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German Togo and French Dahomey : transcolonial relations in the age of new imperialism


The PhD dissertation analyses the relations between German Togo and French Dahomey during the German colonial period (1884-1914). It defends the thesis according to which French-German relations in the Golf of Benin were characterized by an imbalance. The French colony was enlarged and developed faster, due to higher financial and political support. The German policy was aimed at limiting colonisation to the protection of the German trade establishments that were already implanted overseas. Set up as a model colony, Togo was supposed to sustain itself by its own means, without major financial support. The faint endorsement led some German officials to develop feelings of frustration and bitterness toward the government. The French-German relations in West Africa were characterised by general cordiality, a repeated cooperation and a high-valued solidarity between white men. Nevertheless, the colonial officials on the spot perceived each other as rivals. In Berlin and Paris, preventing a French-German conflict in Africa was, at least before the Moroccan crisis (1905 and 1911) seen as priority, which put a brake on local rivalries. The local rulers tried to take advantage of European rivalries. Their attempts in doing so were rarely successful; nevertheless, it allowed them to maintain a certain agency in the process of border demarcation. In Togo, the perception of the German past is nowadays rather positive, and the transport and telecommunication infrastructure largely contribute to this valorization. The present investigation however reveals that the development of infrastructures was much slower in Togo than in neighbouring French Dahomey.

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