Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



God’s Children Without a Nation: German Missionaries, Settlers, and Africans in Southwest Africa, 1915 – 1960, examines the fate of one of the last regions in Africa to be colonized by Europeans and the final one to gain independence in 1990. In 1884, Germany claimed Southwest Africa (now Namibia) as a colony along with Togo, the Cameroons, and German East Africa, only to be divested of overseas possessions after World War One. At that point, Southwest Africa was placed under South African control as a mandate under the newly formed League of Nations – however, some German settlers and missionaries were permitted to stay. Although most current historical scholarship on this region focuses on the period before 1914, this work begins with the First World War and moves forward to the 1960s, tracing relations between Germans and Africans. It examines these interactions through the eventful interwar and Nazi eras with emphasis on how continental European events and ideas impacted Southern Africa. This project explains the process of cultural development that occurred after the German colonial period ended, yet was still influenced by Germans, especially evangelists from the Rhenish Missionary Society. While much existing work suggests that German missionaries in Southwest Africa were an integral part of the colonial machine, my own research indicates that missionaries – who were at work both well before 1884 and after 1915 – do not need to be understood exclusively as sycophants of the colonial state. Missionaries frequently espoused doctrines and pursued interests separate from, or even in contradiction to, those of the state. Both before 1915 and afterwards, Africans themselves played a role in this history; some chose to adopt western ideas, and some did not. Colonial rule may have been imposed on those in Southwest Africa, but Christian conversion was never compulsory. This episode is part of a transnational story that has not been fully appreciated, but is now detailed in this dissertation.



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Committee Chair

Lindenfeld, David



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