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The Neglected War

The Neglected War: The German South Pacific and the Influence of World War I

Hermann Joseph Hiery
Copyright Date: 1995
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    The Neglected War
    Book Description:

    In the summer of 1914 Germany's Pacific colonies were a quiet backwater of its empire. But the shots of Sarajevo shattered the Pacific as well as Europe. Within weeks of the outbreak of World War I, Western Samoa - the First German territory to be taken in the war - New Guinea, and the Micronesian islands, were occupied by Australian, New Zealand, and Japanese forces. Current historiography claims that World War I made little difference to the indigenous populations of the Pacific and that this change in colonial masters had little effect on those they ruled. The Neglected War challenges this interpretation. World War I and its aftermath, Hermann Hiery claims, had a tremendous effect on the Pacific Islands. Hiery details the policies pursued by Australia, New Zealand, and Japan, showing how each viewed and treated the indigenous populations. Administered by military officers with little civil oversight, the new colonial regimes employed the mandates they had received at the Paris Peace Conference with impurity. Hiery's scrupulous review of the evidence, gathered from largely unknown primary sources, has uncovered a story of masquerades and coverups, negligence and duplicity, leading in some cases to full-blown atrocities. Most of all, he tells the story of Pacific Islanders, how they coped with the dramatic changes brought about by the war, and how they tried to influence its consequences. Many Islanders were fully aware that their political destiny was to be redefined after the war, and a few even saw it as an opportunity to achieve independence. This is also the story of their failure. Behind the evidence gathered here lie fundamental questions: How important are the differences inthe nature of particular colonial regimes, and what effect do such differences have on indigenous peoples? How do indigenous peoples interpret disparities in colonial rule? This revisionist work addresses these issues while shedding light on a crucial time in the history of the Pacific.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6489-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. Figures, Maps, and Tables
    (pp. viii-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xx)
  6. Introduction: THE GERMAN LEGACY
    (pp. 1-10)

    In the European summer of 1914, Germany’s Pacific colonies seemed to be a quiet backwater of its empire. German colonial policy in the Pacific and Africa had gone in different directions since at least the turn of the century. After the financial and political disaster left by the Neuguinea-Kompanie, Germany’s share of New Guinea had been placed under the direct control of the Reich. At about the same time, Berlin had acquired its last colonies: most of Micronesia, and, a little later, the western half of Samoa.¹ There is evidence enough that Germany was prepared to learn from its previous...

  7. 1 The First World War as a Turning Point
    (pp. 11-44)

    Until 1914 the German protectorates in the Pacific were undefended. No marine stations had been established, and the crews of warships from Tsingtao regarded their more or less regular visits to the Pacific as welcome recreational breaks. There were no military laurels to gather there; nor were they sought. Even in the worst case East Asia was of only secondary significance to the German fleet. The warships were intended, if necessary, to make Britain’s Far Eastern and Australian trading routes unsafe. Their main objective was to prevent wool being shipped from Australia to Britain.¹ The German navy had made no...

  8. 2 The German South Pacific under the Shadow of War: AUSTRALIA AND NEW GUINEA (1914–1921)
    (pp. 45-115)

    Despite the geographical proximity of New Guinea to Australia, Australians had little interest in the island and its population. The number of Australian explorers before 1914 can be counted on the fingers of two hands, and there were certainly no large-scale expeditions. This striking lack of interest did not change after Australia took over the British part of New Guinea. Although news from Papua was reported regularly in the Australian press, it dealt almost exclusively with internal squabbles between the few settlers and the administration, which were of little general concern. Only occasional reports about the discovery of gold caught...

  9. 3 Micronesia and the War: A SPECIAL CASE OF DIVIDE AND RULE
    (pp. 116-153)

    Northeast of New Guinea, a few degrees south of the equator, lies the small island of Nauru (about one-third of the size of San Marino). The people who live on Nauru are Polynesian, but they have many Melanesian characteristics.¹ Germany declared the island a protectorate on 14 April 1888. Administratively, Nauru was part of the Marshall Islands and the protectorate of the Jaluit Society. On 1 April 1906 the Micronesian island group comprising Nauru and the Marshall Islands became part of German New Guinea, but Nauru remained under the district office of Jaluit. When this office was dissolved on 1...

  10. 4 Samoa and the New Zealand Experience (1914–1921)
    (pp. 154-182)

    Tiny New Zealand had struck out with a vengeance, going down forever in the annals of the war. Samoa was the first territory under German sovereignty to be occupied during the First World War. German companies celebrated along with the occupiers. This represented “salvation from incalculable calamities arising out of the war situation,” wrote the representative of the Deutsche Samoagesellschaft (German Samoa Company). Its founder and co-owner, Deeken, had given the colonial administration a great deal of trouble by spreading pan-German propaganda while the administration had been aiming for a peaceful settlement. If only Samoa would remain British, was the...

  11. 5 Indigenous Responses to the First World War
    (pp. 183-201)

    How did the indigenous peoples in Germany’s South Pacific colonies react to the events that, in effect, led to the end of the German administration? This chapter does not look at how individuals came to terms with their new rulers during the war—previous chapters have dealt with that problem. What concerns us here is the essence of the new arrangements and the attitudes of larger indigenous groups toward them. We shall be looking at local responses to crucial changes in the balance of power and local strategies for dealing with them. Above all, this chapter addresses the question of...

  12. 6 Paris, the Versailles Treaty, and the Fate of Germany’s South Pacific Colonies
    (pp. 202-225)

    When the points were set for the political future of Germany’s colonies in the South Pacific, the indigenous people were not asked for their opinion. At the meeting of the victorious powers in Paris the only issues of principle to be decided were the conditions under which Australia, Japan, and New Zealand were to transform their military administrations into colonial administrations recognized under international law. On 24 January 1919, representatives of the main victorious powers met at the Quai d’Orsay to discuss the former German colonies for the first time. The British Empire, providing nine of the twenty-six delegates (five...

  13. 7 “New” Colonial Policy and Indigenous Interpretations of Colonial Rule in the Light of the First World War
    (pp. 226-264)

    Martial law and military administration ended in 1921–1922 (Japanese Micronesia) in Germany’s former Pacific colonies. It soon became apparent, however, that the changes which had taken place during the European war, or had been set in motion by the new colonial rulers, did not dissolve into thin air overnight on the introduction of a civil administration. On the contrary, patterns of behavior that had emerged under the exceptional circumstances of military rule were consolidated, and were only now able to put down real roots. In other words, the Australian, Japanese, and New Zealand colonial administrations all grew out of,...

  14. Abbreviations
    (pp. 265-266)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 267-346)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 347-366)
  17. Index
    (pp. 367-387)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 388-388)