 1885 Karl Ludwig Jühlke, Kurt Weiß Jülke fell ill with dysentery soon after the start of the trip and later followed the expedition. On the way negotiations took place with supposed rulers from different regions ( Usambara , Bondei, Pare , Aruscha , Dschagga, Kahe and Ugeno). A contract was only signed on June 19, 1885 for the target area on Kilimanjaro .
Eastafrica blanc-map without borders kilimantscharo.jpg
Khutu expedition May-June 1885 Joachim Graf von Pfeil The trip led to the Rufiji and Ulanga areas. On June 10, 1885, on the middle reaches of the Rufiji, a treaty was signed with an African named Golongo, whom von Pfeil called the Upper Sultan of Khutu . The reasons for Golongo's willingness to contract are the hope of better trade contacts with the coast and the fear of slave traders.
Eastafrica blanc-map without borders khutu.jpg
Usaramo expedition September - October 1885 Rochus Schmidt , Albert Söhnge (businessman) On his first expedition, Schmidt had a double assignment: on the one hand, he was to “contractually acquire” the Usaramo landscape in the Pwani region and, on the other hand, to supply the Simatal station in Usagara. He carried out the first part of this assignment. In an area that stretched from the north bank of Lower Rufiji to Kingani , he signed 25 contracts within two weeks. In the second part of the expedition, Schmidt's caravan was attacked in Usagara - in retaliation for Schmidt's murder of a villager.
Eastafrica blanc-map without borders usaramo.jpg
First Somali expedition September - November 1885 Claus von Anderten, Gustav Hörnecke After the failed Tana expedition, Von Anderten and Hörnecke finally traveled to northern East Africa. Although the Sultanate of Zanzibar tried to prevent this, they reached Halule in the Horn of Africa . Despite linguistic communication problems, they believed that at the beginning of September 1885 they had concluded a contract there for the purpose of taking over the land or that they could interpret it accordingly. Another agreement at the end of November 1885 was supposed to extend the "claim" to the coast from Bender Gasen to Warsheikh .
Eastafrica blanc-map without borders somali1.jpg
First Comoros expedition October 1885 Friedrich Schroeder, Aurel Schulz In the contest for colonies, the Comoros Islands in the western Indian Ocean aroused desires from society. The first expedition there started on October 15, 1885 in Berlin. Schroeder and Schulze reached the archipelago, but were unable to declare land seizures due to local unrest.
Eastafrica blanc-map without borders komoren.jpg
Second Nyassa expedition November 1885 Joachim Graf von Pfeil, Schlueter (officer) In order to enlarge the area claimed as a result of the Khutu expedition, an expedition set out from the island of Zanzibar via the Simatal station (Usagara) in the direction of Lake Nyassa. The negotiating partners were selected based on their proximity to the route and not based on their actual decision-making authority. So it came about that the actual rulers of the regions traveled through, such as Mkwawa , were not even asked. Nevertheless, after the expedition, the regions of Ubena, Uhehe, Magindo, Mahenge and Matschonde in the south of what was later to become German East Africa were regarded as company property.
Eastafrica blanc-map without borders nyassa.jpg
Second Kilimanjaro expedition December 1885 Walther Braun, Arnold von Eltz, Karl von Gravenreuth , Gustav Hörnecke, Karl Wilhelm Schmidt Far before the actual destination, the Korogwe agricultural station was set up on the lower reaches of the Pangani , which aroused violent protests from residents there. Hornbill returned to the coast soon after. Braun and von Gravenreuth stayed behind as station crew. Von Eltz and Schmidt moved on to Kilimanjaro. The target area was reached, but contrary to the original plan, no station was built there.
Eastafrica blanc-map without borders kilimantscharo.jpg
Sabaki expedition December 1885 - January 1886 Claus von Anderten Von Anderten crossed from the island of Lamu to the mainland without the permission of the responsible Sultan of Zanzibar , but the Liwali of Malindi ordered his return under threat of duress. Ten days later , the society flag was raised on the Sabaki , the second longest river in modern-day Kenya. In addition, initial contacts were made with the Galla ethnic group on the Tana River. From the company's point of view, this was the "acquisition of Giriyama, the Wanika lands, the Galla areas and Ukamba".
Eastafrica blanc-map without borders gasi.jpg
Gasi expedition January 1886 Albrecht von Bülow, Goedecke (farmer), Lucas ( assessor ), Walter von St. Paul-Illaire Taking advantage of regional conflicts, a protection treaty was concluded on January 9, 1886 with Mbaruk, an opponent of Zanzibar, in Gasi. The Sultan of Zanzibar put troops on the march and drove Mbaruk into exile in Usambara. This attempted acquisition of territory between Gedi and Mombasa in what is now Kenya was canceled after a diplomatic crisis between Germany and Zanzibar with the intervention of Great Britain and France. The decision on the area was entrusted to the East Africa Border Commission.
Eastafrica blanc-map without borders gasi.jpg
Second Somali expedition January 1886 Arthur Graf Pfeil, winter Another expedition to the Somali Peninsula pursued the goal of building on the content of the contract allegedly negotiated by Anderten and Hörnecke. It led to the establishment of a small branch of the company in Halule in what is now northern Somalia, but it did not get beyond the initial stage.
Eastafrica blanc-map without borders somali2.jpg
Second Usagara expedition March - May 1886 Eugen Krenzler, von Wittich (officer), Emil von Zelewski The expedition was intended to consolidate the original social area, but rather traveled through a border region of the same. It led to the establishment of the stations Dunda, Madimola and Usungula on the Kingani River in the center of what would later become German East Africa. In addition, attempts were made again to gain additional access to the Indian Ocean on Tana (Kenya).
Eastafrica blanc-map without borders usagara.jpg
Second Comoros expedition May-June 1886 Karl Wilhelm Schmidt, Aurel Schulz The two company representatives made land purchases under private law on the island of Großkomoro and on the southwest coast of Madagascar. These lands only formed a short-term colonial-political “compensation mass” for the recognition of the German-British border agreement in East Africa by France. The islands were recognized by Germany as part of the French sphere of interest as early as mid-1886 .
Eastafrica blanc-map without borders komoren2.jpg
Third Somali expedition August - December 1886 Hermann Günther (officer), Wilhelm Janke, Karl Ludwig Jühlke The expedition was supported with 100,000 marks by the industrialist Friedrich Krupp . She should make further land grabbing on the south coast of what is now Somalia and prepare the establishment of a settlement. On November 26, 1886, the sheikh of a Somali tribe who were hostile to Zanzibar leased a stretch of coast to Jühlke. The company flag was hoisted in Port Durnford . With Bismarck's disapproval, the society prematurely renamed the coastal town Hohenzollernhafen . Jühlke was killed by Somalis shortly afterwards.
Eastafrica blanc-map without borders somali3.jpg
German East Africa expedition Fall 1886 Karl Wilhelm Schmidt The geological investigation of the Ukami, Usagara and Useguha regions in the center of what would later become German East Africa was one of the few real research expeditions. It should provide information about the economic value of the colonial area and testify to the actual development of the original property.
Eastafrica blanc-map without borders usagara.jpg
Fourth Somali expedition December 1886 Eduard von Baerensprung (officer), Wilhelm Janke, Joachim Graf von Pfeil, Fritz Spuhn, Winter The trip should serve to build and expand the station at the so-called Hohenzollernhafen in what is now southern Somalia. However, the project was already overtaken by the negotiation result of the British-German border agreement, which the region added to the British sphere of influence.
Eastafrica blanc-map without borders somali3.jpg


The company flag is also known as the Petersflagge , based on the founder of German East Africa , Carl Peters .

Notes and individual references

  1. ^ Society for German Colonization , in: Heinrich Schnee: Deutsches Koloniallexikon . Volume 1, Leipzig: Quelle & Meyer, 1920, p. 718.
  2. ^ Wilfried Westphal: History of the German colonies . Bindlach: Gondrom, 1991, p. 75, ISBN 3-8112-0905-1
  3. An idea from Peter's circle of friends to call these areas "Petersland" did not meet with approval; the term found limited use later in colonial propaganda during the Nazi era . See H. Froembgen (1941): Wissmann, Peters, Krüger, p. 122
  4. Carl Peters: Memoirs of life first printing: Hamburg (Rüsch'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung) 1918, page 78f
  5. Q1 text letter of protection on lehrer-online (PDF; 37 kB): "After .. us the .. first with the rulers of Usagara, Nguru, Useguha and Ukami in November and December of last year concluded contracts through which .. these areas for the German colonization society with the rights of state sovereignty have been ceded, with the request to place these areas under our sovereignty, so .. We hereby confirm that We have accepted this sovereignty and the areas concerned, subject to our resolution on the basis of further Contractual acquisitions of the company or its legal successors in that area, which can be proven to us, have placed under our imperial protection Jurisdiction over the natives .. "
  6. Dr. Carl Peters, Memoirs, Rüsch'sche Verlagbuchhandlung, 1918; Playback on archive link ( Memento of the original from May 27, 2006 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. ; Accessed October 20, 2011 @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  7. Jutta Bückendorf: Black-white-red over East Africa! - German colonial plans and African reality. LIT, Münster 1997, ISBN 3-8258-2755-0 , p. 215 ff.
  8. Jutta Bückendorf: Black-white-red over East Africa! - German colonial plans and African reality. LIT, Münster 1997, ISBN 3-8258-2755-0 , p. 231.
  9. Carl Uhlig: Witu, in: Heinrich Schnee (ed.): Deutsches Kolonial-Lexikon. Volume III, Quelle & Meyer, Leipzig 1920, p. 568.
  10. Jutta Bückendorf: Black-white-red over East Africa! - German colonial plans and African reality. LIT, Münster 1997, ISBN 3-8258-2755-0 , p. 291.
  11. GfdK / DOAG (ed.): Colonial-political correspondence. 3rd volume, No. 3, 1887, p. 21 f. ( online )
  12. Bruno Kurtze: The German East African Society - A contribution to the problem of the protection letter companies and the history of German East Africa. Verlag von Gustav Fischer, Jena 1913, p. 54 ff.
  13. Jutta Bückendorf: "Black-white-red over East Africa!": German colonial plans and African reality. LIT Verlag, Münster 1997, ISBN 3-8258-2755-0 , p. 223 ff.
  14. Author collective: Meyers Konversationslexikon , 4th edition, 17th (supplementary) volume, Verlag des Bibliographisches Institut, Leipzig and Vienna 1885-1892, p. 249 ( online ).
  15. Max von Koschitzky: German Colonial History. Volume 2 - Acquisition of the Reich Protected Areas until the Carolinen Controversy was settled, Paul Frohberg's publishing house, Leipzig 1888, p. 264 ff. ( Online ).
  16. ^ Winfried Speitkamp: German Colonial History. Reclam, Stuttgart 2005, ISBN 3-15-017047-8 , p. 27 ff.
  17. Jutta Bückendorf: "Black-white-red over East Africa!": German colonial plans and African reality. LIT Verlag, Münster 1997, ISBN 3-8258-2755-0 , p. 227.


  • Bruno Kurtze: The German East African Society - A contribution to the problem of the protection letter companies and to the history of German East Africa. Verlag von Gustav Fischer, Jena 1913. ( online version. )

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