Navigation – Plan du site
études et essais

Most obedient servants

The politics of language in German colonial Togo*
Benjamin Nicholas Lawrance
p. 489-524


Des serviteurs très obéissants : la politique de la langue au Togo sous la colonisation allemande. -- La politique éducative représentait une composante majeure de l'activité missionnaire chrétienne dans le bassin de la Volta et elle fut un élément central de l'administration allemande du Togo dans son entreprise de germanisation de ce pays. Cependant, des divergences surgirent quant au choix de la langue d'éducation. L'auteur analyse cette situation en termes de colonialisme linguistique et s'appuie sur les travaux de Fabian. Les documents de l'époque révèlent l'existence d'un conflit entre d'une part des volontés et des personnalités, d'autre part les langues anglaise, allemande et ewe. Ce conflit est vu comme l'anticipation de la lutte nationaliste. En 1904, les administrateurs allemands décidèrent de supprimer l'instruction en anglais au sein des missions et des écoles publiques et à cette fin firent pression auprès des leaders écclesiastiques pour qu'ils propagent l'usage de la langue, des moeurs et des habitudes économiques allemandes. Mais la population du sud du Togo ne l'entendait pas de cette oreille et profita de chaque occasion pour apprendre l'anglais et accroître l'image de la langue ewe dans sa nouvelle forme standardisée.

Haut de page

Texte intégral

Education policy was an integral component of the colonial administration's Germanization of Togo. The first decade of German rule saw minimal interaction between the government and mission schools. By circa 1900, however, a very different policy developed, partly in response to German lobbyists in Berlin, and partly due to African demands and expectations of a European education. In 1904 German administrators decided to eliminate English instruction in mission and state schools, and to this end pressured church leaders to ensure the spread of German language, customs, and economic practices. While there was some reluctance on the part of missionaries to this new agenda, evidence of African attendance or otherwise provides more powerful examples of resistance. But in Togo the struggle over language instruction often concealed many other aspects of African agency. Battles over language and the lingua franca are illustrative of the African colonial encounter, providing insight into African forms of resistance and education policy. In Togo, however, the forces which I will argue are characteristic of linguistic colonialism, are but a backdrop for the birth of Ewe national consciousness. The German period was crucial for later Ewe hegemony in proto-nationalist movements. Leaders of nationalist groups which reached their peak in the 1940s and 50s during the UNO Trusteeship prior to independence, reflected on the defining experience of German rule.

The paper's title is a jibe at the ironies of German language policy between 1900 and 1914, and is lifted partly from a document discovered in Lomé. The simple story of colonial policy is that of abject failure by Germany, and African initiative and survival. The three main languages in question, Ewe, German and English were all taught in mission and state schools. Evidence from the German colonial archives clearly shows English outstripped German as the popular choice of African students. Despite the determination of German officials to outlaw English as the medium of instruction, complex forces combined to ensure its rapid spread as the preferred medium of communication. The precursor to the struggle between German and English, however, was the formalization and grammarization of the Ewe language by German and Swiss missionaries. Many schools offered instruction in Ewe throughout the colonial period; toward the end of German rule, government officials considered introducing it as a component of the curriculum. This development was part of the process of standardization that ultimately resulted in a high proportion of Togolese learning to speak, read and write the Ewe language. Ewe books and newspapers were commonplace in Lomé from 1910. Many non-Ewe people spoke Ewe fluently. Ewe speakers, not just Ewe people, became the dominant group of Africans resident in Togo; they largely controlled the native auxillaries of the government, intellectual occupations, merchant class and churches. By championing Ewe unity these Togolese "nationals" opposed the post-war division of their small country by Britain and France. Thus, in the face of colonial domination, Togolese were later to turn to their experience under German rule as a defining moment of their national awakening.

Essentially, the irony of the German education policy was that the language considered least important and least threatening by colonials, performed an integral role in nation-building. The complex story of language instruction in Togo reinvigorates the old debate about African choices in education and African resistance to colonial imposition. English was taught by Protestant missionaries both to spread Christianity and encourage local marketization for subsequent exploitation by the underwriters of missions. German was introduced to Germanize Togo, and to "civilize" Africans so they might efficiently serve their European masters. Ewe was initially seen by missionaries as a useful device to spread Christianity; a formalized language was necessary for translating the Bible. Ewe was later considered useful by colonial officials, especially as the failure of German instruction became steadily apparent. All the while though, Ewe in its standardized form, spread along the coastal strip and further inland. It was simultaneously a vehicle of colonial encroachment and an African escape from colonial impositions. It enabled African collaboration and resistance. Coastal Ewe people in Togo, Ghana and Benin, and Mina, Guin, Akposso and many other ethnic groups found political unity under the hegemony of Ewe-speakers. Ultimately, it became such a powerful unifying tool for Africans within Togo, that French officials sought to recreate linguistic divisions by redefining certain Ewe-speaking regions as culturally distinct and populated by Mina people so as to thwart the Ewe nationalist movement of the 1940s and 50s (Amenumey 1989: 62-64).

A formulaic end to a great deal of nineteenth century European correspondence, "Most Obedient Servant" can be viewed at once as an indication of submission to authority, a polite disregard of that same authority, and the sign of "a lesson learned". Examining minutes of meetings and conferences, and scrutinizing margins for scribbles and comments provides a beginning in the long process of piecing together the intentions of the various colonial actors. In Togo, manners, attitudes and lessons learned were not restricted by linguistic or ethnic borders, and this is clearly apparent from the profile of later Togolese nationalism. While the documentary record is incomplete and heavily biased toward the German rulers, it is possible to read between the lines and capture glimpses of the indigenous response to colonization. My research in the National Archives of Togo focused on the means employed to enforce institutional change in the language of instruction in colonial schools 1. The earliest discussions of this complex issue can be traced back to the formative years of German rule. In 1892 the main concern of the administration was that English-speaking Methodist Wesleyan missionaries in Klein-Popo should commence instruction in German 2. At this time German requests were only half-hearted, motivated more by fears for national security than any particular interest in educational development, and contradicted by the fact that the vast majority of German missionaries also taught in English. The Wesleyans pleaded a form of religious immunity, and alongside promises not to involve themselves in political matters 3, the issue of the language of instruction was effectively placed on the back burner for a decade.

Thus this paper begins with the government's evaluation of language instruction at the turn of the century. Why the language of instruction became again a political issue in Togo is revealed in the frank admissions of colonials in their conferences and meetings, meetings which took on an increasing frequency and formality with the arrival of Governor Julius Graf von Zech auf Neuhofen. The language of instruction in colonial schools was a source of pride and nationalism for Europeans. The schools themselves were a plentiful source of educated Africans, the men and women who oiled the wheels of the colonial machine. Explaining a struggle about language requires that we turn to some linguistic theory.

Linguistic Colonialism in Togo

This paper is a history of language policy; it examines evidence for the choice of the language of instruction and infers that these choices paved the way for proto-nationalism in post-war Togo. For the purpose of interpretation it will be useful to reinvent a popular Lacanian conceptualization of linguistic development, employed with particular effect by Johannes Fabian, known as linguistic colonialism (Lacan 1977: 30, 146). Linguistic colonialism as a theoretical concept is uniquely capable of revisiting the tension of this period because the barriers to the colonial mission presented by indigenous languages, and on the flip side, the obstacles created by imposing an alien language on a diverse group as a legitimizing device, ensure that the dynamism of the struggle remains uppermost in the reader's mind. In Togo many African and European languages battled against one another in a struggle for supremacy: it was a battle that mirrored the colonial encounter in all its complexity. Language was used by the missionaries to control Africans, and by Africans to realize their commercial, educational and political objectives 4. It was used by Germans to "modernize" Togo; and ultimately by the colonial officials, to succor the African entrepreneur and enervate the missionary influence.

In his history of the linguistic situation in the Belgian Congo, Fabian uncovers the integral role of Swahili. Previous theories looked simply at how power was imposed, and disavowed the space for indigenous development. They presented only one side of a multi-faceted linguistic history 5. He argues that the historian and the cultural anthropologist should consider the evidence of language and linguistic development as an unusually vivid indication of the nature of the colonial exchange 6. Fabian conceives of the battle of languages as replicating the struggle between Europeans and Africans 7.

In order that we can explain the complex web of language policy in Togo, we must reconfigure the concept of linguistic colonialism. The evidence from Togo makes plain that there were battles on several levels, and that the struggle between the imposition of German and the extinguishing of English led colonial officials to become complacent about the role and spread of the Ewe language. Specifically pertaining to Togo, this theory demonstrates that the value and emphasis placed on one language had significant consequences for the wider colonial program. Linguistic colonialism in the form of language policy in Togo was used as an authoritative device; it enhanced the authority of German people, German texts, and German colonial ideas in Togo. Germans perceived English as a threat and used language policy officially to demote the importance of English in all walks of life. The same rulers, however, did not consider the Ewe language as a great threat to their wider plans of Germanization. Ewe was used by missionaries, but treated with little more than scientific curiosity by German scholars and colonial officials. This ambivalence meant that Ewe-speakers were permitted the space to realize their own ambitions within an otherwise authoritative environment. Linguistic colonialism as a theoretical concept enables us to explain the rapid spread of the Ewe language, well beyond its ethnic boundaries. Largely outside the colonial equation, Ewe subsequently flourished in the unique hybridity of the colonial encounter.

Three languages are surveyed in this paper. German was probably never the mother-tongue of more than 350 people at any one time 8. English was spoken mainly by merchants and missionaries. Whereas Ewe was spoken by Ewes and missionaries. The colonial régime aggressively Germanized Togo. Their language policies were archetypal colonialism: they imposed a foreign language on an alien culture, with the aim of making it ultimately indispensable to the then subordinate culture. Each of the three principle actors can be placed within the scheme provided by this theory of linguistic colonialism. They attempted to realize their own objectives via the language(s) they adopted. They acquiesced to the desires of other colonial actors by relinquishing their language(s). And in adapting and changing rapidly over several decades they emphasized the fluidity of the colonial encounter.

In this paper the actors on the colonial stage are reduced to three for the sake of simplicity; the indigenous population (concentrating largely on the Ewe), the missionaries in Africa, and the colonial régime, in Lomé and Berlin. Throughout the period of German occupation their paths were constantly intertwined. Each group had a distinct set of objectives, and the history of the colonial encounter is the history of the negotiation of these objectives. This paper is a rather schematic attempt to understand the complexity of colonial interrelationships. A brief survey of the historiography will demonstrate how the construction of a binary historical and linguistic model--i.e. English versus German--resulted in the subsequent neglect of Ewe linguisitic history. Thereafter, I will turn to the languages of education, examining first the spread of English, and then the imposition of the use of German. Finally, I will scrutinize the sources for evidence of the development of the Ewe language and its relationship with English and German. I will argue that this evidence strongly suggests that policies interpretable as linguistic colonialism were important for the later development of proto-nationalism.

The following sketch indicates how complicated the linguistic picture became. The indigenous population spoke many languages, including dialects of Ewe, Mina, Adangbe, Kotokoli, Bassar, Tchokossi, Hausa, Moba, Kabyé, Ga and dozens more. Many people were polyglots. On the coast some learned Portuguese from former slaves. English superseded Portuguese after the 1860s. Non-Ewes also learned Ewe. The missionaries spoke German and English, and then learned Ewe. They produced their own published version of a standardized and grammarized Ewe language. They taught this and English to the indigenous population. The colonial officials spoke German. Some learned Ewe. They communicated to the indigenous population in English, and to the missionaries in German or English. The missionaries published in German and Ewe. The colonial régime later decided German was to become the official language. The Reichstag and private individuals funded schemes to teach German to the indigenous population. Africans were somewhat reluctant to learn German: English had obvious commercial advantages. The colonial régime was able to control the missionaries via funding for their schools. Generally, only if missionaries taught in German would they grant funds. German became the official language. The indigenous population however, continued to speak English, and was doing so as the British and French invaded in 1914. Presently French is the official European language of Togo.

German versus English: a Historiographical Polarity

Western writers have traditionally taken as starting points for their histories of West Africa, the arrival of Europeans independently as merchants in the 16th and 17th centuries, or officially as rulers in the later 19th century. With respect to Togo, where European involvement on the coastal fringe reaches back into the late 16th century, historians rarely look beyond the mid-nineteenth century arrival of German-speaking missionaries. As these missions were sandwiched between the English colonies of Lagos and Accra, and because many working in the region later named Togo, taught in English, English became the dominant language. The arrival of German rule in 1884 enshrined the polarity of German and English. This binary antagonism has come to dominate the historical writing about Togo. This model inaccurately represents the colonial situation, because it neglects the indigenous linguistic complexity, particularly the instrinsic role of the Ewe language and culture. It is, however, an explicable development of the historiography; and one made more so by the concept of linguistic colonialism.

German rule and its relative merits, long a bone of contention, have made Togo an adversarial subject for historians. During the inter-war years German writers, anxious for the return of their former colonies, portrayed German rule as benevolent and beneficial to the Togolese population (Metzger 1941). Post World War Two, the transfer to United Nations trusteeship and nationalist stirrings, set historical writing on a very different footing. Manfred Nussbaum's polemic (1962) charged the German régime with the most atrocious excesses 9. This book was very influential in returning the African experience to center stage, though Nussbaum himself wrote that the indigenous actors were a passive, dominated population. A former French government official, Robert Cornevin, further entrenched arguments for European linguistic hegemony (Cornevin 1969) 10. While Arthur Knoll (1978), following Cornevin, focused on German economic achievements and ignored the implications of linguistic and educational development 11.

For most historians, linguistic developments play only a minor role in wider economic programs: this is the same of the use of German to eliminate English as the preferred vehicle of the merchant class. Buhler (1975) radically alters traditional presentations of the African as the passive actor in the colonial struggle, but neglects Ewe ethnic complexity 12. Peter Sebald (1988) offers some interesting evidence for the intellectualization of the African identity by the colonial élite, but does not consider African intellectual movements nor Ewe linguistic ascendancy 13. Arguing for a continuum between slave labor and wage labor in Togo, Donna Maier (1987) highlights indigenous resistance 14. She does not recognize, however, the value of missionary documents as evidence of a polarity between the use of German and English. Closer examination shows that during the formative years of the colony few knew as much about indigenous linguistic developments as missionaries in the field.

With the "rediscovery" of missionary records, linguistic history has become more in vogue. Missionaries were complicit in the educational development of Togo 15. Though they essentialize religion's transformative ability, missionaries were attentive to linguistic evolution, which was crucial for the promulgation of vernacular literacy and independent churches 16. The majority of missionaries taught in English, and records reveal them to be often accutely aware of indigenous linguistic demands and developments. More recently, historians have turned to the development of education policies in various colonies, recognizing the importance of a common language for educational progress (Spitzer 1974: 79) 17. Christel Adick (1981) notes that the history of missionary-led education in the Volta region privileged the Ewe people above all others in the protectorate 18. She noted that smaller, ethnically different peoples, such as the Guin and Mina, were displaced by the privileged, standardized Ewe dialect.

This approach is typical of the polarity between English and German. Ewe and other languages proffer only tangential value to the two main European languages. There is no space for Ewe to stand independently. Adick's concentration means that the crucial question of how various indigenous people responded to the changes imposed on their languages during the German occupation, remains unanswered. A recent attempt by the Ghanaian, D. Amenumey concentrates on Ewe political development. His interest is with the later post-war unification movement, and he surveys briefly political developments during German rule which precipitated post-war nationalism (Amenumey 1989). Though identifying significant educational improvements in German Togo, he locates the majority of political action within the Gold Coast Protectorate. Neglecting the precolonial linguistic heterogeneity, Ewe homogeneity is understood as a given. Sandra Greene argues this was clearly not the case for the Anlo-Ewe of Ghana. They were only beginning to inspirit a new homogeneous identity in their small geographical region at the turn of the century (Greene 1996). The nuturing of this post-war identity is attributed to the new Ewe Presbyterian Church (Amenumey 1989: 28f). Adick and Amenumey have led the discussion in the right direction. But what is still required is a thorough examination of the evidence for the depth of German involvement in the standardization of the Ewe language, the responses of the Ewe people to these changes, the growth of Ewe political forces in tandem with their language, and its implication for proto-nationalism.

And so we return to the theory of linguistic colonialism, engaged by Johannes Fabian, to explain and partly disassemble this seemingly impenetrable binary model. Linguistic colonialism attempts to describe a system of colonial imposition, that is, imposition from above. German and English fit within the model, while indigenous languages such as Ewe are ignored by the colonial governments and appropriately marginalized by the theoretical concept. The German government of Togo launched a fierce campaign against the use of English; but it did not perceive Ewe to be a similar threat to the program of Germanization. The antagonism between Britain and Germany over Togo is mirrored in the historical writing. Historians of the period have turned traditionally to the cultural and linguistic complexity of the indigenous population, only when the clash between German and English spilled into this arena.

What is required is a survey of Ewe linguistic developments relative to and independent of the spread of European languages. In the case of Ewe, the hybridity of the colonial exchange necessitated important changes in ethnic and linguistic structure. The economic, social and political demands of the period are only several of the diverse forces which initiated these changes. Fabian's work provides a useful template. The application of colonial language policies is key to proto-nationalism: the more bewildering the linguistic situation appeared to Europeans, the more urgent became the need to create order, either by imposing "vehicular" languages that already existed 19--such as English or German--or by promoting certain local languages to vehicular status--such as Ewe 20.

The Indispensability of English

The rapid rise in the popularity of English as a medium of communication for the purposes of commerce and conversion is a fascinating phenomenon. Commercial transactions along the coast, largely slave-trading, were conducted in English as early as the seventeenth century. From the late eighteenth century growing communities spoke and operated in English in Freetown, Monrovia, Accra and Lagos. Large missionary organizations operated in these regions and their influence spread beyond the immediate area of British/American commercial interest. Settlers, free or former slaves, were aided by US colonization societies and the British Anti-Slavery Society from the early nineteenth century. These organizations and others encouraged commercial enterprise along the coastal region and fostered links between entrepreneurs in the UK, USA and West Africa. Missionaries began to arrive in large numbers about the same time. They occupied sites already under UK/US influence, and spread to areas vacated by the declining merchant navies of Portugal, Denmark, Brandenburg and Holland. And while this multifarious activity served steadily to embed English in coastal Guinean society, similar influences came also from traditionally non-English speakers. Hanseatic merchants, for example, and their pious missionary colleagues, worked closely with their UK and US partners and chose English as their modus operandi. These choices and developments--the paths of least resistance--were self-evident to Ewes encountering Europeans.

Ewes were able to realize their own objectives via a missionary education 21. Bremen missionaries' comments about the Gold Coast indicate that interest in education was spreading into Togo 22. English offered a direct link to mission work, and to coastal entrepreneurs 23. Both missionaries and government officials complained of the difficulty they had in retaining the services of their young graduates within Togo itself 24. The men left to other coastal towns, or they continued their education in Lagos or Accra 25.

Protestant missionaries, the main source of these trained Ewe, instructed in English. Some missions, like those of Bremen Norddeutsche Missionsgesellschaft (NDMG), were bankrolled by merchants who operated in English, and employed only English-speakers 26. Vietor and Sons 27, Oloff & Co. and Firma Goedelt were particularly successful examples 28. The majority of Ewes thus followed the lead of missionaries and merchants, choosing English as their language of commerce and Christianity 29. And as time passed some in government were fearful that Togo was becoming anglicized 30.

Looking back at the mid-nineteenth century, there is evidence of considerable tension accompanying the arrival of missionaries in Ewe-land. Some Ewes perceived the Germans (who taught in English) to be one arm of the encroaching British influence, which in the Gold Coast colony favored some Ewe clans over others (Buhler 1975: 43f). There were also cultural differences. Peter Buhler (ibid.: 62) writes:

"For a variety of reasons, the earliest efforts to establish schools were not very successful. Aside from the difficulties of language and the fear among the Ewes that the missionaries might sell their children on the slave market, there were problems of relevance. Beginning at Peki, but even in the successful station of Ho, it was difficult to convince the parents of Ewe children that literacy had any real value. Moreover, there were social problems involved in attending schools. If children were seen spending their days with the missionaries, it might be degrading for the parents. Ewes frequently expressed the worry that their children might be viewed as pawns [for debts to] . . . the Europeans by their peers and neighbors."

Tensions soon subsided however, once increasing indigenous coastal prosperity allayed these fears. In the face of a consistent increase in commercial activity in the mid-1880s, the German colonial administration could hardly question the success resulting from instruction in English 31. Any increase in commercial activity was welcome, and insisting on German account-keeping methods was considered counterproductive 32. Some coastal mission schools were so oversubscribed they made Christianity a prerequisite. And yet it would be quite inaccurate to judge the missionaries' work as a success on their terms 33. They had few seminarians, very few nominal Christians, but hundreds of budding merchants. Instead of a corps of catechists, the NDMG and others created an entrepreneurial class, who, by virtue of their history of affiliation with Europeans, could circumvent coastal middlemen and trade directly with foreigners (Buhler 1975: 74f).

Interestingly this development dovetailed nicely with the colonial régime's desire for a fast-growing, export-oriented economy 34; a desire for which they unfortunately could not provide the necessary infrastructure 35. In the first decade colonial authority barely extended to the central mountain range, while economic control did not leave the swampy coastal strip 36. Thus Ewe traders operated with relative freedom. While the government imposed rather punitive taxation, it was usually lower than that of Britain and France. The slow redirection of trade through the Togolese strip was perhaps due more to Ewe economic autonomy than the "effective occupation" of Germany.

After English was replaced by German as the language of instruction, the value attached to English is evidenced by Ewe migration. Ewes learned English at any cost and by any means necessary. They quit schools that switched to teaching in German 37. Some went to Klein-Popo (Anecho) where the English Wesleyans might offer some clues as to where to find English instruction. Ewes also had allies in many German missionaries 38. Or sometimes they learned it among themselves; from Ewes in the Gold Coast, or from the elderly who had stayed in Togo. Men sent their children beyond Togo, to Accra or Lagos, to find schools 39. Great numbers left of their own volition 40.

When the question of whether or not schooling should be offered in a second language arose--the so-called Einführung fremdsprachlichen Unterrichts--English was again on the agenda 41. In a discussion of plans for a new government high school--(Fortbildungsschule)--modeled on those in Accra and Lagos, Kaufmann Beselin stated that only by offering this type of education would young Togolese leave the English regions and return to school in Lomé 42. Many missions complained that their pupils, after four years of German instruction, repeatedly asked to learn English "as a foreign language" 43.

Von Zech was against permitting the reintroduction of English. He held that the natives were neither capable of learning two foreign languages adequately, nor able to maintain both 44. A reintroduction of English, even as a second language, would only be to the detriment of the spread of German. He also argued, contradicting his earlier assertions about natives' lack of intellect, that teaching English again would push Togo in the direction of other colonies, like Dahomey, Southern Nigeria and the Gold Coast, where "colored" lawyers, doctors and journalists were a reality. The ultimate (disastrous) consequence could only be equality between whites and blacks! 45.

The battle against the spread of English was clearly one being fought and lost on every level 46. Germans reported that Togolese left Togo in droves 47. They knew that "die wenigen Schwarzen aus guten Familien", those who could afford to leave Togo, had a strong influence on the others. The majority of affluent Loméens (those who sent their children to school) had family in the Gold Coast town of Keta (Quitta) who spoke English. Kaufmann Fuls even claimed that "every native in Togo already knows some English from living at home" 48. Though von Zech clung naively to the idea that by building a good school in Lomé, Togolese would stay and learn German, he also accepted that even teaching conversational English would undermine the little progress that had been made 49. In Accra and Dahomey, conversational German was offered alongside French and English respectively. In both places, German was rarely chosen 50.

The Intractability of German

In 1884 German was spoken by the colonial administrators and by most of the missionaries among themselves. Few missionaries were British: most were German or Swiss. On the surface one might expect that colonial affairs would be conducted in German. Administrators and preachers, despite alternate world views, had some aims and a language in common. Would they not govern their realm in their mother tongue? The answer lies in the resistance by the Togolese--mainly Ewe--to the imposition of German and their clear preference for English.

The previous section demonstrated the indispensability of English in commerce and Christianity. German, on the other hand, was never popular, never properly taught, and never methodically introduced. German was imposed from above without adequate research. Colonial officials were evidently beholden to other forces, as the evidence shows. This imposition threatened to undermine the delicate economic success of the early years of German Togo. Moreover, there were so few German-speakers resident, that there was little likelihood that the language would become a lingua franca 51.

Togo's situation is characteristic of the struggle between various colonial interests: the German military, commercial centers, manufacturing towns, empire builders and social democrats. In the opinion of many of Germany's industrialists, Togo had the potential to become a successful, profitable enterprise. In the deluded eyes of some politicians and rhetoricians Togo was to become the jewel in the crown of an empire rivaling Britain and France. In the opinion of the extremem left-wing Social Democratic Party, Togo could follow Liberia in freeing the black man and woman from bondage and allowing them political independence. Political infighting between pro- and anti-colonialist lobbies and more profitable investment opportunities on the home front strangled colonial growth and development, however, and meant that none of these ambitions was ever realized. German rule of Togo was the least expensive and most efficient of any colony. Money was just not provided 52.

Before the arrival of von Zech, administrators encouraged missionaries to teach in German. Their efforts were concentrated on the more obvious exceptions, such as the Wesleyans, and that was apparently in response to a fear of treachery by the British residing in Klein-Popo 53. Yet with the arrival of the Styler Mission, largely because of their willingness to teach in German where possible, the question became a dead issue for about a decade.

Rising nationalism and patriotism within Germany demanded a change in course 54. By 1900 Germans were clamoring for the Germanization of their colonies and the elimination of anglicizing elements 55. The appointment of von Zech, a champion of such policies, indicated the influence of the nationalist school of educationalists. The first session his Gouvernementsrat was a disorderly discussion of how best to induce Togolese to adopt German. Various committee members spoke of mission schools, weights and measures, bookkeeping techniques and office vernacular 56. And yet out of this jumbled dialog came a detailed five-tier education system (Lehrplan) for Togolese mission schools, to be taught strictly in German 57.

The Lehrplan emphasized German language, script, culture, history, commercial practice, music and geography 58. Either the Latin or Gothic script was permitted. The first level consisted of reading and writing in German, learning the names of the body parts, counting from one to twenty and singing two German songs. Arithmetic began in the second class, as did grammar. In the third, pupils learned German phrases and sayings, Germanic cursive writing, German weights and measures, and the geography of the immediate region, Togo. The fourth level required pupils to translate German stories into Ewe and the reverse, further grammar, measurements, the history of German Togo and the Kaiser's family, and the geography of West Africa, German protectorates and Germany. The final level required advanced reading and writing of essays, grammar, bookkeeping, German history from the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, German and European geography, and the names of the continents and oceans.

Immediately upon the creation of this Lehrplan, von Zech returned to Germany. The minutes indicate the urgency of the matter at hand and the pressure exerted by nationalists wanting results. Von Zech explained to the committee that he was anxious to settle the question of instruction in German so that he could bring favorable news with him to Berlin 59. Immense financial pressures burdened the debate. Various organizations offered money to ensure the teaching in German, largely to signal their commitment to the imperialist enterprise 60. Von Zech expressed his complete trust (volle Vertrauen) that the missions would abide by and not contravene (zuwiderhandeln) his new regulations 61. He cajoled both the mission delegates and the merchants into accepting the full import of his new law, eliciting a modicum of support for his endeavors 62. The missions, led by Kost and Härtter expressed some reservations about the timetable--von Zech expected that no institution teach in any European language but German by January 1, 1906. The merchants, represented by Grunitzky and Hundt, assured that the matter of using German in all commercial transactions especially when working with Africans, would be brought forward in official business before the next meeting of the Handelskammer (Chamber of Commerce).

When the issue was again the subject of a governmental meeting, it was evident that little progress had been made in the intervening period. Von Zech gave the standard excuses for the reluctance to learn and use German among Ewe and others--German was more difficult than English (an unproven and entirely baseless statement) and German education had a shorter history in the protectorate 63. He warned that financial austerity demanded by Berlin meant that Togo could afford to hire no more white personnel. Thus it was imperative (mit aller Kraft) that trained "colored" people make up the expected shortfall. He cited prejudice against Africans in government offices as unhelpful. Praising the proactive stance of English-speaking colonial governments with regard to native employment, von Zech demanded support for his initiatives to draw more native personnel into the system and to extend the number of years of schooling.

Von Zech's Lehrplan was having more than just the usual teething problems. There were complaints about the arithmetic instruction; questions about the inclusion of map-reading; tension between the government-employed Headteacher Ehni and von Zech about which branches of the administration should receive the better graduates; complaints about the poor teaching standards of the primary school teachers; proposals to abolish the most basic first year in order that the final class could be raised one level to compete with the Lagos schools while not also adding to the expense of schooling; and other even more absurd suggestions 64. Neither Ehni nor Schönhärl had even finished the German language text books they had promised 65. Clearly there had been little if any progress in the incorporation of German into the daily workings of the colony 66.

Less than one year later further divisions in the German government program were apparent. The differing ideologies and intentions in education were manifest at a government conference. Ehni's statement of purpose differed strikingly with what we have already observed to be that of the missionaries. He announced that it made no sense to "hang on every word" in the expression "Volksschule". The schools in Togo were not to promote ideas of the Volk, but rather "we Germans are here in Togo, to spread our culture and language, and not to dwell on every aspect of the native languages" 67. Däuble sharply disagreed; instruction (Unterricht) itself was the purpose of the "call to Africa". Surely, if natives are to have a better understanding of German grammar, etc., they need a good knowledge of their own language 68. Von Zech came down on the side of Ehni: "The government has no appreciable (wesentlich) interest in spreading the native languages and we ought not to give them special standing in the schools" 69. Moreover, he hoped that mission schools would fall in line, and referred to the question of funding just in case anyone was still unclear as to exactly what he meant. Then he mentioned that the Styler mission did not instruct in Ewe with the same intensity as the NDMG, and (surprisingly) they were increasing in size, numbers (and government funding) rapidly. The implications of these statements were all very clear to the participants. Petty Catholic-Protestant hostilities within Germany transported themselves with full vigor to the Togolese context.

A revision of the Lehrplan of 1905 extended the schooling to six years. There were other changes too. There was greater emphasis put on German weights and measures. German Druckschrift was introduced; a printing style popular in clerical work and in vogue among educationalists. Stricter attention was given to spelling and composition. Health education and Pflichten der Eingeborenen (the responsibilities of the natives) was added to the fifth level. And in sixth class, interest and discount calculations, geometry, the geography of Asia, America and Australia, and agricultural classes and animal husbandry were added 70.

The conference then turned to a lengthy debate on how to teach German to the Togolese. This is one of the more interesting indications of just how at odds German educationalists were with the desires and interests of the Togolese people. Togolese were not learning German, largely because English had long been proven to be more advantageous. Yet, in spite of all the evidence government officials, teachers, and missionaries seemed convinced that merely by changing the script being taught, or by employing a conversational approach to language instruction, the problem could be overcome 71.

Each and every debate revealed a curious double standard: conference participants were constantly trying to enforce the instruction and use of German among the Togolese, and yet were aware of its perilous unpopularity. Take, for example, the comment of von Zech when he opened discussion on the subject of foreign language instruction (other than German). He implied that the hold of "German-ness" (die Befestigung des Deutschtums) on Togo would be undermined by any other language 72. At the same von Zech, like all the others, knew that Togolese were leaving for schools that taught in English, and he feared the product if and when they returned to Togo 73. A similar case happened a year later, when von Zech recalled the unwelcome news of examinations taking place in English in the Togo capital 74.

The administration persisted with its authoritarian program, disregarding the threat of Ewe emigration. Von Zech insisted on instruction in German and continued with funding programs that promoted German language and culture 75. In the urban setting he opened a government-run Fortbildungsschule and later a Handwerkschule (technical school). Regions which offered resistance were quelled by the erection of "effective occupation" stations. But in some of the more uncharted areas this often resulted in bloodshed 76.

While it would be melodramatic to say that von Zech returned to Germany a broken man, he certainly failed in his aim to enforce the instruction of and thus, the use of German in Togo. He failed because of the absurdity of his ambition. Von Doering made no mention of the disinterest in German instruction in his first educational conference after being informed of his appointment as von Zech's successor 77. He turned to realistic administrative objectives; the finance for creation of a Lehrplan for a girls' school and the funding for work to standardize the orthography of the Ewe language mentioned earlier, and the latter continues today under the guidance of the Académie nationale de langue évé.

The Ascendancy of Ewe

The coastal Ewe were often the first Togolese people to make contact with Europeans. As early as 1660 Europeans attempted to understand the Ewe language and spread Christianity (Debrunner 1965: 22). From the 1840s various German and Swiss Protestants attempted to establish missions and schools. An initial unspoken agreement among Europeans not to compete in the proselytization process, meant the catchment areas "allocated" the German-speakers were populated by Ewes. Germans encountered problems communicating and filling their schools and chapels. Their activity was permitted by the patient consent of Ewe chiefs; the slightest disruption often resulted in the destruction of the mission. Missionaries trained young boys as catechists, as part of their scheme for an independent Ewe church 78. Thus, accommodations were made, and on occasion in order that Ewe children attended school, missionaries submitted to regional customs. They accepted pawned children, to assuage parental debt--often to the missionaries. They "ransomed" enslaved children, and raised money in Europe for this cause 79.

Contemporaries expressed concern that the purchase of slave children would encourage the slave trade. Missionaries disagreed. Their children were ransomed, not bought, and were deemed entrusted to the missionaries by the Lord 80. While obviously believing they were rescuing children from a worse fate--and they perhaps were on one level--they were also oblivious to the complexity of the internal slave trade. But it is not the focus of this paper to evaluate that phenomenon. Only two aspects are of immediate concern here. Firstly, children from many different inland cultures and languages were brought together by the missionary schools. Secondly, these schools operated in and increased the area of Ewe-speaking territory.

These two consequences together formed the foundation for the ascendancy of the Ewe language. "Ransomed" children spoke an incongruous number of dissimilar languages. While Germans spoke little Ewe, these children had no common tongue. One solution to this predicament--as the missionaries saw it--was to teach the non-Ewe children to speak Ewe 81. In such circumstances children quickly forgot their mother-tongue 82. In Togo, the majority of these children were totally alienated from their birth cultures. And, as Ewe instruction required a standardized form of Ewe, it fell upon certain linguistically-minded Germans to create an Ewe language recognizable within the European linguistic intellectual paradigm 83.

Ewes began attending the German missionary schools in significant numbers in the 1870s, as the commercial value of an English education became steadily clearer 84. In order to increase the number of Ewe students, English had to be the medium of instruction. Furthermore, certain more progressive Germans envisioned an independent Ewe church. These concerns intensified the demand for formal Ewe. For missionaries to preach in Ewe to Ewe and non-Ewe people, a comprehensible, uniform language was necessary 85.

Evidence abounds for this increasing interest in formalizing, learning and teaching Ewe. Fabian has demonstrated the value of early documentation of the publication and standardization of a language 86. Of Swahili he wrote that dictionaries and other such documents can be read with great profit "if we manage to turn their vices into methodological virtues" 87. The same is true for publications from the colonial exchange during the German occupation of Togo 88.

Ewe publications can be divided into their different readerships. For example, many of the extant texts are those by Germans for Germans and British in Togo and Ghana; dictionaries and grammars. A number of education books written for Ewe-speakers exist, while others exist only as fragmentary editions. Publication in Ewe began in 1848 89. Between 1848 and the establishment of the German Schutzgebiet in 1884 eight books were published in various Ewe dialects: song books, grammars, arithmetic, geography and religious textbooks 90. Missionaries Ernst and Anna Bürgi were early champions. Together they published no fewer than twenty individual books 91. Though often overlooked, it is quite conceivable, that their enthusiasm for publication and translation did more to standardize the Ewe dialect among Ewe speakers in Togo and Ghana, than that of any other individual.

The Bürgis translated what was most useful to Christianized Ewe people; song books of different levels 92, bilingual texts in Ewe and English 93, history books 94 and small pocket dictionaries 95. They wrote pedagogical guides in Ewe, which themselves relied on the competence of Ewe teachers 96. Their fervor was matched by Johannes and Anna Knüsli, who wrote four serious academic volumes. The first was a large arithmetic textbook 97, followed by an orthography of the Ewe language 98. Knüsli then became the first to attempt a trilingual dictionary. If any single work captures the linguistic complexity of the lower Volta region, it is this 99.

Others, like Spieth 100 and Schlegel 101, gathered knowledge of the Ewe language via texts on customs, religion, fables, festivals and family and tribal history. They prided themselves in the "scientific" nature of their endeavor 102. While the ordinary spoken Ewe of the missionary always remained "rather stiff and scanty in its vocabulary" 103, a few worked diligently towards a standardized and "scientific" grammar of Ewe, mostly notably, Diedrich Westermann 104. They reflected on the ease with which they were able to use Ewe in different regions, especially among small enclaves of non-Ewe who lived among the Ewe 105. Ewe penetrated the Adangme-speaking Agotime and the neighbouring people of Nyogbo, Avatime, Tafi and Logba in the region of Amedzowe. Some missionaries even held that they were able to restore peace between some smaller clans who perceived themselves to be discriminated against by larger clans 106.

The Catholic Styler mission embraced the Ewe language with even greater enthusiasm. They launched a periodical about their revelations, including claims that the Ewe religion was actually a primitive monotheism 107. They facilitated the spread of Ewe by traveling to Atakpamé (a language of the Yoruba family) and elsewhere and preaching in Ewe 108. Unlike the Protestants, they published also in the Anlo and Anecho dialects of Ewe, when clearly their intention of mass conversion would have been better served by time devoted to Guang, Avatime and Akpafu.

The colonial régime was also complicit in the process. Their disregard for the complexity of language and culture in Togo is documented 109. Less widely known, however, is how the government's ambivalence aided this process, and assured the relegation of other languages to below even third-class status 110. They encouraged Europeans to employ Ewe-speaking catechists in their missions. They funded schools that taught only in Ewe, and aided the publication of text books and religious material in Ewe 111. The government also gave the Styler Missionary Society a very firm footing in the colony 112. Moreover, the competition for government funding for schools and missions ultimately resulted in a pact between the Protestants and Catholics in 1912, producing a standardized orthography. This competition did more for the ascendancy of Ewe than any other single action by the colonial government. Ultimately, between 1909 and 1914 this part of the linguistic struggle was settled by the publication of the Ewe Bible 113.


The linguistic situation was complex in colonial Togo. The progress of Ewe, which subsequently fueled proto-nationalist movements, however, is made clearer via the concept of linguistic colonialism. The departure of Germany led to the first in a series of proto-nationalist movements, the Bund der deutschen Togoländer (Amenumey 1989: 27f). Until 1918 German was still taught in some missionary schools. Debrunner even cites some evidence for resistance to the banning of German instruction in 1918 by the occupying French and British forces (Debrunner 1965: 153). Though this was a small movement, it was part of a much wider phenomenon not restricted simply to the urban élite, and well-documented by James Coleman (1956) and D. E. K. Amenumey. Ewes today still point to the defining national experience of German (mis)rule (Mamattah 1976: 449).

Instructing in German and insisting on its necessity among a population that clearly knew otherwise posed an intractable problem. The indigenous population and the missionaries resisted German: their relative success within their own linguistic paradigms led them to believe German to be unnecessary. German instruction in Togo functioned as linguistic colonialism; the imposition of a foreign language on an alien culture, with the aim of making it ultimately indispensable for the functioning of the then subordinate culture. Though the number of people who understood the language to some degree certainly increased significantly, German never ascended to the lofty level of indispensable.

This paper is an exposition of a colonial educational battle and its consequences for wider political development. It is perhaps insignificant with regard to the small number of people involved, the resources expended, and the sparse documentation, but it speaks volumes about the array of different languages and social complexities. The colonial administration encountered major obstacles to its agenda. The region did not lend itself to the dogma and stubbornness of von Zech and other ill-advised educationalists. On the flipside, the determination and fortitude of the Togolese people themselves is very vivid in this brief linguistic nexus. Their intentions and desires are clarion, their methods of resistance and adaptation striking, and their persistence and success obvious.

Struggles like this shed light on the inner workings of colonial states and societies. Unfettered communication channels, i.e. a common language, are a necessity for every community. Investigating the enthusiasm with which individual African and European languages were instructed and learned via European intellectual mechanisms, the classroom, textbooks, et cetera, provides a little of the African perspective in a period for which the sources are very scarce. And examining the nature of the imposition of language upon a colonized population sheds light on indigenous recourse to political mobilization.

The indigenous population displayed remarkable linguistic skill. Many of them were polyglots from childhood. In addition, many learned to communicate in English, French, Portuguese and German. By far the majority who were learning European languages, were doing so in order to further their own, largely commercial, ambitions. The language of choice was English, and this is evidenced by among other things, the high attendance at schools offering English instruction, and the economic success of former pupils, and the mass departure of Togolese from schools that taught only in German.

On the reverse (European) side, the force with which languages were imposed upon a population is evidence of a similar phenomenon. Europeans believed they were utilizing Ewe to the benefit of the Ewe people; whereas in reality, they were significantly altering the structure and content of an indigenous language in order to enhance communication between the two groups. The new, "scientific" Ewe language of circa 1912 would be considered a new language in some contemporary linguistic scholarship 114; to be sure, it clearly precipitated new political possibilities. Ewes and non-Ewes throughout Togo and Ghana adopted this language.

This paper begins to answer some questions about the nature of the colonial encounter in Togo. The theoretical conceptualization of the battle of languages in Togo--linguistic colonialism--goes some way towards recovering the voice of African actors in early colonial archival records. Colonial educationalists faced problems than went beyond those of merely imparting literacy and numeracy. The school teacher, missionary or layperson, saw him/herself as the representative of a new way of life: she imparted "knowledge" in the form of languages to facilitate the spreading of this new way of life. The evidence shows that far from simply receiving this doctrine and imbibing it, Africans molded it and in doing so created entirely new possibilities, often confounding Europeans. The results indicate African entrepreneurship and European obdurance. Education was only a means to an end for all of the actors of the colonial encounter.

Stanford University, Stanford.

* This paper is dedicated to my parents, Robert and Pamela Lawrance, who continue to make everything possible. Conceived in a graduate research seminar, it was first delivered at the 1998 Joint Paris-Berkeley Fund Conference entitled Imperialism and Indentity: Remapping the Cultural Politics of Representation organised by Mariane Ferme and Jean-Loup Amselle, and benefitted from an excellent symposium on anthropology and education convened by John and Jean Comaroff at the University of Chicago. I owe eternal gratitude to: my generous hosts in Togo, the Dagbovie-Byll, the Bock & the Alderman families; the assistance furnished by the Adjoint-Chef, Mr. Julien Bekoutaré, and staff of the Archives nationales du Togo, Pierre Alì Napo, of the Université du Bénin in Lomé, Kossi Amoua, Ruby Andrew, and Awino Kueth; and for the various comments and criticisms from Jean-Loup Amselle, Yves Marguerat, Judy Rosenthal and the anonymous reviewers of the Cahiers, numerous friends and colleagues along the way, but most of all my supervisor, Richard Roberts. It is somewhat superfluously that I iterate any faults and inaccuracies are entirely my own.

Haut de page


Adick, C.

1981 Bildung und Kolonialismus in Togo: Eine Studie zu den Enstehungszusammenhängen eines europäisch geprägten Bildungswesens in Afrika am Beispiel Togos (1850-1914) (Weinheim: Berletz Verlag).

Amenumey, D. E. K.

1964 The Ewe People and the Coming of European Rule, 1850-1914, MA Thesis (London: London University).

1989 The Ewe Unification Movement: a Political History (Accra: Ghana Universities Press).

Anonyme (Publications of the Government)

1884 Europäische Colonien in Afrika und Deutschlands Interessen sonst und jetzt (Berlin).

1892 Die Entwicklung unserer Kolonien: Sechs Denkschriften (Berlin: Mittler und Sohn).

1893 Deutsches Kolonialblatt (Berlin).

1894 Monatsblatt der Norddeutschen Missionsgesellschaft (Berlin).

1897 Deutsche Kolonial-Ausstellung. Deutschland und seine Kolonien im Jahr 1896 (Berlin).

1908 Die Deutsche Kolonialgesellschaft 1882-1907: Im Auftrag des Ausschußes der Deutschen Kolonialgesellschaft dargestellt (Berlin: Dietrich Heimer).

Buhler, P.

1975 The Volta Region of Ghana: Economic Change in Togoland, 1850-1914, PhD Thesis (San Diego: University of California).

Calvet, L.-J.

1974 Linguistique et colonialisme: petit traité de glottophagie (Paris: Payot).

Coleman, J. S.

1956 Togoland (New York: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace) ("International Conciliation", 509).

Cornevin, R.

1969 [1959] Histoire du Togo (Paris: Berger-Levrault).

Debrunner, H. W.

1965 A Church Between Colonial Powers: A Study of the Church in Togo (London: Lutterwoth Press).

Dernburg, B.

1907 Zielpunkte des deutschen Kolonialwesens: zwei Vorträge (Berlin: E. S. Mittler).

Fabian, J.

1986 Language and Colonial Power: The Appropriation of Swahili in the Former Belgian Congo 1880-1938 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).

Gann, L. H. & Duignan, P.

1977 The Rulers of German Africa, 1884-1914 (Stanford: Stanford University Press).

Greenberg, J. H.

1970 [1963] The Languages of Africa (Bloomington: Indiana University).

Greene, S. E.

1996 Gender, Ethnicity, and Social Change on the Upper Slave Coast (Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann).

Gründer, H.

1982 Christliche Mission und deutscher Imperialismus: eine politische Geschichte ihrer Beziehung während der deutschen Kolonialzeit (1884-1914) unter besonderer Berücksichtigung Afrikas und Chinas (Paderborn: F. Schöningh).

Knoll, A. J.

1978 Togo Under Imperial Germany 1884-1914: a Case Study in Colonial Rule (Stanford: Hoover Institution Press).

Knoll, A. J. & Gann, L. H., eds

1987 Germans in the Tropics: Essays in German Colonial History (New York: Greenwood Press).

Kopytoff, J. H.

1965 A Preface to Modern Nigeria (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press).

Lacan, J.

1977 Écrits: a Selection. Trans. by Alan Sheridan (New York: Nortson & Co).

Maier, D. J. E.

1987 "Slave Labor and Wage Labor in German Togo, 1885-1914", in A. J. Knoll & L. H. Gann, eds, op. cit: 73-92.

Mamattah, C. M. K.

1976 The Ewes of West Africa Oral Traditions. Vol. 1: The Anlo-Ewes and their Immediate Neighbours (Accra: Volta Research Publications).

Metzger, O. F.

1941 Unsere alte Kolonie Togo (Neudamm, J. Neumann).

Müller, K.

1958 Geschichte der katholischen Kirche in Togo (Kaldenkirchen, Rhld.: Steyler).

Napo, P. A.

1996 Le Togo à l'époque allemande (1884-1914). 5 vols, Ph.D. Thesis (Paris, Sorbonne).

Nussbaum, M.

1962 Togo, Eine Musterkolonie? (Berlin: Rütten & Loening).

Pasigan, G. A.

1997 "Sign Language: Colonialism and the Battle over Text", Loyola Entertainment Law Journal, 17.03.1997.

Rochl, K.

1911 Versuch einer systematischen Grammatik der Schambalasprache

Schlegel, J. B.

1857 Schlüssel der Ewe-Sprache (Stuttgart: Druck von J. F. Steinkopf).

Schöck-Quinteros, E. & Lenz, D., eds

1986 150 Jahre Norddeutsche Mission 1836-1986 (Bremen: Norddeutsche Missionsgesellschaft).

Schultz-Ewerth, E. B. T. & Leonhard, A.

1929-1930 Das Eingeborenenrecht: das Sitten- und Gewohnheitsrecht der Eingeborenen der ehemaligen deutschen Kolonien in Afrika and der Südsee. 2 vols (Stuttgart: Strecker und Schröder).

Sebald, P.

1988 Togo 1884-1914: Eine Geschichte der deutschen "Musterkolonie" auf der Grundlage amtlicher Quellen (Berlin: Akademie-Verlag).

Spieth, J.

1906 Die Ewe Stämme: Material zur Kunde des Ewe Volkes in Deutsch-Togo (Berlin: D. Reimer).

1911 Die Religion der Eweer in Süd-Togo (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht; Leipzig: J. C. Hinrisch).

Spitzer, L.

1974 The Creoles of Sierra Leone: Responses to Colonialism, 1870-1945 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press).

Warneck, G.

1901 Outline of a History of Protestant Missions (3rd ed).

Westermann, D.

1935 Die Glidyi-Ewe in Togo (Berlin: W. de Gruyter).

Wright, M.

1971 German Missions in Tanganyika, 1891-1941: Lutherans and Moravians in the Southern Highlands (Oxford: Clarendon Press).

Zahn, F. M.

1890 "Selbständige Kirchen, das Ziel evangelischer Missionarbeit", Afrikanische missionszietschrift, xvii.

Haut de page


Appendix I

The Sources

The archives in Lomé are well preserved and accessible. There is a complete record of the German occupation of Togo from 1884 to 1914 and Jürgen Real has professionally cataloged the entire collection. Professor Real's tool and the assistance of the staff in the archives, meant that with little difficulty I found evidence for colonial education policy and the imposition of instruction in German. There are pseudo-scholarly articles on educational developments and theories, newspaper clippings, government minutes, private letters and instructions, petitions and requests, scholarly articles and missionary treatises. The affairs of the missionaries and their activities in education feature with increasing regularity from 1888. The arrival of the Styler mission in 1892 provides the additional angle of personal bias and prejudice in religion matters. It is quite apparent that the Togo administration was staffed by a high number of Catholic clerks 115.

From 1903, with the arrival of the new Governor Julius Graf von Zech auf Neuhofen, the documents become more formal and methodical, and very detailed minutes of meetings are typed clearly and corrected by hand. Von Zech created various committees and fora for discussion and bullied some into reaching a consensus. From 1904 education in Togo was formalized and standardized and made--allegedly--universally accessible to the indigenous population 116. 1905 saw the publication of an order permitting teaching in the German language only. It also created a five tier Lehrplan (education system) 117. Immediately thereafter, an emergency meeting took place to formalize the application of the law, in order that von Zech himself could report to his superiors when he returned to Berlin that same month 118. In September 1908 a meeting reflected how the Togolese were "taking to" the German language 119. It compared Togolese schools unfavorably to English schools in Lagos and Accra. Von Zech also complained that the missions were diverting all the best students into their seminaries, leaving the administration undersupplied with suitable trainees. As part of this comprehensive review new textbooks were published.

In July 1909 we encounter the lengthiest discussion of the status of education in Togo 120. There are frank exchanges reaching into the many dozens of pages. Missionaries, merchants and government clerks discussed the difficulties of learning German; the contradictions of the Lehrplan of 1905 and proposals to extend instruction to six or even seven years; the possibility of foreign language instruction; the different approaches of the Catholic and Protestant missions; the use of Germanic or Latin script; the preferred method of teaching German; and the dangers of English. Many of these questions drove at the very purpose of educationalists in Togo, particularly the serious problem of why Togolese were turning away from German and indeed even leaving Togo.

Thereafter, a new Lehrplan was issued, with significant alterations and a much heavier Germanizing emphasis 121. In December of the same year, there were further reports of the apparent failure of many of the aims of the teaching programs 122. The Governor questioned why there had been no noticeable improvement. Indeed a much broader question is voiced: is the purpose of teaching to spread the German language or rather "der deutsche Geist"? No particularly conclusive resolution to this pressing issue was offered. And one of the last documents into this window of educational introspection, from October 1910 under the deputy governorship of von Doering, concerns the distribution of new money to the schools for more modest objectives 123.

Appendix II

Status of Missionary Schools in Togo 1912

1. Die evangelische Norddeutsche Missionsgesellschaft (Sitz: Bremen, Wandrahm 7)

Sie besitzt 7 Hauptstationen mit 155 Außenstationen, nämlich Lomé mit 23, Ho mit 23, Amedschovhe mit 36, Agu mit 11, Akpafu mit 25, Palime mit 18 und Atakpame mit 19 Außenstationen. Sie zählt 47 europäische Missionsarbeiter, 26 Missionare, 15 Frauen, 6 Schwestern, von denen ein Teil sich immer in Europa zur Erholung aufhält, 188 eingeborene Gehilfen, 5 953 Gemeindemitglieder und 162 Schulen in 151 Orten mit 5 643 Schülern (4 373 Knaben, 1 771 Mädchen).

2. Die katholische Mission von der Missionsgesellschaft des Göttlichen Worts (Steyler Mission) (Mutterhaus: Steyl, Niederlande; Adresse für deutsche Postsendungen: Kaldenkirchen, Rheinland).

Sie umfaßt 8 Hauptstationen, nämlich: Lomé (Sitz des apostolischen Präfekten), Porto Seguro, Togo (Stadt), Anecho, Atakpame, Agome-Palime, Kpandu und Gbin-Bla, 4 Schwesterstationen, 6 Filialstationen, 144 Nebenstationen (Schulen mit Lehrerwohnung und Gebetslokal) und besitzt 11 Kirchen und 17 größere Kapellen. Ihr Missionspersonal besteht aus 42 Priestern, 13 Laienbrüdern, 23 Missionsschwestern und 209 eingeborenen Katechisterlehrern; ihre Gemeinde umfaßt 12 572 Getaufte, und ihre Schulen werden von 7 778 Schülern (6 571 Knaben, 1 207 Mädchen) besucht. In Lomé unterhält sie eine Handwerksschule, in der 73 Zöglinge Unterricht in neun Handwerken erhalten.

3. Die Wesleyanische Methodisten-Mission (W M. Missionary Society) (Sitz: London EC, 24 Bishopsgate).

Sie besitzt eine Hauptstation in Anecho mit 5 Nebenstationen, wo 8 Laienprediger, 10 Lehrer und Lehrerinnen, sowie 1 eingeborener Prediger tätig sind. Sie zählt 586 Gemeindeglieder und unterhält 6 Schulen mit 499 Schülern (429 Knaben, 70 Mädchen).

Source: Deutsches Kolonial-Handbuch, 13th ed. (1913: 14).

Haut de page


1 For a detailed discussion of the sources, their contents, state of preservation and relevant documentation, see Appendix One below.
2 This approach flew in the face of that espoused by one of the leading missionary organizations the Berliner Mission. At a conference in 1885 they resolved to forward "a strong set of recommendations" to the Chancellor (von Bismark) "to oblige administrators to know vernaculars, to use them officially, and to retain them as the languages of education, rather than to introduce German" (Wright 1971: 7).
3 "Letter from the Wesleyans 1892", Archives nationales du Togo (henceforward ANT), FA 1/560: 135; Edmund Tomlin wrote: "Its is one of our `Standing Orders' that no Missionary shall meddle with political matters, and I can safely promise that so long as we are permitted to remain here, we shall endeavour to live peaceably and quietly."
4 J. H. Kopytoff (1965: 214-216, 219-225, 276-277) offers some interesting examples of how missionary education lead to the development of proto-nationalism among the "Sierra Leonians" of Lagos.
5 Various phenomena "signal the role of power in the social history of a language--power to impose and promote, and to control and restrict. To say that controls are being imposed presupposes something (or someone) that is being controlled, and the shape of power must not be taken for the shape of reality (as is frequently done by those who wield power). The delusions of politicians and of grammarians are comparable, and often the two are allies--as, I believe can be demonstrated in the interplay between colonial policies and linguistic description. To say that the powerful suffer from delusions is not to detract anything from the effects of their decisions. There is in my mind no doubt that Shaba Swahili, like other African languages, has in its development been deeply influenced by colonial, administrative choices and by expert, linguistic decrees. Yet the constructs of power are frequently parasitic on the creative labors of the people, and they never fully explain what happens with and to a language" (Fabian 1986: 8).
6 Newly transcribed vocabularies are the "mirrors of ethnic and cultural diversity; they could become instruments of government inasmuch as they imposed a semblance of order on a bewildering multitude of languages and helped to create a frame for language policies" (Fabian 1986: 2).
7 G. A. Pasigan (1997: 640) offers a brief and precise definition that embraces the approaches of Lacan and Fabian.
8 The census of 1913 recorded 368 Europeans in Togo, not all of them German or Swiss nationals. I am indebted to Yves Marguerat for this and other points.
9 In his opinion, Togo under the German Schutzgebiet became a slave camp for the Togolese, with forced labour and indiscriminate acts of cruelty de rigueur.
10 He wrote in the monumental style characteristic of French positivism, attempting to encompass the entire history of the region and its contact with Europe. Because of this stated aim Cornevin has been criticized for his Euro-centrism. Despite this, most writers return to Cornevin and aspire to his thoroughness.
11 He claimed to be investigating the impact of the German rule on the Togolese, and suggested that the experience of those between the Volta and Mono rivers was very different to the other regions the Guinea coast. While he was able to highlight some of the achievements of indigenous people, and in particular their determination to escape to the Gold Coast colony or to Dahomey, he essentialized their action by viewing them only through the colonial records; records unsympathetic to the cultural and linguistic diversity of the region.
12 Using primarily missionary archives in Germany, he was able to assess the stated intentions of the colonial régime against the records of the Protestant missionaries. It is interesting to note that the colonial government was largely successful in wooing Hausa traders away from their traditional entrepôts, but only after making major concessions subsequently restricting the anti-slavery and proselytization activities of missionaries in the north.
13 He argues that colonial officials fudged the figures, relied on import and export data from coastal regions not under their control, claimed success in northerly regions which in fact operated with little German intrusion, and exploited indigenous labour to previously unfathomed heights. This "creative accounting" was essentially done in lieu of the information otherwise necessary to attract German companies to Togo.
14 She cites evidence for mining and plantation regions to show how this change came into being. As more German Gesellschaften invested in Togo, so too grew the demand for transportation of produce. Consequently, the régime of Pflichtarbeit was imposed as a form of taxation.
15 Schöck-Quinteros & Lenz (1986), Gründer (1982) and Müller (1958) portray every significant change as one instigated by men of god, and relegate the impact of indigenous actors, with the exception of native-born catechists.
16 A working knowledge of indigenous languages was central to their plan. Debrunner (1965) identifies this agenda, though he portrays it as victory for the Church, rather than as the cultural battlefield it actually became. After the publication of the Bible in Ewe, he identifies the possession of a common language as the premier accomplishment of the European missions. He does not reflect on the cultural implications of making education and the standardization of languages essential for progress.
17 The complexity of Creole linguistic identity is given considerable attention by Spitzer (1974). Education established and prolonged "cultural differences between Creoles and up-countrymen"; the language was mocked by upwardly-mobile English-speaking Creoles and they in turn were ridiculed by Creole writers (ibid.: 139); it spread without control, and resisted the forces of colonialism and snobbish rivalry (ibid.: 140f); the language was a crucial force in the spread of nationalism and discussion of national identity post WWI (ibid.: 144f).
18 "Fest steht, daß durch den Kontakt mit dem Kolonialismus die Ewe aus mehreren Gründen wie Küstenlage, Missionierung, Konzentration auf die vereinheitlichte, und geschriebene Ewesprache eine gegenüber manchen anderen Völkern Togos deutlich privilegierte Stellung erreicht haben" (Adick 1981: 68).
19 "Vehicular" is a linguistic term which designates syntatical and grammatical change which results from the functional use of the language.
20 Moreover, Fabian (1986) asserts that there should be no doubt that the colonialist designs of the first settlers were paramount. Any claim that missionaries were acting with benevolence belies the functional necessity of a common means of communication. This contradicts the argument of Louis-Jean Calvet (1974). "The work of evangelization and that of linguistic appropriation [. . .] were not, and could not have been, to elevate what was low, to develop what only existed in traces or to illuminate what was in the dark. On the contrary, the real, practical task soon became, if not to eradicate and replace, then to take control of, direct and regulate what was there" (Fabian 1986: 83).
21 Buhler (1975: 67) writes: "[t]he hopes pinned on the seminary as a source of mission helpers proved to have been over-optimistic. The freed slaves, mulattoes and Ewes who had gained the benefit of mission schooling were not blind to the economic implications of their training. The years they had spent in the company of their European mentors lent them a certain status. Any African who had had the good fortune of becoming a member of the Christian community was included in an exclusive society of Africans set apart from their neighbours."
22 "Erste Sitzung...", ANT, FA 1/411: 118; Missionary Oswald (of the Bremer Mission) hoped "that within a few years the Mission schools will have shown [the value of education to the young people [of Togo. Afterall], the Bremer Mission has been in the Gold Coast for 50 years, but in Togo only 6 years".
23 Clearly German did not offer such a link for Missionary work: "Tagesordnung...", ANT, FA 1/411: 190; Missionary Härtter thanked the Gouvernor for exempting Latin instruction and added that he "did not hold German language and literature to be a necessary basis for higher instruction" for missionaries.
24 As early as 1879, when some 100 Ewes had attained the highest level of education offered and only a handful remained in the service of the mission, it was clear that the commercial possibilities of English were readily understood. "Protokoll des Bezirkstags...", ANT, FA 1/251: 49; von Zech complained: "Wir bekommen dann die schlechter Schüler, die die Mission nicht gebrauchen kann und es würde noch schlechten mit dem farbigen Personal [als] jetzt." Also, written in the column was "sehr wichtig" to emphasize the importance of this sentiment.
25 "Protokoll des Bezirkstags...", ANT, FA 1/251: 48; von Zech complained that in Lagos the schooling was better and the British incorporated far more natives into their administration. While in Lagos natives are used in technical matters, in Togo they are only employed in manual positions. "In Togo there are two obstacles in the way of employing more colored workers. Firstly, the German language is more difficult to learn than English, and then school instruction has a shorter history in Togo. There are no offspring from people who have already had schooling in Togo."
26 "Erste Sitzung des Gouvernementsrats", ANT, FA 1/411: 117-118; in the first session of the Governementsrat, Kaufmann Grunitzky was recorded as saying: "The prevailing necessity of the English language in commercial transaction means that the schools of the protectorate are in no position to supply the needed commercial personnel."
27 "Commercially, the partnership of mission and merchant worked to the advantage of both groups. Mission-educated African clerks were employed by the Vietors, and the company store benefited the mission" (Knoll 1978: 22).
28 "Erste Sitzung...", ANT, FA 1/411: 118; Grunitzky affirmed in the meeting that these companies conducted their business in English because their main factories were in Kitta. The following meeting he reiterated this statement ("Tagesordnung...", ANT, FA 1/411: 191).
29 "Tagesordnung...", ANT, FA 1/411: 187; The Chairman, Zech began the ad hoc meeting with this observation "The Order [to ban English instruction] was made for the following reason, that very many natives in the protectorate use English as the language of daily conversation..." and the reasons for this lie with the missionary activity in the area before the arrival of German authority and the use of English in the neighbouring colonies.

Buhler (1975: 44) writes: "The hinterland Ewes, whose trade activities were controlled by the merchant settlements of the coast, saw the coming of the mission in a positive light. Their expectation was that the presence of Europeans amongst them would lead both to a degree of political stability and a greater profit in European trade through the circumvention of coastal middlemen. They, too, saw the NDMG as fulfilling a commercial role similar to that of the Basel missionaries to their west, who operated trading factories in conjunction with their churches and schools"--an interpretation based on evidence published by the society itself in 1851.

30 "Niederschrift über die am 8. Dezember 1909...", ANT, FA 1/91: 240-249; Zech: "Es bestand aber eine Zeitland die Gefahr, dass das Schutzgebiet anglisiert würde. Noch in Jahre 1903 habe er in Lome Schulprüfungen angewohnt, in welchen Englisch geprüft wurde."
31 The d'Almeida family were a fine example. Buhler (1975: 160) writes: "They soon gave up the slave trade in the 1870s, realizing the British would no longer tolerate it and had the means to block its growth through drastic military action. This family chose, instead, to seek its fortunes in the shift to the palm oil trade and strove to establish friendly relations wiht all Europeans. When it became clear that Germany was to become paramount on the coast, the d'Almeidas gave land to the Administration for the building of its first headquarters at Sebbe. The entire family, working through their mission trained business manager, Aite Ajavon, earned the praise of the German Government for this and subsequent interest they took in the Protectorate."
32 See below. Kaufmann Freese explained that though his company used German in bookkeeping, all measurements and transactions with natives were in English ("Erste Sitzung...", ANT, FA 1/411: 114-119).
33 "Erste Sitzung...", ANT, FA 1/411: 118; a comment of Missionary P. Kost, shows that no one was deluding themselves that Africans were learning languages in order than they could read the Bible, though the missionary himself was obviously deluded as to the value of German in commerce: "The interest of the natives in learning the German language might be developed if merchants were to bring to their attention that a knowledge of German among their employees is preferred to a knowledge of English."
34 Die Entwicklung unserer Kolonien: Sechs Denkschriften (Anonyme 1892); Europäische Colonien in Afrika und Deutschlands Interessen sonst und jetzt (Anonyme 1884); B. Dernburg (1907).
35 "Colonialism was in part a surrender to special interests to missionaries anxious to work under the protection of the German eagle and to merchants, especially traders on the west coast of Africa who looked for imperial protection at a time when falling world prices for African products forced them increasingly to move toward the interior so as to reduce their overheads by cutting out African middlemen. However interpreted, Bismarkian colonialism had but a slender material base..." (Gann & Duignan 1977: 199f).
36 The government was not even capable of enforcing the use of German weights and measures, the most clarion indication of national sovereignty; Kaufmann Küster felt that in addition to the burden of instructing natives in the use of German measures, "the English exchange system is easier for the natives to understand" ("Erste Sitzung...", ANT, FA 1/411: 118).
37 "Kaiserliches Bezirksamt 624/08", FA 1/545: 109-111; "Lome, den 18. August 1908. Dem Kaiserlichen Gouvernement beehre ich mich folgendes zu berichten: Seit ca 1 1/2 Jahren hat die Norddeutsche Missionsgesellschaft in Keta eine hohe Schule (High School) errichtet in welcher kein Deutsch gelernt wird. Letztehin hatte ich Gelegenheit festzustellen, dass der im April dieses Jahres verstorbene seit langen Jahren in Lome ansässige Handlungsgehülfe Jona Quist, der recht wohlabend war und sich selbst gerne als Engländer bezeichnete, seine beide Söhne Charly und Robert diese höhere Schule in Keta besuchen liess, um die Jungen später in englischen Diensten unterzubringen. Die Jungen hatten vorher die Schule der katholischen Mission in Lome besucht. Nach dem Tode des Vaters haben beide die Schule aus eignem Antrieb wieder verlassen, da sie glaubten, genug gelernt zu haben. Es liegt auf der Hand, dass unsere besseren Eingeborenen, die - wenigstens soweit die ältere[n] Leute in Frage kommen - fast alle mehr oder weniger Anglophilen sind, diese verhaltnismässig billige und bequeme Gelegenheit in Keta benutzen werden, um ihren Söhnen eine Ausbildung zu teil werden zu lassen, die sie hier nicht erhalten können, d[--]es z. Zt. noch an einem Institut fehlt, das der höhere[n] Schule in Keta zur Zeit zu stellen wäre. Dass die[,] die Keta - Schule besuchenden Eingeborenen für die Kolonie und für das Deutschtum dauernd verlore[n] sind, bedarf kaum eines Hinweises. Die höhere Schule in Keta durchkreuzt geradezu die Absichten und Bestrebungen der Regierung, allmählich einen [Stamm] von deutschsprechenden und deutschdenkenden bessere[n] Eingeborenen heranzuziehen. Sind es auch mit Rücksicht auf die unerlässliche Vorbildung in der englischen Sprache und mit Rücksicht auf die immerhin nicht ganz geringen Kosten nur wenige Eingeborene, die zur Aufnahme in die Schule in Frage kommen, so sind es anderseits die bessere[n] und wohlhabensten Elemente, die auf diese Weise dem Schutzgebiete verlorengehen und zwar kommen neben den Eingeborenen auch die Vermögen hier in Betra[cht], die den Leuten späterhin etwa durch Erbgang zu fallen. Ich bin der Ansicht, dass [züg]lich das Ansinnen an die Norddeutsche Missionsgesellschaft gestellt werden kann, die höhere Schule in Keta einfach den Schülern aus Togo zu verschliessen. Der c. Bezirksamtmann".
38 ANT, FA 1/411: 190. In 1905, Missionary Härtter had expressed his hope that after a few years of solely German instruction, English might once again be offered for students in the higher levels.
39 "Niederschrift über die am 1. und 2. Juli 1909...", ANT, FA 1/91: 159; Zech reported that he had spoken with a man who explained that he had sent his children to the English protectorates, because there they could learn a trade and make money, whereas Togo was too small for anything like that.
40 Ibid.: 162; Missionary Härtter explained that, not only students, but workers of all types leave to the English and French zones in droves.
41 Ibid.: 159.
42 Ibid.: 161. Moreover, it was in the interests of German Togo to bring back these youths, because their minds were polluted with "demokratische und revolutionäre Ideen".
43 Ibid.: 162; Missionary Däuble reported that of the students he knew that had learned both English and German "most preferred to speak English than German and hold it to be more useful and desireable as a foreign language".
44 Ibid.: 159-60.
45 Ibid.: 160; "Die Gleichberechtigung von Weiss und Schwarz".
46 Ibid.: 163. The most striking indication of anti-German sentiment in Togo among the Togolese is reported by Lehrer Ehni. It cannot be translated precisely: "das Englische ist doch besser als das Deutsche, sonst hätte es die deutsche Regierung nicht eingeführt"!
47 Regardless of what Amenumey (1989: 8; 1964) argues.
48 "Niederschrift...", ANT, FA 1/91: 163.
49 Ibid.: 164; "Die Fremdsprache fakultativ eingeführt würde". He also felt that all the natives were so vain (eitel), once one has learned it, everyone will want the same.
50 Ibid.: 165. Assessor Asmis said that Togolese in the Gold Coast chose conversational French above German. Graf Zech did not comment on this.
51 In 1914, shortly before the German capitulation, there were fewer than 550 Germans resident in Togo. The ratio of whites to blacks was never less than 1:11 000; more than three times the lowest figure during the French mandate.
52 For example, when the Reichstag voted to criticize the German government for the continuation of slavery in a Christian country, they would not simultaneously provide the fiscal means to make amends (Deutsches Kolonialblatt, Anonyme 1893: 206). Buhler (1975: 204, note 3) writes: "It was more public opinion than government reform which addressed itself to slavery in Togo. The problem of slavery was far more pressing in East Africa and funds were usually funnelled in that direction."
53 "...I would [like to] clearly define our Church and its position here--whoever has termed us the English Church, as informing that our object is to Anglicize the people has wrongfully named us, This of course Your Excellency well knows. We are `the people called Methodists' i[s] a Religious Society worshipping God and preaching the Doctrine laid down by our founder `John Wesley'. Wilto (sic) English, German, French or Native questions we have nothing to do. The sole object is to benefit the people among whom we labour, and lead them to the true and only God. Whether this is done through the Medium of the English, German, French, Native or any other language is not of the slightest consequence to us, so that is is done. In nothing, in anyway connected with Political Matters do we ever speak or interfere. Such Cases, when any arise we always immediately hand over by appeal to the Government of the place in which we may be labouring.

  2nd. In reference to German being taught in our schools, In accordance with Your Excellency's comment. I laid that matter before our committee by letter mailed May 23rd. Giving copies of all [recent and past] correspondance thereon, and asking them to deal with Your Excellency direct or with the Berlin Government as they deemed best.

  3rd. As to preaching, I would beg to remind Your Excellency that I am the only one regularly here who does not preach directly in the Native language (any words h[...] are at once translated). Moreover, we are doing our very utmost so to perfect the language as to be able to produce it in writing to the people. I shall scarcely [now?] to [...] your in reference to the changing of the language into German, that this cannot be done in a day-but as soon as means and directions shall come to us, we shall begin earnestly to train the [young] in the German language so that as soon as may be your wish in this respect may be carried into effect. I trust Your Excellency will acknowledge the reasonableness of this statement.

  4thly. I further beg to ask Your Excellency to please officially communicate to me in writing any ma[ndates] you may wish to give in reference to our future action whether as to building a New Church which we contemplate or other matters... Until any contrary which shall reach me I am acting simply under the belief that the same law appertaining to Religious Liberty accorded to our Society and others by your [most?] Imperial Government in Germany, for our work there and in all other German places of which I turn as in force here,

  We have as Your Excellency will be fully aware a branch of our society - the German Wesleyan Church with nearly 40 ministers besides teachers and preachers in Germany and in our own country German Churches abound in all of which I believe perfect religious liberty exists. If the law in this colony in anyway differs from that we have previously known and laboured under by permission of Your Government - I shall be glad to know and will communicate it, so that we may at once take measure to conform there to if possible.

  I beg in conclusion to state that in all matters affecting the progress, benefit and uplifting of this people you will ever find our mission most willing to cooperate and to serve, loyally and honestly your honourable Government. And in this subject it will ever so great a pleasure for me to lead my people.

  `To serve God and to be subject unto the Powers that be' are cardinal doctrines of our Church.

  With highest regards Believe me Your Excellency's most Obedient Servant.

  Bryan Roe, Supt. of Wesleyan Mission, Klein-Popo" (ANT, FA 1/560: 315-317).

54 "Der Verbreitung der deutschen Sprache im deutschen Schutzgebiet Togo wurde seitens der Deutschen Kolonialgesellschaft eine wesentliche Förderung dadurch zuteil, daß auf Antrag der Norddeutschen Missionsgesellschaft in Bremen zur Herausgabe eines Ewe-Deutschen Lexikons, dem der Anglodialekt (sic) zugrunde gelegt ist, ein Beitrag von 3 000 Mark bewilligt wurde. Nachdem wurde auf Antrag des Steyler Missionars P. Litzenburger für die Herausgabe einer deutschen Fibel für farbige Kinder, die den Anechodialekt sprechen, eine Beihilfe von 350 Mark gewährt" (Die Deutsche Kolonialgesellschaft 1882-1907, Anonyme 1908: 180).
55 Some Germans became very excited about the most trivial achievements. "Allgemeine Befriedigung, unter den Eingeborenen sogar den größten Enthusiasmus, hat die so lange sehnsüchtig erwartete Errichtung der deutschen Schule in Klein-Popo erregt. Wenn man vor Kurzem (sic) noch allgemein Englisch begrüßt wurde, treten die Kinder auf der Straße jetzt mit einem deutschen Gruß an den Spaziergänger heran. Auch die erwachsenen Eingeborenen sind stolz, den von den Kindern erlernten deutschen Gruß anzubringen. Die englische Wesleyanische Mission hat ebenfalls einen deutschen Lehrer angenommen. Der ursprüngliche Andrang von Schulkindern, welcher in der gespannten Erwartung der Eingeborenen auf die Errichtung der Schule begründet war, ließ naturgemäß nach. Erstens, weil manche Eltern ihre beim Ackerbau und sonstigen Geschäften nötigen Kinder aus der Schule zurücknahmen, sodann, weil die zu gering begabten Kinder vorerst zurückgewiesen werden mußten, um die Entwicklung der Schule nicht aufzuhalten. Die im Juli gegen 60 Schüler betragende Anzahl schreitet gut vorwärts. Die Fortschritte im Rechnen überraschen. Die vom Lehrer mit Gewandheit geleiteten körperlichen Übungen erfreuen die Kinder sichtlich und sind von gutem Einfluß auf ihre Entwicklung" (Anonyme 1892: 7).
56 "Erste Sitzung...", ANT, FA 1/411: 118.
57 "In keiner zur Gewährung von Beihilfen angemeldeten Schule darf neben der Landessprache eine andere Sprache gelehrt [werden] als Deutsch. Wenn in einer solchen Schule nur einzelne Klassen zur Gewährung von Beihilfen angemeldet sind, so darf in den nichtangemeldeten Klassen derselben Schule neben der Landesprache eine Fremdsprache doch nicht gelernt werden" ("Schulordnung...", ANT, FA 1/142: 114).
58 "Schulordnung..." ("Anhang an Nr. 2"), ANT, FA 1/142: 115-16.
59 ANT, FA 1/411: 187; the meeting was on the 7th January and he was leaving Lome on the 15th.
60 The Deutsche Kolonialgesellschaft (DKG) was a major player in this field, as their official, contemporary records cheerfully boast in Die Deutsche Kolonialgesellschaft 1882-1907 (Anonyme 1908: 171). For the Gesellschaft the German language offered was a keystone of imperialist policy. Before 1903 they awarded the Lomé government a grant of 8,000 Marks to encourage the use of German. The following year, the director of the company, Graf von Arnim-Muskau, a leading campaigner in Berlin to ban instruction in English in mission schools, gave 3,000 Marks to the NDMG toward an Ewe-German dictionary, in the hope that this might spread the language.
61 "Er glaube, dass gerade die Missionen ein Interesse daran hätten, wenn derartige Schulen, in denen [e]i[n]gewissermassen degeneriertes Christentum gelehrt werde, unterdrückt wurden" (ANT, FA 1/411: 189).
62 Ibid.: 191; for example Kaufmann Grunitzky: "Die Kaufmannschaft sei der Regierung dafür dankbar, erkenne auch dankbar an, dass die Missionen in so bereitwilliger Weise die Regierung in ihren Bemühungen unterstütze."
63 "Protokoll...", ANT, FA 1/251: 48.
64 Ibid.: 49-50.
65 Ibid.: 51.
66 Ibid.: 50; a minor clerk, Dustert, asked that more emphasis be put on the use of the German language, as if nothing has been achieved in the preceeding three years.
67 ANT, FA 1/91: 149.
68 Ibid.: 150.
69 Ibid.: 150.
70 Ibid.: 153-154.
71 Ibid.: 154-156.
72 Ibid.: 159.
73 "Die jungen Togoleute, die ihre Erziehung in höheren Schulen des englischen Gebiets geniessen, kommen mit Vorurteilen und mit Misstrauen gegen die deutsche Schutzherrschaft zurück und verbreiten demokratische und revolutionäre Ideen im Schutzgebiet" (Ibid.: 161).
74 Ibid.: 241; clearly these examinations were taking place because there was a demand.
75 These activities were publicized in German newspapers and clippings of relevant articles can be found in the ANT; e.g. FA 1/492: 250: "Ausschnitt aus folgender Zeitung bzw. Zeitschrift: Deutsche Nachrichten, Berlin Nr. 211, v[on] 9. Sept. 1909. Aus den Kolonien: Schulerziehung in Togo. Eine Missionsgesellschaft in Togo hatte beantragt höhere Schulbeihilfen zu gewähren. Der Gouvernementsrat hat diesen Antrage jedoch abgelehnt, da es zweckmäßiger [ist], die Farbigen zu systematischer Arbeit zu erziehen, als ihnen eine ganz überflüssige Halbbildung in der deutschen Sprache zu geben. Es werden auch im laufenden Jahre also nur solche Missionsschulen, und zwar zusammen mit 5 000 Mark unterstützt werden, welchen ihre Schüler neben dem üblichen Unterricht zur Feldarbeit anhalten oder ihnen nützliche Handwerkskünfte beibringen. Eine solche Handwerker-Missionschule besteht schon seit einigen Jahren in der Hauptstadt Lome. Sie hat schon viele Farbige zu Schlossern, Tischlern, usw. ausgebildete. Hierbei kommt soviel als möglich die deutsche Sprache zur Anwendung, z. B. werden alle Werkzeuge und Materialien in deutscher Sprache bezeichnet, auch die Befehle werden deutsch eingeübt." The same article can be found in the Westfälische Zeitung, Bielefeld, Nr. 210 v. 8th Sept. 1909.
76 In one day in 1897 over 400 members of a Dagomba-speaking village were massacred by machine-gun fire. For a very different spin on the march inland cf. Knoll (1978: 28). As German influence spread inland "chiefs assumed that they were getting something tangible for a minimum of risk; a few Germans interested in trade did not appear to be precursors of foreign domination. Force was thus not a factor in any of these treaties. The Germans entered the interior without troops. They were viewed as potential allies by chiefs who had scores to settle with rivals. Thus the chief of Kewe asked the Germans for aid against brigands from the Anlo tribe. Treaties concluded between equals were written in English as well as in German in the event that Gold Coast forces competed for the same areas. In attempt to explain their relation to their new treaty partners, the Germans sometimes represented Emperor William I as sort of a paramount chief who had adopted his African subjects." Though here we must again note the indispensible nature of English in concluding the "treaties".
77 "Niederschrift über am 18. Oktober 1910...", ANT, FA 1/91: 258; Hauptmann v. Doering is referred to as Stellvertreter (deputy). He was deputy for the soon-to-arrive Edmund Brückner (1911-1912).
78 Protestant missions placed a very high priority on the establishment of administrative independence of their new churches: "Independent churches [are] the goal of evangelical missionary work" (Zahn 1890). For others, independent churches were the only tangible sign of success in their endeavor and something inseparably linked to Germanity. Thus Gustav Warneck (1901: 104) wrote: "Only when Christianity has been so planted in the soil of heathen nations that it becomes naturalised there as a domestic growth, can a really independent native Christian Church be brought into being. The naturalisation required a shaping of the whole process of Christianisation of the people, of the social ties of the people... Two leading dangers are to be specially avoided: the treatment of strange customs in a spirit of religious rigour and a confounding of Christianisation with Europeanisation or Americanisation. Pietistic narrowness brought with it the national egoism of the conductors of missions: and both are favoured by lack of pedagogic skill in dealing with those who are the objects of missions. The capacity and the will to accommodate oneself to foreign peculiarities is especially a German charisma, while the English and American nature accommodates itself with difficulty. Even in respect of the cultivation of native languages, this difference asserts itself" (cited by Wright 1971: 4).
79 Missionary Brutschin, 1859: "It often happens that Anglo traders bring out slaves, including young boys and girls from the interior. If we only had money, we could free some of these boys and girls. Their price is unusally 30 to 50 dollars. How good it would be for them, and for us too; for then we should have people of our own whom we could educate on Christian lines. Would there not be folk in Bremen, or in North Germany, as a whole, who would find pleasure in ransoming these poor slave children so that they might obtain freedom, not only of the body, but also of the mind" (cited in Debrunner 1965: 85).
80 If such action were not taken, the children would probably be on a ship to the Americas. Strangely, it does not seem to have occurred to the proponents of ransoming that such an explanation completely sidestepped the simple laws of supply and demand. They were, perhaps deluding themselves that rescuing some children would somehow counteract the process whereby children were pawned or enslaved.
81 "Niederschrift über die am 8. Dezember 1909...", ANT, FA 1/91: 241; A government conference to establish the success or failure of the schooling in the Schutzgebiet reaffirmed that the usefulness of Ewe as a medium of instruction especially for the Untalentierten. "Für Missionszwecke genügt die Eingeborenensprache. Statt des vielen Deutschlernens könnte man mehr Zeit auf landwirtschaftliche Arbeiten verwenden."
82 Spitzer (1974) observes a similar situation in the British colony of Sierra Leone presents.
83 It is important to remember that the practice of "standardization" of indigenous language was omnipresent in Africa. Fabian (1986: 60) cites this interesting example of one British missionary's response to a Belgian government questionnaire "at least five principal `classic' dialects, which are, in order of importance: Ngala and Swahili, Luba, Nkundu [Mongo], Nkongo (if the three missions in the lower Congo - Scheut, Jesuits and Redemptorists - reach an agreement to unify their three dialects). Under these conditions a single native official language would seem utopian; five, on the other hand, too much" (sic).
84 The reasons for this are presented in greater detail in the earlier subsection.
85 "The intention of the Germans was to train their students in both Ewe and English in order to create a core of educated Africans who would assist the Christian cause. Those who learned quickly and well would be educated in a six year program which included the fundamentals of reading, writing and speaking the English language, as well as the rudiments of mathematics. Included also would be a liberal amount of religious and cultural training in the form of European history and geogaphy. As missionary knowledge of the Ewe language increased, and with the help of assistants who had already been trained, the students, too, would become literate in the Ewe tongue" (Buhler 1975: 65).
86 It is a phenomenon that befell all languages encountered by Europeans. An examination of the contents of the Kaiserliche Bibliothek in Lomé, as it is preserved in the Archives nationales du Togo, reveals that similar, contemporary, scientific approaches to African languages were studied in Lomé (eg Rochl 1911). Of course, all these books take as their guide the German Chefphilolog, Konrad Duden. Editions of the Duden series were also to be found in the Bibliothek in Lomé.
87 Almost all language manuals are of doubtful (modern, scientific) linguistic value. They were for men with limited and specific interests. They were petit or abrégé; truncated descriptions of reduced variants of a variety of forms of vehicular Swahili. However, the same characteristics as makes these manuals almost worthless as technical descriptions of a language provide valuable indicators of a communicative praxis. If properly interpreted that can be made to reveal what they hide and to release what they control, at least up to a point. Fabian (1986: 9) writes: "Vocabularies and other language manuals are texts. Like other texts, from government decrees to ethnographic notes, they put before the anthropologist-historians the task of historizing a record by working back from codified products of communication to the praxis and processes which produced these documents. From this point of view, which owes as much to literary theory as it does to historical methodology, there is not difference in kind between texts which advertise themselves as historical documents and those which were created for other purposes."
88 The earliest simple vocubulary was first begun in 1857.
89 A syllabus for children. Lorenz Wolf, Wiingje aballe dekaeibe kasem, 1848, 16 p.
90 The first song book, edited by L. Wolf, Ele dzi-eibe fiã, 1849; the first grammar by Schlegel (1857); the first map, edited by Hornberger ("Geographische Landskarte", 1860); the first translation of the Pentateuch by Johannes Binder (1870); The first Sunday School book, by F. J. Zahn & J. Merz, Mawu agbalea me nyawo le uegbe me, 1880; the first math guide by J. Jüngling, Akontafiagbale, 1881.
91 Their work spanned from 1887 to 1906: Bürgi, E., ed., Hadzigbale (1887)--a book of 31 songs in Ewe; Bürgi E., Nufiafia monu, 1906--a guide for teaching practices.
92 Bürgi, E., ed., Eve hadzigbalegã, 1887, 289 p.
93 Ewe School Songs for Advanced Classes and Middle Schools, 1887, 76 p.
94 Xexeme ngutinya, 1894, a universal history in 157 p.; Ngutinyagbale: fe alafa wuisiekelia, 1906, a brief history of the 19th century in 81 p.
95 English-Ewe Dictionary, 1896, 68 p.
96 Homiletik -- Ewe, 1899, a preaching guide, 111 p.; Bibelkunde: Soeto na titina sukuwo, 1900, a Bible study guide 150 pages; Nufiafia monu, 1901, a pedagogy guide, 109 p.; Nufiafia monu, 1906, a pedagogy guide in 100 p.
97 Knüsli, J. & A., Akonta gbale, 1887, 318 p. in four volumes.
98 Buch der Orthographie der Ewe-Sprache, 1890, 87 p.
99 Ewe-Deutsch-English Dictionary, 1891, 1 048 p. The final work was a shorter German-Ewe dictionary: A. Knüsli, Deutsch-Ewe Wörterbuch, 1892, 413 p.
100 J. Spieth's two most influential books were Die Ewe Stämme: Material zur Kunde des Ewe Volkes in Deutsch-Togo, 1906, and Die Religion der Eweer in Süd-Togo, 1911. The latter contains fascinating fables and children's tales.
101 Schlegel's most important contribution was an Ewe-German dictionary.
102 Of J. Becker's La vie en Afrique, Fabian (1986) has written: these "were determined efforts at in-scription. By putting regions on a map and native words on a list, explorers laid the first, and deepest, foundations for colonial power. By giving proof of the `scientific' nature of their enterprise they exercised power in a most subtle form--as the power to name, to describe and to classify."
103 Buhler (1975: 65) explains that the agenda of some linguistically-minded missionaries often overrode the cultural realities: "The initial conception of the missionaries had been that the tongue would be spoken most `purely' in the hinterland. However, in time, it became clear that concessions would have to be made to the dialects that were mostly widely spoken."
104 Westermann's huge two volume dictionary finally arrived between 1913 and 1915, too late for the German high command. After the loss of Togo he continued to work on language and ethnography, and his Die Glidyi-Ewe in Togo (1935) is a canonical work for students of Ewe culture.
105 One consequence of linguistic colonialism considered by Adick (1981), as reviewed above.
106 Missionary Bavendamm wrote the pompously titled: "Tribal pride and tribal hatred, two torrential streams, yet bridged by the Gospel" (Anonyme 1894).
107 Father W. Schmidt, in Anthropos 1906, cited by K. Müller (1958: 557-559). This argument is a classic example of the cultural predjudice inherent in an approach which held monotheism necessary for cultural ascendency. No other Togolese culture was found to have such an "inclination".
108 "Niederschrift...", ANT, FA 1/91: 187; in a discussion of the division of the Hinterland behind the central mountain range, Präfekt Schönig desired that rather than make Haussa the "Verkehrs- und Schulsprache" (vehicular language), Ewe should be adopted. This, he claimed would restrict the spread of Islam, aid the building of the railway and would be of untold advantage to the government.
109 Gann & Duignan (1977: 44) write in an all too brief passage, that the Ewe were generally considered the most intellectually advanced of the people that Germany held within her "Schutz". It is unclear whether the Germans thought this is because the Togolese had long been schooled by the Germans and Swiss, or rather because they were "advanced" the Germans and Swiss were able to school them. Perhaps the truth lies somewhere in the fact that the Ewe language was the held to be the first language to be "fully" understood, to have a "grammar" and dictionaries, etc., and therefore the German "achievement" was projected onto their observations of the Ewe.
110 This schematic and structural explanation of linguistic ascendency is a simpler way of explaining linguistic imperialism. Roughly put, the first class is clearly the language of the ruling élite, in this case German. Relegated to second class status by the ruling élite are all other European languages, including Schweizer Deutsch (Swiss German), English, French and Portuguese. The third class in Togo becomes Ewe, the new, standardized form. All other indigenous languages including even Yoruba and Twi are relegated beyond the tier system and have no official recognition. This schematic explanation is supported with evidence from the number of publications in languages in each of the three classes.
111 "Niederschrift über die am 18. Oktober 1910...", ANT, FA 1/91: 261; Assessor Dr. Asmis explained that he had found orthographical inconsistencies and Präfekt Schönig replied that Professors Westermann and Schmidt had been contacted and the standardization process was in hand. Together the leader of the Protestants (Bürgi) and the Catholics (Schönig) agreed to work together to complete the process.
112 The pro-Catholic bias of the German regime is best illustrated by a document sent from the Auswärtiges Amt, Kolonial-Abteilung to the authorities in Lomé on June 21, 1892. The author writes that it is with great pleasure that Berlin informs Lomé that five members of the Catholic Styler Mission are soon to arrive in West Africa. This information is underlined and clearly handwritten in the same red pen in the column alongside, is the word "Bravo!" (ANT, FA 1/560: 569).
113 Debrunner (1965: 136f) writes: "The most important linguistic work and one which did make the largest contribution to the creation of an Ewe national consciouness was the translation of the Bible. The credit for this is due principally to Spieth... [O]n May 28, 1914, [as] he breathed his last, the final proof was coming from the press. In the midst of the war in 1915 the first 200 copies could be sent to Lomé, the most precious gift of the North German Mission to the Ewe Church and the Ewe people" (my italics). This passages clearly indicates the position of most missionaries of the period, that the Ewe did not yet have a "national consciousness", that they did indeed need one, and that linguistic conformity was central to the realization of this goal.
114 For example, those following the classification system devised by J. Greenberg (1970: 6).
115 Statistical data reveals the success of the Catholic Styler Mission, because of their preferential treatment by the administration in the dividing up of the hinterland for prosyletization processes (for the latter, see "Punkt 5: Aufteilung der Hinterlandbezirke unter die beiden Konfessionen", ANT, FA 1/91: 180-184). The Styler mission gladly acceeded to the wishes of the colonials by teaching almostly exclusively in German. In 1893 only 60 Catholics were operating in Togo. By 1912 they were the largest grouping with 287 Catholic catechists, 209 being indigenous converts. The NDMG was rapidly surpassed by the Styler mission. In 1912 they employed 282 people, 188 being indigenous. The difference is even more striking, if one considers the total number of pupils. In 1892 there were no Catholic mission schools, but by 1912 there were 162 schools with 7,778 students (a ratio of 1:48). The were 12,572 "converts" in total. The NDMG had been present since the 1840s. In 1912 they also ran 162 schools of different sizes, with an enrollment of 5,643 students (a ratio of 1:35). Their seventy year long presence was accounted for by only 5,953 parish members. See note 60 for another classic example of the administrative preference for Catholicism.
116 "Erste Sitzung des Gouvernementsrats", ANT, FA 1/411: 114-119.
117 "Schulordnung für die zur Gewährung von Beihilfen angemeldeten Missionschulen für das Jahr 1905", ANT, FA 1/142: 114-121.
118 "Tagesordnung. Beratung über den Entwurf einer Verordnung betreffend den Sprachunterricht in den Missions- und sonstigen Privatschulen", ANT, FA 1/411: 187-192.
119 "Protokoll des Bezirkstags, vierter Verhandlungstag, Lomé, den 11. Sept. 1908", ANT, FA 1/251: 48-51; 63-66.
120 "Niederschrift über die am 1. und 2. Juli 1909 im Gouverneurhause zu Lome abgehaltene Schul- und Missionskonferenz", ANT, FA 1/91: 147-188.
121 ANT, FA 1/91: 189-190.
122 "Niederschrift über die am 8. Dezember 1909...", ANT, FA 1/91: 240-249.
123 "Niederschrift über die am 18. Oktober 1910...", ANT, FA 1/91: 258-262.
Haut de page

Pour citer cet article

Référence électronique

Benjamin Nicholas Lawrance, « Most obedient servants », Cahiers d’études africaines [En ligne], 159 | 2000, mis en ligne le 15 octobre 2000, consulté le 23 mars 2017. URL :

Haut de page


Benjamin Nicholas Lawrance

Du même auteur

Haut de page

Droits d'auteur

© Cahiers d’Études africaines

Haut de page