The British Empire and the end of German colonialism

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This paper examines the impact of Germany’s lost colonies on the British imperial system. Except for East Africa, Germany’s colonies had quickly been conquered during the First World War and were eventually transferred to the victors as mandates as part of the Versailles settlement. Britain’s Dominion allies, especially Australia and the Union of South Africa, had fiercely advocated for Germany to surrender its colonial empire, partly for security reasons but also arising from an insistence on asserting regional hegemony. The takeover of these colonies remains an obscure topic in the historiography of the Peace Conference and British imperial history. Yet, this confiscation not only had long-term ramifications for future diplomacy concerning the basis of colonial rule, it also signaled a change within the British imperial system. Since ‘C’ class mandates were to be administered as an ‘integral part’ of the mandatory power, former British colonies were now in possession of their own de-facto colonies. Australia in New Guinea and the Union of South Africa in South West Africa.
Based on archival material from both Britain and the former Dominions, the paper will show how the issue of Germany’s lost colonies serves as a microcosm, on how the balance of power within the British imperial system was transformed through the First World War. Indeed, prior to the outbreak of war in 1914, British officials in Whitehall had generally accepted German colonial demands in the Pacific and Southern Africa despite protest and early attempts of annexation by the Dominions. For instance, Queensland’s annexation of New Guinea in 1883 was rejected by Colonial Office only to acknowledge a German Schutzgebiet the following year. Yet after the war, British ministers and officials readily conceded to Dominion demands of regional hegemony.
Publikationsdato15 nov. 2019
StatusAccepteret/In press - 15 nov. 2019
BegivenhedNorth American Conference on British Studies - Pan Pacific Vancouver, Vancouver, Canada
Varighed: 14 nov. 201917 nov. 2019


KonferenceNorth American Conference on British Studies
LokationPan Pacific Vancouver

ID: 223361953