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Transnationalism and insurrection: independence committees, anti-colonial networks, and Germany’s global war

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 February 2020

Jennifer Jenkins*
Department of History, University of Toronto, 100 St George St, Room 2074, Toronto, ON, M5S 3G3, Canada
Heike Liebau
Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient, Kirchweg 33, 14129 Berlin, Germany
Larissa Schmid
Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Potsdamer Straße 33, 10785 Berlin, Germany


This article analyses the Indian, Persian, and Algerian–Tunisian independence committees and their place in Germany’s ‘programme for revolution’, Berlin’s attempt to instigate insurrection across the British, French, and Russian empires during the First World War. The agency of Asian and North African activists in this programme remains largely unknown, and their wartime collaboration in Germany is an under-researched topic in the histories of anti-colonial activism. This article explores the collaboration between the three committees, highlighting their strategic relationships with German officials and with each other. Criticizing the Eurocentric framings still present in studies of wartime strategy, it contributes to a growing historiography on the war as a global conflict. It argues that the independence committees were central actors in Germany’s programme, that the transnationalism of the pre-1914 anti-colonial movements both imprinted Germany’s programme and was furthered by it, and that only a comparative perspective exploring the interactions of its anti-colonial activists fully grasps the global scope of this topic.

© Cambridge University Press 2020

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We would like to thank Anandita Bajpai, Jan Brauburger, Katrin Bromber, Razak Khan, Samuel Krug, Tessa Lobbes, Nils Riecken, and participants at the HERA conference ‘Cultural encounters during global war, 1914–1918: traces, spaces, legacies’, King’s College/German Historical Institute, London, 21–22 January 2016, for their comments on earlier drafts of this article. We are grateful to the following institutions and programmes for supporting this collaboration: the HERA programme ‘Cultural encounters’, the Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient, the Canada Research Chairs Program, and the University of Toronto. We thank the editors and the two anonymous reviewers of JGH for their insightful comments, and the staff of the Political Archive of the German Foreign Ministry for their support.


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