Improving the Cattle, Developing the Colony: Exploring the History of Cattle Imports into Namibia during the German Colonial Period (1893-1915)

Vögeli, Anna. Improving the Cattle, Developing the Colony: Exploring the History of Cattle Imports into Namibia during the German Colonial Period (1893-1915). 2009, Master Thesis, University of Basel, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.

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Official URL: https://edoc.unibas.ch/60707/

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Cattle economies have been and continue to be of crucial importance in the history of southwestern Africa. This thesis examines in detail cattle mobility in its various forms, origins and figures over a period of several decades, with a special focus cattle imports into Namibia during the period of German colonial occupation from the early 1890s up to 1915.
The first of three chapters examines the pre-colonial transformations of cattle economies in the context of expanding mercantile capitalism and early formal colonialism. The chapter discusses various forms of intra- and interregional cattle mobility and local breeding practices throughout the 19th century and thereby highlights that both interregional cattle transfers and systematic breeding practices in the region by far antedated the establishment of the German colonial forces in the region. All in all, the chapter sketches 19th century cattle breeding in Namibia as a highly dynamic landscape in which cattle wealth functioned as a central and highly contested means of power which, prior to the Rinderpest panzootic of 1897, was largely controlled by African cattle owners. Furthermore, it emphasizes that early (colonial) state formation processes to a large extent rested on cattle seizures, confiscations and booty, practices which were particularly pronounced in the 1890s and the 1904/5 period.
The second and main chapter of the thesis explores in detail particular as well as general patterns of regional and international cattle imports during the German colonial period in the context of the colonial administration’s changing policies for agriculture, veterinary science and veterinary services. As the sources in the German colonial adminstration’s extensive archives suggest, the Referat für Veterinärmedizin und Tierzucht, the administrative unit in charge of such processes, organised and supported cattle imports for two major purposes: On the one hand, small numbers of expensive stud cattle were imported from overseas on a fairly regular basis, with the aim to «improve» the local cattle by means of crossbreeding; on the other hand, mass-imports of cheaper cows and heifers were meant to quantitatively enlarge the breeding stock available to settler farmers. These colonial import policies and practices were, however, deeply shaped and conditioned by large-scale panzootics like the Rinderpest of 1897/8, large-scale wars (especially the 1904-1908 war period), as well ideologies of settler colonialism and capitalist freehold farming.
The third and last chapter critically discusses the colonial archives from which the thesis draws its main source base. It problematises the archives of the German colonial administration held at the National Archives of Namibia as a set of sources which exclusively documents a very specific form of cattle mobility across borders – i.e. cattle imports that were planned, conducted and controlled through the institutional structures of the colonial administration – while at the same time silencing processes, practices and perspectives that transcended the realm of colonial control and administrative documentation. These gaps present themselves as particularly problematic with regard to writing a socio-economic history of African farmers. By way of «refiguring the archive», the last section of this third chapter explores alternative and possibly more fruitful analytical approaches to this limited source base. It sketches out the kind of insights to be gained from shifting the analytical framework from cattle mobility histories per se to the institutional and scientific networks that were involved in the making, implementation and assessment of the colony’s breeding and disease management policies. Building on this, the chapter closes by inviting further exploration of the ways in which veterinary colonial policies and their implementation resonated with and fed back into nationalist and racist ideologies at work in these larger institutional and scientific contexts.
Advisors:Harries, Patrick
Faculties and Departments:04 Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > Departement Geschichte > Ehemalige Einheiten Geschichte > Geschichte Afrikas (Harries)
UniBasel Contributors:Harries, Patrick
Item Type:Thesis
Thesis Subtype:Master Thesis
Thesis status:Complete
Last Modified:05 Apr 2018 17:40
Deposited On:06 Feb 2018 11:30

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