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Colonial Discourse in Publications of German Historians and Geographers in the Late XIXth — Early XXth Centuries

Student: Zarina Bekoeva

Supervisor: Alexander Khriakov

Faculty: Saint-Petersburg School of Social Sciences and Area Studies

Educational Programme: History (Bachelor)

Year of Graduation: 2018

By the end of the 19th century relatively young German geographical science had become a wholly colonial subject. Along with geographers, historians were actively involved in colonialist ideology-building as well. Not only did scholars' papers reflect attitudes that dominated among German intellectuals, but also stimulated imperial thinking in academic circles. To date, however, geography and history in the German Empire have not been investigated as thoroughly as their British and French counterparts. This paper seeks to reveal how, using their research publications, academicians in these two communities legitimised colonial activity of the Kaiserreich. The study analyses historical and geographical monographs and articles issued between the late 1880s and 1918, and shows language models and components that distinguish the scholars' predilection for German colonialism. The research has shown three significant features of these papers: geographers' depictions of colonies resembling European ones, pan-Germanism with Anti-Semitic connotations, and an interlacement of different subjects within a single study. These findings imply that geography willingly embraced pan-German tendencies, which had been thriving within German science and humanities for a long time, and at the same time adapted non-German descriptive schemes to the needs of the empire. Historians, in contrast, had long-lived traditions, which had been catering for German nation-building for decades, and used these ideas to justify Wilhelm's colonialist policy. Moreover, academic communities cooperated to create a more complete examination with plausible evidence, regardless of their certain sense of rivalry.

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