Border Conflicts in a German African Colony

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Peter Curson
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About The Author

Peter Curson is a New Zealander living in Sydney. A graduate of Auckland University and the University of Tasmania, he has had a long academic career at the University of Tasmania, Macquarie University and the University of Sydney. Currently he is Professor of Population and Security at the University of Sydney and Emeritus Professor of Medical Geography at Macquarie University.

An historical demographer with a background in Geography, Demography, History and Public Health, he writes from an interdisciplinary perspective and is particularly skilled in reconstructing past populations and understanding how people react when confronted by disasters like epidemics, pandemics and wars. The author of a number of books and more than 100 academic papers, he also writes extensively for the Australian and New Zealand media on population and health issues and has been involved in the making of a number of TV programs.

In this current book he brings his historical demographic expertise to bear on a different sort of human disaster, one involving the clash of civilisations in German Southwest Africa and the part played by a young Australian adventurer in the Nama rebellion against the Germans between 1903 and 1907. In such a way he constructs a micro-history which illuminates a wider range of issues relating to early 20th century imperialism, British-Colonial relationships, and the attitude towards indigenous colonised peoples.

About The Book

The story of  a young Australian adventurer, Edward Presgrave, who enlisted in an irregular unit in the Boer War and stayed on in the Northern part of the Cape Colony to fight alongside Jakob Morengo and the Nama peoples in their epic guerrilla war against the Germans in German Southwest Africa, or present day Namibia. It records the adventure, sacrifice, deception and betrayal touching on major themes dominating the history of Southern Africa in the early years of the 20th century.

The book vividly describes the Herero and Nama rebellions against the Germans in the years 1903-1907, and the shattering aftermath of concentration, death and work camps and the German policy of genocide. It also details the full cost of the war in human terms to both the Herero and Nama peoples as well as to the German occupiers.

Little was known about Edward Presgrave until the present author engaged in his long and painstaking research through a host of differing sources, and the tracing of family contacts. On reconstructing the real events of what really happened during those years of hidden imperial conflict between the major powers, the author uncovers the attempts of their governments to conceal what might have resulted in public controversy and the undermining of international relations.

There is an investigation of the social, economic and political aspects of life in German Southwest Africa as well as life along the German/Cape Colony border with its gun running, cattle raiding and support for the rebels. It discusses German public opinion of their colony in Southern Africa and the debates the Herero and Nama rebellions engendered in The Reichstag.