Peter J. Hempenstall

Peter Hempenstall is Professor Emeritus of the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, and Conjoint Professor with the University of Newcastle in Australia. Pacific Islanders under German Rule was his first book, researched in the archives of West and East Germany in the 1970s and in the Pacific Islands. He has written books on Pacific, Australian and New Zealand history, and is the author of three biographies, including The Lost Man: Wilhelm Solf in German History (with Paula Tanaka Mochida). His latest book (Truth’s Fool) is about the anthropologist Derek Freeman and his war with American anthropologists over Freeman’s criticism of Margaret Mead’s research on Samoan society. He lives in Newcastle, Australia.

Pacific Islanders Under German Rule »

A Study in the Meaning of Colonial Resistance

Publication date: June 2016
This is an important book. It is a reprint of the first detailed study of how Pacific Islanders responded politically and economically to their rulers across the German empire of the Pacific. Under one cover, it captures the variety of interactions between the various German colonial administrations, with their separate approaches, and the leaders and people of Samoa in Polynesia, the major island centre of Pohnpei in Micronesia and the indigenes of New Guinea. Drawing on anthropology, new Pacific history insights and a range of theoretical works on African and Asian resistance from the 1960s and 1970s, it reveals the complexities of Islander reactions and the nature of protests against German imperial rule. It casts aside old assumptions that colonised peoples always resisted European colonisers. Instead, this book argues convincingly that Islander responses were often intelligent and subtle manipulations of their rulers’ agendas, their societies dynamic enough to make their own adjustments to the demands of empire. It does not shy away from major blunders by German colonial administrators, nor from the strategic and tactical mistakes of Islander leaders. At the same time, it raises the profile of several large personalities on both sides of the colonial frontier, including Lauaki Namulau’ulu Mamoe and Wilhelm Solf in Samoa; Henry Nanpei, Georg Fritz and Karl Boeder in Pohnpei; or Governor Albert Hahl and Po Minis from Manus Island in New Guinea.