Gustav Nachtigal (23
February 1834 â€“ 20 April 1885) was a German explorer of
Central and West Africa. He is further known as the German Empire's consul-general for
Tunisia and Commissioner for
His mission as
commissioner resulted in Togoland
becoming the first colonies of a
German colonial empire
, awarded by the Berlin Geographical
is named after him.
Nachtigal, the son of a Lutheran pastor,
was born at Eichstedt in the Prussian province of Saxony-Anhalt. After medical studies at the universities of
Halle, WÃ¼rzburg and Greifswald, he practiced for several years as a military surgeon. Finding the climate of
his native country increasingly detrimental to his health, he went
to Algiers and Tunis in North
Africa and took part, as a surgeon, in several expeditions into
Commissioned by King Wilhelm I of Prussia to carry gifts to Umar of Borno, sheik of the Bornu Empire, in acknowledgment of kindness
shown to German travelers, he set out in 1869 from Ottoman Tripoli and
succeeded after a two years journey in accomplishing his
mission. During this period he visited Tibesti and Borku, regions of the central Sahara not previously known to
he traveled to Baguirmi
, an independent state to the
southeast of Bornu. From there he proceeded to Wadai (a non-Muslim kingdom to the northeast
of Baguirmi) and to Kordofan (a former
province of central Sudan).
emerged from darkest Africa at Khartoum (then an Egyptian outpost, today the capital of
Sudan) in the winter of 1874, after having been given up for
His journey, graphically described in his Sahara
, placed him in the top ranking of discoverers.
establishment by France of a
protectorate over Tunisia, Nachtigal
was sent as consul-general for the
Empire and remained there until 1884.
was appointed by Chancellor Otto von
as special commissioner
for West Africa
. Local German business
interests in that region began advocating for protection by the
German Empire after they had acquired huge properties in West
Africa. Nachtigalâ€™s task was thus to accept that real estate on
behalf of Germany before the British could advance their own
interests â€” and Togoland and Kamerun became Germanyâ€™s first
colonial possessions. On his return voyage he died at sea aboard
the gunboat SMS MÃ¶we off Cape Palmas on 20 April 1885 and was initially interred at
Bassam. In 1888 Nachtigalâ€™s remains were exhumed and
reburied in a ceremonial grave at Duala in front of
the Kamerun colonial government building.
1934 postage stamp honoring Gustav
Nachtigal; the description reads: Kolonialgedenkjahr
[Colonial commemoration year]
Gustav Nachtigal is regarded as the other great German explorer of
Africa, in company with Heinrich
. Like Barth, Nachtigal was primarily interested in
, and additionally in
. His works stand
out because of their wealth of details and above all because of his
unbiased views of Africans. In contrast to most contemporary
explorers, Nachtigal did not hold to the alleged inferiority of
Africans; his convictions are clearly reflected in his descriptions
and choice of words.
He had witnessed slave
hunts performed by
African rulers and the cruelties inflicted by them on other
Africans. The horror that he felt about these atrocities made him
enter colonial endeavors because he somewhat naively accepted that
European domination of the African continent might stop slave
hunting and slave keeping.
- SaharÃ¢ und SÃ»dÃ¢n. 2 volumes, Berlin 1879-81, volume 3
published by E. Groddeck, Leipzig 1889.
- Sahara and Sudan. volume I: Fezzan and
Tibesti; volume II: Kawar, Bornu, Kanem, Borku,
Ennedi; volume III: The Chad Basin and Bagirmi;
volume IV: Wadai and Darfur. Translated from the original
German with an Introduction and Notes by Allan G. B. Fisher and H.
J. Fisher. London â€” New York â€” Berkeley - 1971-1987.
- Gustav Nachtigal â€” ein deutscher Forscher und
Afrika (Manuscript of speech held at the Togo Exhibition at
DÃ¼sseldorf 1986. Peter Kremer.
- Die Forschungsreisenden, Cornelius Trebbin & Peter
Kremer, Die Tuareg. DÃ¼sseldorf 1985.