German Cameroon

Last updated
German Cameroon

Reichsadler (1871-1918).svg
Coats of arms
Kamerun map.png
Historical German territory projected onto a modern-day globe:
Green: Territory comprising German colony of Kamerun
Dark grey: Other German territories
Darkest grey: German Empire
Status German colony
Common languages German (official)
Gustav Nachtigal
Jesko von Puttkamer
Karl Ebermaier
CurrencyGerman gold mark
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Blank.png Kingdom of Bamum
Blank.png Mandara Kingdom
Blank.png Kotoko kingdom
Flag of France (1794-1815, 1830-1958).svg French Congo
British Cameroons Flag of British Cameroon.svg
French Cameroon Flag of France (1794-1815, 1830-1958).svg
French Equatorial Africa Flag of France (1794-1815, 1830-1958).svg
Today part of

German Cameroon (German : Kamerun) was an African colony of the German Empire from 1884 to 1916 in the region of today's Republic of Cameroon. German Cameroon also included northern parts of Gabon and the Congo with western parts of the Central African Republic, southwestern parts of Chad and far eastern parts of Nigeria.



Cameroon, 1901-1972:
German Cameroon (Kamerun)
British Cameroons
French Cameroon (Cameroun)
independent Cameroon (Cameroun) Cameroon boundary changes.PNG
Cameroon, 19011972:
  German Cameroon (Kamerun)
   French Cameroon (Cameroun)
  independent Cameroon (Cameroun)

19th century

The first German trading post in the Duala area (present-day Douala) on the Kamerun River delta (present-day Wouri River delta) was established in 1868 by the Hamburg trading company C. Woermann  [ de ]. The firm's agent in Gabon, Johannes Thormählen, expanded activities to the Kamerun River delta. In 1874, together with the Woermann agent in Liberia, Wilhelm Jantzen, the two merchants founded their own company, Jantzen & Thormählen there.

Both of these West Africa houses expanded into shipping with their own sailing ships and steamers and inaugurated scheduled passenger and freight service between Hamburg, Germany and Duala. [1] These companies and others obtained extensive acreage from local chiefs and began systematic plantation operations, including bananas.

By 1884, Adolph Woermann, representing all West African companies as their spokesman, petitioned the imperial foreign office for "protection" by the German Empire. Bismarck, the Imperial Chancellor, sought to utilize the traders on site in governing the region via "chartered companies". However, in response to Bismarck's proposal, the companies withdrew their petition. [2]

At the core of the commercial interests was pursuit of profitable trading activities under the protection of the Reich, but these entities were determined to stay away from political engagements. Eventually, Bismarck yielded to the Woermann position and instructed the admiralty to dispatch a gunboat. As a show of German interest, the small gunboat SMS Möwe arrived in West Africa. [3]

Germany was particularly interested in Cameroon's agricultural potential and it was entrusted to large firms to exploit and export it. Chancellor Bismarck defined the order of priorities as follows: "first the merchant, then the soldier". It was under the influence of businessman Adolph Woermann, whose company set up a trading house in Douala, that Bismarck, initially skeptical about the interest of the colonial project, was convinced. Large German trading companies (Woermann, Jantzen und Thoermalen) and concession companies (Sudkamerun Gesellschaft, Nord-West Kamerun Gesellschaft) established themselves massively in the colony. Letting the big companies impose their order, the administration simply supported them, protected them and eliminated native uprisings. [4]

Germany was planning to build a great African empire, which would connect Kamerun through the Congo to its East African possessions. The German Foreign Minister said shortly before the First World War that the Belgian Congo was too large a colony for a country too small.

Protectorate of Cameroon

The protectorate of Cameroon was established during the period generally known as Europe's imperial "Scramble for Africa". The German explorer, medical doctor, imperial consul and commissioner for West Africa, Gustav Nachtigal, was the driving force toward the colony's establishment. By then well over a dozen German companies, based in Hamburg and Bremen, conducted trading and plantation activities in Cameroon. [5]

20th century

With imperial treasury subsidies, the colony built two rail lines from the port city of Duala to bring agricultural products to market: the Northern line of 160-kilometre (99 mi) to the Manenguba mountains, and the 300-kilometre (190 mi) long mainline to Makak on the river Nyong. [6] An extensive postal and telegraph system and a river navigation network with government ships connected the coast to the interior.

The Cameroon protectorate was enlarged with New Cameroon (German: Neukamerun) in 1911 as part of the settlement of the Agadir Crisis, resolved by the Treaty of Fez.

German losses

At the outbreak of World War I, French, Belgian and British troops invaded the German colony in 1914 and fully occupied it during the Kamerun campaign. The last German fort to surrender was the one at Mora in the north of the colony in 1916.

Following Germany's defeat, the Treaty of Versailles divided the territory into two League of Nations mandates (Class B) under the administration of Great Britain and France. French Cameroun and part of British Cameroons reunified in 1961 as Cameroon.


Planned symbols for German Cameroon

In 1914 a series of drafts were made for proposed Coat of Arms and Flags for the German Colonies. However, World War I broke out before the designs were finished and implemented and the symbols were never actually taken into use. Following the defeat in the war, Germany lost all its colonies and the prepared coat of arms and flags were therefore never used.

See also


  1. Washausen, Hamburg und die Kolonialpolitik, p. 68
  2. Washausen, p. 116
  3. Haupt, Deutschlands Schutzgebiete, p. 57
  4. Thomas Deltombe, Manuel Domergue, Jacob Tatsita, KAMERUN !, La Découverte, 2019
  5. By 1911 the total volume of trade reached over 50 million gold marks [Haupt, p. 64].
  6. This line was later extended to the current Cameroon capital of Yaoundé.

Bibliography and references

Banknotes of German Cameroon

Related Research Articles

German Samoa Colony of the German Empire in Oceania from 1900 to 1920

German Samoa was a German protectorate from 1900 to 1914, consisting of the islands of Upolu, Savai'i, Apolima and Manono, now wholly within the independent state Samoa, formerly Western Samoa. Samoa was the last German colonial acquisition in the Pacific basin, received following the Tripartite Convention signed at Washington on 2 December 1899 with ratifications exchanged on 16 February 1900. It was the only German colony in the Pacific, aside from the Kiautschou Bay concession in China, that was administered separately from German New Guinea.

Schutztruppe Former German colonial troopes

Schutztruppe was the official name of the colonial troops in the African territories of the German colonial empire from the late 19th century to 1918. Similar to other colonial armies, the Schutztruppen consisted of volunteer European commissioned and non-commissioned officers, medical and veterinary officers. Most enlisted ranks were recruited from indigenous communities within the German colonies or from elsewhere in Africa.

German colonial empire

The German colonial empire constituted the overseas colonies, dependencies and territories of Imperial Germany. Unified in the early 1870s, the chancellor of this time period was Otto von Bismarck. Short-lived attempts of colonization by individual German states had occurred in preceding centuries, but crucial colonial efforts only began in 1884 with the Scramble for Africa. Claiming much of the left-over uncolonized areas in the Scramble for Africa, Germany managed to build the third-largest colonial empire at the time, after the British and French.

Togoland former protectorate of the German colonial empire in West Africa (1884–1914), divided between present-day Ghana and Togo

Togoland was a German Empire protectorate in West Africa from 1884 to 1914, encompassing what is now the nation of Togo and most of what is now the Volta Region of Ghana, approximately 77,355 km2 in size. During the period known as the "Scramble for Africa", the colony was established in 1884 and was gradually extended inland.

German West Africa (Deutsch-Westafrika) was a rarely used designation for the German colonies in West Africa between 1884 and 1919. The term was normally used for the territories of Cameroon and Togo. German West Africa was not an administrative unit. However, in trade and in the vernacular the term was sometimes in use.

German West African Company

The German West African Company, in German Deutsch-Westafrikanische Gesellschaft / Compagnie, was a German chartered company, founded in 1885. It exploited the two German protectorates in German West Africa but did not actually govern them — unlike its counterpart in German East Africa.

New Cameroon German colonial territory ceded by France in 1911

New Cameroon was the name of Central African territories ceded by France to Germany in 1911. Upon taking office in 1907, Theodor Seitz, governor of German Cameroon, advocated the acquisition of territories from the French Congo. Germany's only major river outlet from its Central African possessions was the Congo River, and more territories to the east of German Cameroon would allow for better access to that waterway.

The Pallottine Mission to Kamerun was a Roman Catholic mission to the German colony of Kamerun run by the Pallottines in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. When the German Empire became the colonial power of Kamerun in 1884, French Catholic groups were denied permission to set up a mission in the territory. The Germans were not eager to allow Catholics in at all, let alone foreign ones. They relented two years later when the German and Swiss-run Pallottines requested entry. Permission came with the following conditions: The Pallottines were not to compete directly with the already established Protestant Basel Mission, they were to accept no orders from any non-German authority, they were to employ only German or African staff, and they were to use and teach only the German language.

Rudolf Duala Manga Bell King

Rudolf Duala Manga Bell was a Duala king and resistance leader in the German colony of Kamerun (Cameroon). After being educated in both Kamerun and Europe, he succeeded his father Manga Ndumbe Bell on 2 September 1908, styling himself after European rulers, and generally supporting the colonial German authorities. He was quite wealthy and educated, although his father left him a substantial debt.

Eduard von Knorr German admiral

Ernst Wilhelm Eduard von Knorr was a German admiral of the Kaiserliche Marine who helped establish the German colonial empire.

Johann Cesar VI. Godeffroy German trader

Johann Cesar VI. Godeffroy was a German trader and Hanseat.

Mundame Place in Southwest, Cameroon

Mundame or Moundamé is a community in Cameroon, in the Southwest Region, about 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) from the Mungo River. The river is navigable south of Mundame for about 100 kilometres (62 mi) as it flows through the coastal plain before entering mangrove swamps, where it splits into numerous small channels that empty into the Cameroon estuary complex.

Ndumbe Lobe Bell Bell King of the Duala

Ndumbé Lobé Bell or King Bell was a leader of the Duala people in Southern Cameroon during the period when the Germans established their colony of Kamerun. He was an astute politician and a highly successful businessman.

Jantzen & Thormählen

Jantzen & Thormählen was a German firm based on Hamburg that was established to exploit the resources of Cameroon. The firm's commercial and political influence was a major factor in the establishment of the colony of Kamerun in 1884.

SMS <i>Bismarck</i> Bismarck-class corvette (launched 1877)

SMS Bismarck was a Bismarck-class corvette built for the German Imperial Navy in the late 1870s. She was the lead ship of her class, which included five other vessels. The Bismarck-class corvettes were ordered as part of a major naval construction program in the early 1870s, and she was designed to serve as a fleet scout and on extended tours in Germany's colonial empire. Bismarck was laid down in November 1875, launched in July 1877, and was commissioned into the fleet in August 1878. She was armed with a battery of sixteen 15 cm (5.9 in) guns and had a full ship rig to supplement her steam engine on long cruises abroad.

Kapitaï and Koba

Kapitaï and Koba were two areas on the coast of West Africa which were the object of German colonial initiatives in 1884 and 1885. They lay between the Pongo and Dubréka rivers, south of Senegal and Gambia in modern Guinea; in the terms commonly used in the 19th century they were considered part of Senegambia. The short-lived German colony there was known as the Dembiah colony or Colinsland.


Mahinland was a piece of land in the coast east of Lagos on the Bight of Benin in modern Nigeria. In the late 19th century it was briefly the object of German colonial initiatives.

The Imperial Schutztruppe for German South west Africa was the official name of the military formation that maintained the German Empire in its colony of German South West Africa. The Schutztruppe are held responsible for numerous war crimes in the Herero and Nama uprising in 1904. During the First World War, the Schutztruppe defeated the troops of the Union of South Africa.