German Colonialism, Genocide, and the Teaching of Global History

Thursday, January 7, 2010: 3:40 PM
Marina Ballroom Salon G (Marriott)
Bradley D. Naranch , Stanford University, Stanford, CA
“German Colonialism, Genocide, and the Teaching of Global History” This presentation shows how German colonialism can be used as a vehicle for teaching students about the global histories of migration, genocide, race, international law, human rights, and the media. Using the examples of Aime Cesaire's Discourse on Colonialism and on-line visual materials from the early twentieth-century, I will demonstrate how teachers can integrate German colonialism into a global history survey course. As a so-called “minor” or “peripheral” colonial power, Germany receives little attention in standard accounts of European imperialism. The limited extent and lifespan of its overseas empire, combined with the loss of its colonies following the First World War, have led historians to regard German colonialism primarily as an expression of nationalist hubris on the part of a newly unified state to catch up to its European rivals in the scramble for unclaimed overseas territories. New research into the history and legacy of German colonialism, including connections between the Herero genocide in Southwest Africa and the Holocaust, has drastically revised this interpretation and called into question the chronological and geographic barriers that once restricted its significance. In my comments, I will reflect on how this recent wave of interdisciplinary scholarship into Germany's colonial past enables new narratives of global history to be written, as well as how such insights can be brought into the classroom.