WHEN STANFORD historian Steven Press was trying to unearth hidden narratives about Germany’s colonial activities in South West Africa’s highly secretive diamond industry, he pursued that age-old maxim to “follow the money”.
Steven Press is an assistant professor of history in the School of Humanities and Sciences. His new book, Blood and Diamonds, traces the devastating cost of diamond mining and German colonial domination in Namibia during the late 18th and 19th centuries.
Chasing that trail led to some disturbing discoveries about the full extent of Germany’s ruthlessness as it pursued its economic aspirations in the African country now known as Namibia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
In Blood and Diamonds (Harvard University Press, 2021), Press outlines how from 1884 to 1915, the German colonial government and its representatives perpetrated genocide against the indigenous Nama and Herero peoples while scouring the region for diamonds.
According to Press, Germany’s ambition reshaped the global diamond market and continues to do so today. “While exploring what was going on in these German colonies, I saw an economic dimension and also a worldwide thread that hadn’t been appreciated,” said Press.
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