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Spain, Germany and the United States in the Marshall Islands: Re-imagining the imperial in the Pacific

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Like the spaces between islands on maps of the Pacific, there are gaps that exist in our historical understanding of this region of the world. This is especially true in relation to the history of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands. This study examines some of those forgotten-about spaces whilst focusing on the history of former European colonial powers whose own imperial stories have also been overlooked in this region, namely Spain and Germany. In doing so it illustrates how this former Spanish territory morphed into a German one and discusses the significance of this transformation, and how it helped lay the groundwork for the beginning of the Second Reich. Whilst examining these European colonial histories this work also uncovers how the United States came to be involved in Micronesia and the long-term results of that development, specifically the establishment of Guam/Guåhån as one of the first United States overseas military bases and the utilisation of the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshalls for Cold War nuclear testing. It concludes by pointing out that much of this territory was obtained not by conquest but by purchase and lease, thereby underscoring an oft-forgotten, but vitally important, method of territorial aggrandizement that continues to this day.
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Keywords: Germany; Guåhån/Guam; Marshall Islands; Spain; United States; imperial Pacific; purchase and lease

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Richmond, The American International University in London

Publication date: December 1, 2016

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