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Pacific Islanders Under German Rule

Pacific Islanders Under German Rule: A Study in the Meaning of Colonial Resistance OPEN ACCESS

Copyright Date: 2016
Published by: ANU Press
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    Pacific Islanders Under German Rule
    Book Description:

    This is an important book. It is a reprint of the first detailed study of how Pacific Islanders responded politically and economically to their rulers across the German empire of the Pacific. Under one cover, it captures the variety of interactions between the various German colonial administrations, with their separate approaches, and the leaders and people of Samoa in Polynesia, the major island centre of Pohnpei in Micronesia and the indigenes of New Guinea. Drawing on anthropology, new Pacific history insights and a range of theoretical works on African and Asian resistance from the 1960s and 1970s, it reveals the complexities of Islander reactions and the nature of protests against German imperial rule. It casts aside old assumptions that colonised peoples always resisted European colonisers. Instead, this book argues convincingly that Islander responses were often intelligent and subtle manipulations of their rulers’ agendas, their societies dynamic enough to make their own adjustments to the demands of empire. It does not shy away from major blunders by German colonial administrators, nor from the strategic and tactical mistakes of Islander leaders. At the same time, it raises the profile of several large personalities on both sides of the colonial frontier, including Lauaki Namulau’ulu Mamoe and Wilhelm Solf in Samoa; Henry Nanpei, Georg Fritz and Karl Boeder in Pohnpei; or Governor Albert Hahl and Po Minis from Manus Island in New Guinea.

    eISBN: 978-1-921934-32-2
    Subjects: Political Science
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Table of Contents

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  1. A History of the German Pacific
    • Introduction (pp. 3-24)

      The Pacific colonies of Germany were a far-flung post of empire in more ways than one. They were a long way from Europe, by sail three to four months away. They were small; all except for New Guinea, mere dots in an endless sea. And they were separated from each other by thousands of miles of blue, unrelenting ocean: German New Guinea and Micronesia were each composed of a myriad of islands scattered over hundreds of miles. To begin with, let us look at Samoa, a perfect example of isolation and economy of scale.

      The Samoan group is a chain...

    • When the Imperial German flag was raised in Mulinu’u on 15 March 1900, Europeans and Samoans had been engaged for more than two decades in a constantly-fluctuating struggle over the right to control the Samoan group’s political and economic destiny. Samoan affairs had dissipated a disproportionate amount of diplomatic energy in the capitals of the Western Powers as the islands became a focus of imperial rivalry in the late nineteenth century.

      European familiarity with Samoa dates back to 1722 when the Dutchman, Jacob Roggeween, first sighted the island. He described the inhabitants as ‘a harmless, good sort of people, and...

    • The three years 1905 to 1908 were a period of relatively peaceful development. Trade and agriculture took an upward turn, and in 1906 Samoa achieved a favourable balance of trade for the first time. From 1908 onwards, the administration was able to prepare its annual budgets without relying on a Reich subsidy. For their part, the Samoans were enjoying an increase in purchasing power as copra prices began to rise once more in 1905. With the regulation of Samoan copra production following the ordinance of 1900 and the administration’s struggle to improve its quality through legislation and closer supervision, the...

    • European knowledge of Ponape dates back to the sixteenth century. It has been suggested that the first contact was as early as 1526, when Loaisa y de Saavedra voyaged through the area, but no report of this exists.¹ The earliest documented sighting was by Ferdinand de Quiros in 1595. Irregular contacts were made by Spanish galleons and American whalers during the next three hundred years. By the year 1850, contacts had multiplied so quickly that an average of twenty-nine ships were putting in at Ponape annually, most of them whalers from the northern Pacific, seeking fresh provisions and recreation.


    • The arbitrary nature of ‘feudal’ rule in Ponape, with its expulsion of tenants, banishment of dissidents and disputes over tenure, tribute and advancement, was an inexhaustible source of conflict which the Germans found difficult to control before 1907 because of the widely scattered nature of Ponapean settlement, the lack of roads and the dependence on slow boats for transport. The new Colonial Office initiatives gave Hahl in New Guinea the inducement to consider implementing the changes he had projected in 1900. Not just security, but also the need to stimulate indigenous production and raise Ponape’s economic output—indeed the output...

    • It was not until the 1870s that European traders began to exploit on a large scale the rich coconut groves and the concentrated coastal populations of the Bismarck Archipelago for the copra trade, or the abundant marine products such asbêche de merand pearl-shell. German traders were among the first. When Eduard Hernsheim, a Hamburger attempting to set up his own trading empire in the south-west Pacific, anchored in Port Hunter, Duke of York group, in October 1875 to establish an agency, he found that the native inhabitants were well accustomed to the visits of white traders and could...

    • In 1899-1900, the Bismarck Archipelago sector of German New Guinea was still very much a trading colony, with more than half the export copra coming from trade with the New Guineans. Plantation agriculture was, however, expanding at a rate which would transform New Guinea into a genuine plantation colony by 1914. When the imperial government assumed full administrative responsibility for the protectorate in 1899, European plantations covered a planted area of 2582 hectares; Ralum alone had grown to 1010 hectares. The New Guinea Company had earned 80 000 marks from cotton in 1898, and in the same year exported its...

    • The New Guinea mainland’s north-eastern quarter was known to European explorers at least two centuries before German settlement. Tasman, in 1643, Dampier, in 1700, and D’Entrecasteaux, in 1792-93, all touched at various points on the coasts north of the Huon Gulf. In 1827, three years after the Dutch took possession of the western mainland, Dumont d’Urville entered Astrolabe Bay, which was named after his ship. Until 1871 nothing came of these early visits except for a temporary Catholic mission station on Umboi Island.

      In 1871 a Russian naturalist, Nikolai Mikloucho-Maclay landed at Bongu on the south coast of the deep...

  2. Anatomy of Pacific Island Resistance
    • To Europeans of the nineteenth century, violence and conquest were inevitable features of colonialism. As we have seen, a man like Governor Hahl could dismiss repeated collisions with New Guineans as unavoidable in the continuing conflict between ‘culture’ and ‘savagery’. In the Pacific, the German regimes confronted Island societies which had demonstrated emphatically their capacity to resist European interference. As a result, Samoans, Ponapeans and New Guineans were treated at various times with caution, as very real threats to the stability of the German Pacific empire. The object of the following chapter is to show that the Pacific Island answer...

    • There are no spectacular successes in the history of Pacific Island resistance to the Germans. The only two major threats to the empire—Lauaki’smau e puleand the Sokehs rebellion—both ended in exile or death for their participants. In retrospect, they never could have succeeded. Aside from the fact that German officials could always appeal to the home government for help to repress opposition in an emergency, the Island communities lacked a number of organisational preconditions which were necessary for an effective attack on German sovereignty.

      Firstly, there were no ‘masses’ in any of the three colonies, no...