- A West African territory colonized by Germany in the late nineteenth century as part of an effort to flex diplomatic muscle, preserve international trading rights, and placate interest groups at home. German interest in Togo began in the late 1840s with the arrival of missionaries and a series of small German merchant firms along the coast trading in palm products, cocoa, cotton, and rubber. In the 1880s, Britain’s decision to raise import duties along the Gold Coast triggered fears that German merchants would be shut out of local markets completely. Otto von Bismarck, the German chancellor, responded in July 1884 by sending an armed expedition under the command of Gustav Nachtigal to encourage west African chiefs along the coast of Cameroon to sign treaties of protection that would place them under German control. Along the way Nacthigal made an unsanctioned stop in Togo where he obtained similar treaties and announced the creation of a German protectorate. Other colonial powers soon recognized Germany’s new colony and during the next 15 years the Germans expanded into the interior in the hopes of gaining access to the Niger River. Those hopes were ultimately dashed by a combination of resistance from the indigenous Ewe peoples and simultaneous expansionist efforts of Britain and France. Togo’s final borders were set in 1900 via a series of treaty negotiations between Britain, France, and Germany.Despite early hopes for Togo’s financial future, before the turn of the century its small size and limited trade opportunities discouraged investment, leaving most financial enterprises in the hands of small German merchant firms. By 1900, however, railway construction and other infrastructure projects facilitated commercial access to the interior and attracted a variety of larger trading companies. Mirroring earlier coastal operations, both the colonial administration and these new trading companies focused their energies on running plantations and encouraging the indigenous peoples to harvest cash crops, thereby turning Togo into the most lucrative of all Germany’s African possessions.Despite Togo’s reputation as a model colony, its financial success barely masked growing racial tensions between colonizer and colonized. Starting in 1900, the Ewe increasingly protested their lack of rights, the extensive use of corporal punishment, and the ongoing economic discrimination that they faced. These protests in turn helped give rise to a nascent nationalist movement that partially explains the rapid collapse of German forces in the face of a joint Anglo-French invasion in August 1914. The decision of the victorious allies to split Togo between them was ratified in 1922 when the newly created League of Nations granted Britain and France mandates over the former German colony.See also <
>; < >; < >.FURTHER READING:von Albertini, Rudolf, ed. European Colonial Rule, 1880–1940. The Impact of the West on India, Southeast Asia, and Africa . Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1982;Henderson, W. O. The German Colonial Empire 1884–1919 . London: Frank Cass, 1993;Knoll, Arthur J. Togo under Imperial Germany 1884–1914: A Case Study of Colonial Rule . Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution, 1978;Stoecker, Helmuth, ed. German Imperialism in Africa . London: C. Hurst & Company, 1986.KENNETH J. OROSZ
Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.