Colonialism, Antisemitism, and Germans of Jewish Descent in Imperial Germany

Christian S. Davis
An exploration of anti-Semitic behaviors in the German empire in the pre-WWI period


Colonialism, Antisemitism, and Germans of Jewish Descent in Imperial Germany examines the relationship between the colonial and antisemitic movements of modern Germany from 1871 to 1918, examining the complicated ways in which German antisemitism and colonialism fed off of and into each other in the decades before the First World War. Author Christian S. Davis studies the significant involvement with and investment in German colonialism by the major antisemitic political parties and extra-parliamentary organizations of the day, while also investigating the prominent participation in the colonial movement of Jews and Germans of Jewish descent and their tense relationship with procolonial antisemites.

Working from the premise that the rise and propagation of racial antisemitism in late-nineteenth-century Germany cannot be separated from the context of colonial empire, Colonialism, Antisemitism, and Germans of Jewish Descent in Imperial Germany is the first work to study the dynamic and evolving interrelationship of the colonial and antisemitic movements of the Kaiserreich era. It shows how individuals and organizations who originated what would later become the ideological core of National Socialism—racial antisemitism—both influenced and perceived the development of a German colonial empire predicated on racial subjugation. It also examines how colonialism affected the contemporaneous German antisemitic movement, dividing it over whether participation in the nationalist project of empire building could furnish patriotic credentials to even Germans of Jewish descent. The book builds upon the recent upsurge of interest among historians of modern Germany in the domestic impact and character of German colonialism, and on the continuing fascination with the racialization of the German sense of self that became so important to German history in the twentieth century.

"The major contribution of Colonialism, Antisemitism, and Germans of Jewish Descent in Imperial Germany lies precisely in linking colonialism with antisemitism, which no one has done up to now. It will influence how scholars think about the long-term continuities and ruptures in German history."
—Shelley Baranowski, University of Akron

Jacket art: Dernburg on the march to Tabora in German East Africa in 1907 (Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1982-170-28A).

Christian S. Davis is Assistant Professor of History at James Madison University.

Praise / Awards

  • " outstanding contribution to the literature on the imperial period. Davis's nuanced examination of antisemitism in the context of colonial debates provides a new perspective on issues of central importance for German history."
    —Lisa Fetheringill Zwicker, H-Net H-Judaic

  • "Overall, the book provides an important addition to the history of organized antisemitism in imperial Germany and contributes an interesting aspect to the influence of colonialism on German culture."
    —Daniel Rouven Steinbach, German History
  • "Davis covers his subject thoroughly and convincingly."
    Journal of Modern History
  • "... few scholars have delved very deeply into the contemporary linkages between colonialism and the politics of antisemitism during the time of Kaiserreich itself. This is the focus of Christian Davis’s thorough, detailed, and multifaceted account. Davis’s book charts how colonial ideology (including its racial and economic dimensions) fits into the political thought of antisemites... A great strength of this book is the way that it uses biographical vignettes to avoid simplistic assertions or categorizations, and instead reveals the complexity of both antisemitic politics and of German-Jewish participation in the colonial project."
    German Studies Review
  • "Davis makes it clear that anti-Semites affected the colonial movement, whereas it is less clear that the reverse may have been true—he notes a lack of sources for that case. He has provided an excellent guide to those political parties (both inside and aspiring to the government) directly associated with anti-Semitism... his use of contemporaneous publications and the colonial archives sets a new bar for research on Judaism and German-Jewish populations of the Reich—he opens up considerable new data for consideration, to nuance our perceptions of what it might have meant (especially in Berlin) for politicians and public figures to speak in anti-Semitic terms."
  • "This monograph raises a number of extremely interesting and relevant questions."
    American Historical Review

Look Inside

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 296pp.
  • 7 B&W images.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2012
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-11797-0

Add to Cart
  • $79.95 U.S.

Related Products



  • antisemitism, anti-semitism, origins of the Holocaust, German Africa, German Jews, colonial Africa, German-Jewish assimilation, German colonialism, Imperial Germany, German Southwest Africa, Carl Peters