German colonization of the Americas

The German colonization of the Americas consisted of German settlements in Venezuela (German: Klein-Venedig, also German: Welser-Kolonie[1]), St. Thomas, Crab Island (Guyana), and Ter Tholen (Tortola) in the 16th and 17th centuries.


The Welser of Augsburg

Main article: Klein-Venedig
In this map of German colonies, yellow marks Klein-Venedig and blue the Prussian colonies, some of them in the Caribbean.

Klein-Venedig ("Little Venice") was the most significant part of the German colonization of the Americas, from 1528 to 1546, in which the Augsburg-based Welser banking family obtained colonial rights in Venezuela Province in return for debts owed by Charles I of Spain. The primary motivation was the search for the legendary golden city of El Dorado. The venture was initially led by Ambrosius Ehinger, who founded Maracaibo in 1529. After the deaths of first Ehinger (1533), Nicolaus Federmann, Georg von Speyer (1540), Philipp von Hutten continued exploration in the interior. In absence of von Hutten from the capital of the province the crown of Spain claimed the right to appoint the governor. On Hutten's return to the capital, Santa Ana de Coro, in 1546, the Spanish governor Juan de Carvajal had Hutten and Bartholomeus VI. Welser executed. Subsequently Charles I revoked Welser's charter.

The Welsers transported German miners to the colony, as well as 4,000 African slaves as labor to work sugar cane plantations. Many of the German colonists died from tropical diseases, to which they had no immunity, or hostile attacks by natives during frequent journeys deep into Amerindian territory in search of gold.


The Brandenburgisch-Africanische Compagnie of Brandenburg (the future Kingdom of Prussia) established trading posts in Africa and leased a trading post on St. Thomas from the Danish West India-Guinea Company in 1685. In 1693, the Danes seized the post, its warehouse, and all its goods without warning or repayment. There were no permanent German settlers.

German colonization of the Americas


The Duchy of Courland, a German-led vassal state of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, leased New Courland (Neu-Kurland) on Tobago in the Caribbean from the British. The colony failed and was restored several times. A final Courish attempt to establish a Caribbean colony involved a settlement near modern Toco on Trinidad.[2]


Main article: Hanauisch-Indien (German)

The counties of Hanau-Lichtenberg and Hanau-Münzenberg, under Frederick Casimir and his adviser Johann Becher, funded but did not complete an extravagant program to lease Guiana from the Dutch West India Company. Calling his new realm the Hanauish Indies (Hanauisch-Indien), Frederick Casimir ran up huge debts that ultimately forced his overthrow and the redivision of his counties.

Later immigration

German settlers also immigrated to the established colonies in South America and Central America:

They also founded some small colonies in Paraguay.

See also


  1. Kołodziejczyk, Dariusz. Mówią wieki. "CZY RZECZPOSPOLITA MIAŁA KOLONIE W AFRYCE I AMERYCE?". (Polish)

External links

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