Carl Peters bigraphy, stories - Explorer, politician, author

Carl Peters : biography

27 September 1856 - 10 September 1918

Carl Peters (27 September 1856 – 10 September 1918), was a German colonial ruler, explorer, politician and author, the prime mover behind the foundation of the German colony of East Africa (in today's Tanzania). A proponent of Social Darwinism and the Völkisch movement, his attitude towards the indigenous population made him one of the most controversial colonizers already during his lifetime.


He was born at Neuhaus an der Elbe in the Kingdom of Hanover, the son of a Lutheran clergyman. Peters studied history and philosophy at Göttingen, Tübingen and in Berlin under Heinrich von Treitschke. In 1879 he was awarded a gold medal by the Berlin Frederick William University for his dissertation on the 1177 Treaty of Venice and habilitated with a treatise on Arthur Schopenhauer.

East Africa Company

Instead of pursuing a university career, Peters worked with a Dutch family selling sweets in London after his studies, where he became acquainted with British principles of colonization and imperialism. When he returned to Berlin he founded the Society for German Colonization (Gesellschaft für Deutsche Kolonisation) pressure group for the acquisition of colonies. In the autumn of 1884 he proceeded with two companions to East Africa, and concluded in the name of his society treaties with the chiefs of Useguha, Nguru, Ijsagara and Ukami. Returning to Europe early in 1885, he formed the German East Africa Company. In her book, The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt explains:

Two new devices for political organization and rule over foreign peoples were discovered during the first decades of imperialism. One was race as a principle of the body politic, and the other bureaucracy as a principle of foreign domination. ... Race was the Boers' answer to the overwhelming monstrosity of Africa – a whole continent populated and overpopulated by savages – an explanation of the madness which grasped and illuminated them like 'a flash of lightning in a serene sky: "Exterminate all the brutes."' This answer resulted in the most terrible massacres in recent history, the Boers' extermination of Hottentot tribes, the wild murdering by Carl Peters in German Southeast Africa, the decimation of the peaceful Congo population ..."Hannah Arendt, "The Origins of Totalitarianism," Harcourt Brace & Jovanovich, 1973, p. 185

What kind of people left their homeland to go to the German colonies in Africa?

"The superfluous men, 'the Bohemians of the four continents' who came rushing down to the Cape, still had much in common with the old adventurers. They too felt 'Ship me somewheres east of Suez where the best is like the worst,/Where there aren't no Ten Commandments, an' a man can raise a thirst.' The difference was not their morality or immorality, but rather that the decision to join this crowd 'of all nations and colors' was no longer up to them; that they had not stepped out of society but had been spat out by it; that they were not enterprising beyond the permitted limits of civilization but simply victims without use or function. Hannah Arendt, "The Origins of Totalitarianism," Harcourt Brace & Jovanovich, 1973, p. 189

The full impact of the African experience was first realized by leaders of the mob, like Carl Peters, who decided that they too had to belong to a master race. African colonial possessions became the most fertile soil for the flowering of what later was to become the Nazi elite. Hannah Arendt, "The Origins of Totalitarianism," Harcourt Brace & Jovanovich, 1973, p. 206

The German government under Chancellor Otto von Bismarck fearing the impact on the relations with the British was originally opposed to these plans and had refused any backing when Peters set out. Bismarck refused a second time when Peters returned to Germany in the closing days of the Berlin Congo Conference demanding an imperial charter. Peters, however, blackmailed the Chancellor successfully by threatening to sell his acquisitions to King Léopold II of Belgium who was eager to expand his Congo Empire. As Bismarck's National Liberal allies in the Reichstag parliament were pro-colonial minded anyway, he finally gave in to "the stupid guy" and the charter was made out. This constituted the necessary backing for further expansion on the East African mainland in the following years. In 1888 Peters achieved an agreement with Sultan Khalifah bin Said of Zanzibar who leased his coastal dominions in what was to be Tanganyika to the German East Africa Company.

Living octopus

Living octopus

In countries which are located near sea coasts, sea food is an important part of national cuisine