The Togo Empire and Colonialism

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Nowadays, Togo or the Togolese Republic is an autonomous country placed in West Africa. Still, its history comprises many differences in the power structure and continuous adjustment to European countries' colonialist aims. The Spanish, French, and Portuguese nations were the first ones who met with domestic people. Germans came later as missionaries to the country around 1847.
In 1884, this province was managed by Germans, while after World War II, it was divided into separate zones ruled by France and Britain (Frankema & Jerven 919). Togo finally obtained its independence in 1960. This essay will examine the history of Togoland from the time before it became a colony, all the way to the liberation, pointing out the consequences the ruling method had on the nation.

Pre-Colonial Era

Before the scramble for Africa, Togo was inhabited by approximately 45 ethnic groups while the three tribes, namely, Ewe, Dagomba, and Mamprusi each led by chiefs, were the most numerous. Indigenous people had plenty of agriculturally viable land that made their economy self-supporting through the production of cash crops such as yams, cotton, and palm. The Togolese were also engaged in such subsistence strategies as foraging and hunting. The ancient history of Togo is insufficiently studied but archaeological findings evidence that indigenous populations knew how to make pottery and process iron.

The subsistence strategies, climate conditions, geographical location, tribal migrations, cross-tribal interactions, and external contacts influenced the development of the Togolese nation. The formation of the ethnic composition of the country took place in the course of numerous migrations of peoples who sought shelter from slave-traders in this area. The Togolese believed in the unity of Togolese culture and had a mixture of indigenous, Christian, and Islamic beliefs (Apoh 115). Moreover, they spoke different dialects, but the majority spoke French due to the infiltration of Europeans during the trade. The peaceful relations dominated in the communication between the Togolese and representatives of other African tribes, as well as foreigners.

The Colonial Era

Togo as any other European colony came into contacts with the Germans. Their relationship grew as the number of Germans increased in the off shores of Anecho in the coastal region (Esteves 50-52). It is then that Bismarck resolved to bring together all the three west coast through mobilizing the villagers to accept German protection shows loyalty by flying their flag. The Germans’ motives were to control the agricultural production in the area as well harboring ports. The Germans effectively applied the 5 W’s method of the rule to their prospects. The colony of Togoland was declared the German protectorate in 1884 after the Berlin Conference. Due to the existence of various natural resources in the colony, Germany recognized the importance of area chiefs in the administration of the colony at a small package salary. However, they were not allowed to process exports. This was called indirect imperialism (Baranowski 81). Surprisingly, flogging was the primary method used to coerce the Togolese to provide forced labor during cultivation of crops in the farms. Germany used their authority to divide the land and to set their boundaries and development structures such railways and roads. Their main interests were controlling trade and agriculture in the region. Until then, there was no rise of political movements.

British captured Gold Coast while Dahomey became the colony of France (Baranowski 69). After a decade, a war emerged between the three allies where Germany won creating a stronger economic hub through farming of cotton and cocoa. The German administration came to a sudden halt in 1914, when France and British captured all its west colonies thus defeating them (Dietz & Studiecentrum 23). The land was therefore subdivided between France and British colonies by the League of Nations agreement in 1919 (Esteves 50-52).

Impacts of Imperialism on Togo’s Development

Togo enjoyed economic developments through the imperial colonization regime. The eager of the Germans to establish stable and well-modernized farms and mining structures enabled them to pump more resources on infrastructural developments (Esteves 79). Longtime capital assets, such as machinery for production, were built then. The regime also promoted the yields and exportation of Togoland agricultural goods into the world’s market. Efficient mining of gold, phosphate, and limestone brought income to the colony (Douglas 95). Consequently, the Togolese standards of living improved tremendously.

Also, the level of education developed during the German regime. Through missionary societies learning institutions were built. It is evident towards the end the administration embarked in developments of governmental schools despite the limited rate of enrollment recorded. Most pupils went to as far as Gold Coast to seek post-primary education. Some other families escaped to neighboring British colonies to escape the German brutality during their occupation.

Independence Period

The independence of Togo was characterized by several turmoil and coup attempts. In 1961, the Constitution was adopted through a referendum with posts of the executive president serving for seven years in conjunction with the National Assembly. The president had the power to appoint ministers and dissolve the national assembly (Baranowski 112). In the first elections year, Olympoi won while Grunitzky’s party was dissolved. Due to the rivalry between Olympio and Grunitzky, Olympio suspended PTP party in 1962 and jailed Grunitzky and Meatchi. Ablode Sodjas staged a coup de tat that overthrew Olympio in 1963. A general election was held, and Grutinizky clinched the Presidency with Meatchi as the vice president until 1972 when Eyadema was confirmed the new President under the new constitution (Douglas 19). Indeed, the independence period was marked by several challenges of instability and self-fights. The legislature structure was weak, as well. The start of Eyadema’s rule was marked by the economic slowdown due to decreased prices of phosphate, Togo’s important export, in the market.


In summary, the history of Togoland colonization regime seems unique and competitive. Ideally, the Europeans learned about the land endowment with natural resources through Christian missionaries. Afterwards, they started tripling in as traders before luring local chiefs to accept their protection. The colony scrambled for Togo because of her natural resources causing battles among France, British, and Germany (Esteves 79). Soon after the independence establishment, the period of war and turmoil continued to exist among African leaders. Olympio dissolution to all political parties led to the rise of weak National Assembly and several coup attempts. It is also worth noting that imperialism left significant consequences to the inhabitants of Togoland, such as the improved infrastructure, industrial development, and formation of the national education system.

Work Cited

Apoh, Wazi. Embroideries of Imperialism: An Archaeo-Historical Overview of Akwamu, Asante, German and British Imperial Hegemonies at Kpando, Ghana. Sub-Saharan Publishers, 2014.

Baranowski, Shelley. Nazi Empire: German Colonialism and Imperialism from Bismarck to Hitler. Cambridge University Press, 2011.

Dietz, A. J., and Afrika Studiecentrum. “Togo: 1886-1920s.” African Postal Heritage (APH) papers, 2016, Accessed 6 May 2017.

Douglas, R M. Imperialism on Trial: International Oversight of Colonial Rule in Historical Perspective. Lexington Books, 2006.

Esteves, Rui. “Between Imperialism and Capitalism: European Capital Exports Before 1914.” (2012). . Accessed 6 May 2017.

Frankema, Ewout, and Morten Jerven. "Writing History Backwards or Sideways: Towards a Consensus on African Population, 1850–2010." The Economic History Review , vol 67, no. 4, 2014, pp. 907-931.

Glasman, Joel. "Unruly Agents: Police Reform, Bureaucratization, and Policemen's Agency in Interwar Togo." The Journal of African History, vol. 55, no. 1, 2014, pp. 79-100.


August 09, 2021




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