The Historical Background to the German Connection with Tonga: James N. Bade
The Historical Background to the German Connection with Tonga
James N. Bade
Until the proclamation of the German Empire in 1871, the German interest in the South Pacific was primarily restricted to the seafaring members of the German Confederation, particularly the Hanseatic League cities of Hamburg und Bremen. German sealers and whalers were the first to venture into the South Pacific, followed by German merchants, attracted by the high prices being paid for copra (dried coconut flesh from which coconut oil was derived), who established plantations and trading stations on islands throughout the region.1 1842 marked the first attempt to establish a German colony in the Pacific, on the Chatham Islands, by the German Colonisation Company, acting on behalf of the cities of Hamburg, Bremen und Lübeck, an attempt which was ultimately unsuccessful, but led to a number of German immigrants being sent to Nelson, New Zealand.2
Fifteen years later, the Hamburg firm J. C. Godeffroy & Son established a trading station in Samoa and before long there were trading stations in Tonga, Fiji, and New Guinea, and on the Tokelau, Gilbert, Marshall and Caroline Islands. These trading stations, which were later taken over by the German plantation companies Deutsche Handels- und Plantagen-Gesellschaft and the Neu-Guinea-Gesellschaft, were to form the basis of the so-called German South Seas Empire. From 1884, Germany set up colonial administrations throughout the region; by 1900, north-eastern New Guinea, the Bismarck Archipelago, the Marshall Islands, the Caroline and Mariana...
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