Jawad Daheur studied Sociology and History in Paris and Berlin and holds Master degree in Arts in History. He is currently writing a PhD thesis at the University of Strasbourg, exploring the history of German timber trade and forest exploitation in partitioned Poland between 1840 and 1914. His research interests include environmental history of Poland and Central Europe as well as German colonial history.
«They Handle with Blacks Just As with Us»: German Colonialism in Cameroon in the Eyes of Poles (1885-1914)
In recent years, scholars have begun to examine Germany’s relationship with Poland in (post-)colonial perspective. Analyzing the structures of power and control, racism and cultural chauvinism, they pointed out many similarities between « colonial » practices in Prussian Poland and in the « overseas » colonies. Yet, most of these studies refer to German sources, focusing on the German colonial standpoint and impression of Poland while not considering Poles’ own responses. This paper does research in this direction by questioning the Polish point of view on German colonialism in Africa in relation to the perception of Prussian rule « at home ». From the mid-1880’s, many Poles assiduously observed the progress of the German colonial expansion in Cameroon, Togo and the other colonies of the German Empire in Africa; those who lived in the Prussian Partition often interpreted these conquests as an enlargement of a domination system, The Poles were the first to have endured such circumstances for many decades: the repression by the military, the Germanization of culture, especially through the school policy, and the dispossession of land. Based on the analysis of articles from magazines and daily newspapers, as well as scientific and travel literature, the paper investigates the Polish perception of German colonial politics in Africa until WWI. In the end, it shows the ambivalence of views on the issue, between anti-imperialist critics of African suffering and the perception of common « Europeanness » and a shared civilizing mission , which foreshadows the Polish colonial ambitions during the interwar period.