Date of Award

Spring 4-12-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Eliza Ablovatski

Second Advisor

Pedro Cantisano


Dr. Carl Peters, founder of German East Africa, advocated for the creation of German colonies in the 1880s to divert the massive wave of emigration into German territory overseas and to demonstrate German national strength. At turns defensive and brash, Peters articulated a romantic vision of agrarian settlement colonialism, which would theoretically create a reserve of German culture abroad and defy the condescension of the British. After a scandal in 1896 tanked his political and colonial career, Peters wrote his memoirs, crafting himself into a military hero, but remained largely disgraced in the public eye. In the same right-wing nationalist circles frequented by Peters and other colonialists in the late nineteenth century, scientists such as Friedrich Ratzel applied Darwinian biological ideas to nation-states, arguing that nations needed to fight for living space (Lebensraum) like other biological organisms. The development of these ideas in the field of geopolitics in the early twentieth century, as well as the experience of blockade and defeat during the First World War, provided the theoretical basis for the expansionist aims of the Nazis, justified as a necessary fight for space and survival. The popularization of these expansionist ideas paved the way for the reemergence of Carl Peters as a hero of Nazi propaganda, in which he was portrayed as an ideological martyr of the fight for Lebensraum and the victim of a Jewish conspiracy, despite his infamous scandal.

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