Journal Article

The Professors' Africa: Economists, the Elections of 1907, and the Legitimation of German Imperialism

Erik Grimmer-Solem

in German History

Published on behalf of German History Society

Volume 25, issue 3, pages 313-347
Published in print July 2007 | ISSN: 0266-3554
Published online July 2007 | e-ISSN: 1477-089X | DOI:
The Professors' Africa: Economists, the Elections of 1907, and the Legitimation of German Imperialism

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German economists led by Gustav Schmoller created the Kolonialpolitisches Aktionskomité (colonial-political action committee) during the so-called ‘colonial crisis’ of 1906–1907 to promote the German colonial empire at a time when it was suffering much scandal and criticism. Widely esteemed and enjoying the appearance of non-partisanship, they worked closely with the government of Bernhard von Bülow during the elections of 1907, arguing that colonial empire was economically and politically indispensable and that its financial burdens were bearable. Straddling a position between the economic imperialism of many German liberals and the settler colonialism prevalent in conservative and radical nationalist circles, they helped secure a middle ground that enabled the Bülow bloc and developed many ideas for colonial reform that came into currency during the Dernburg era (1906–1910). Through lecturing, the mass dissemination of relatively high-quality literature, and the demarcation of the new academic sub-discipline known as Kolonialwissenschaft (colonial science), a potent complex of liberal-nationalist ambitions was fused with a new ‘scientific’ colonialism that helped redefine and legitimate a German civilizing mission in Africa and forge an imperialist ideology that gained a national audience.

Keywords: Bernhard von Bülow; colonial empire; Imperialism; Liberal nationalism; economics; Gustav von Schmoller

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: European History

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