South-West Africa


In preparation for the peace conference that was expected to follow World War I, in the spring of 1917 the British Foreign Office established a special section responsible for preparing background information for use by British delegates to the conference. South-West Africa is Number 112 in a series of more than 160 studies produced by the section, most of which were published after the conclusion of the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. The book covers physical and political geography, political history, social and political conditions, and economic conditions. South-West Africa (present-day Namibia) was located on the Atlantic coast of Africa between the Portuguese colony of Angola to the north and the British Cape Colony (later the Union of South Africa; present-day South Africa) to the south. It became a German protectorate in August 1884 after the British, who had shown some interest in extending their South African colony northward, chose not to assert their claims to the territory. The study regrets the failure to incorporate South-West Africa into the British Empire, and notes: “That it ever passed into German hands was due to the continued inaction of the Home Government and the Government of the Cape Colony. It is geographically inseparable from the rest of South Africa.” German rule of the protectorate was marred by the brutal suppression in 1904−7 of an uprising of the Herero people, cattle herders whose tribal lands were increasingly appropriated by German colonists. According to the study, “The number of Hereros who were killed or died of thirst and starvation is uncertain, but has been estimated at 60,000.” In 1914−15, South African troops fighting for the British Empire occupied the protectorate. After the war, the League of Nations mandated the territory to Britain, with the Union of South Africa responsible for administration. South Africa retained control until 1990 when, after a long liberation struggle, the independent Republic of Namibia was established.

Last updated: March 24, 2015