- A West African territory and German colony as of 1884. After centuries of intermittent contact with Europeans eager to trade for slaves, ivory, rubber, and palm products, Cameroon was colonized by Germany and quickly became the largest and most important of its West African possessions. The German acquisition of Cameroon came as a shock as Britain initially had stronger claims to the region. Not only had British Baptists established a mission station on the mainland in 1858, but the coastal Duala tribe had repeatedly requested the creation of a protectorate as a means of fending off unscrupulous European merchants. These requests were ignored, thereby opening the door for German merchant firms trading along the West African coast to expand their operations to Cameroon. The resultant competition eventually led the British to raise import duties in the Gold Coast. Concerned that this could lead to the exclusion of German merchants from all West African markets, Otto von Bismarck, in July 1884, sent a naval expedition under the command of Gustav Nachtigal to establish a German protectorate in Cameroon. The Germans subsequently used uprisings in the 1890s and 1904–1907 as a pretext for launching punitive military expeditions that completed the conquest of the interior and solidified their hold on Cameroon. Germany later obtained an additional 280,000 square kilometers in northeastern Cameroon when France ceded parts of French Equatorial Africa as settlement of the 1911 Moroccan crisis.Bismarck’s hope that private merchant firms would run the colony quickly fell apart, necessitating the creation of an official colonial administration . Colonial administrators soon found their efforts to develop the economy hampered by periodic uprisings, extreme linguistic diversity and frequent clashes with Protestant mission societies who championed native rights. Nevertheless, the Germans created a series of rubber, cocoa, and palm tree plantations that soon turned out more exports than any other German colony. Although roads and bridges were built deep into the interior in the hopes of opening up additional plantations, subsequent efforts to expand the agricultural sector were hampered by the need for land and the chronic lack of labor, necessitating the expropriation of African property and the introduction of coercive measures including bribery and the use of forced labor. Ultimately, the combination of continued African resistance to these tactics and the 1906 introduction of the Dernburg reforms requiring better treatment of indigenous peoples prevented German Cameroon from reaching its full economic potential. After falling to an allied invasion force in 1916, Cameroon was subsequently divided by Britain and France, a solution confirmed in 1922 with the League of Nation’s decision to award them mandates over the former German territory.See also <
>; < >; < >, < >; < >.FURTHER READING:Henderson, W. O. The German Colonial Empire 1884-1919. London: Frank Cass, 1993;Mbuagbaw, Tambi Eyongetah, Robert Brain, and Robin Palmer. A History of the Cameroon. New York: Longman, 1987;Rudin, Harry R. Germans in the Cameroons. London: Jonathan Cape, 1938;Stoecker, Helmuth. “Cameroon 1885–1906.” In Helmuth Stoecker, ed. German Imperialism in Africa. London: C. Hurst & Company, 1986, pp. 83–92;Wirz, Albert. “The German Colonies in Africa.” In Rudolf von Albertini, ed. European Colonial Rule, 1880-1940. The Impact of the West on India, Southeast Asia, and Africa. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1982, pp. 388–417.KENNETH J. OROSZ
Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.