Once the United States of America had annexed Guam during the Spanish-American war of 1898 and taken the Philippines, the end of the Spanish era in the Pacific was imminent. Germany approached Spain with the proposition to acquire the rest of the Spanish holdings in Micronesia which Spain might retain after the peace settlement with the USA. With the date of 12 February 1899, Germany bought for the sum of 25 million pesetas (then US $4.2 million) the Marianas, with the exception of Guam; the Palau Islands; and the Carolines including the Polynesian atolls of Kapingamarangi and Nukuoro; as well as Enewetok and Ujelang of the Marshalls. On 17 November 1899 at four in the afternoon, the Spanish government formally handed the reigns of administration to the German Governor General of New Guinea, Rudolf von Bennigsen, in a public ceremony at Garapan.
The day-to-day management of the Marianas District was placed in the hands of a district administrator, who at the beginning was aided by a chief of police and a medical aide, and initially supported by twelve Indonesian police troops. Over time the number of administrative staff grew, but at no time was the size of the German administration a large one. At the time of the Japanese occupation of Saipan in October 1914, the complement of staff merely comprised a station chief, a deputy station chief, an administrative assistant, a government physician and two German government teachers.
Of the German administrators on Saipan, Georg Fritz was the most influential, partly because he was the first and also the longest serving, and partly because he took a personal interest in the islands and its people. In retrospect he was almost solely responsible for shaping the future of the colony.
The glow of the newly bought expanse of the Caroline, Palau and Mariana Islands warmed the heart of a nationalistic German public and that of the emperor in particular. Small they might be, these islands of the Inselgebiet (Islands Territory), but the German sphere of influence now covered a large area of the Pacific Ocean.
The first decade of the 20th century saw the publication of many textbooks on the German colonies. The Marianas were included, but only barely.
Despite centuries of Spanish occupation, the Marianas were scientifically ëterra incognita.í The early explorers had made some collections and the ruins and latte sites had attracted attention, however many other aspects including the economic side and the natural environment had attracted little research.
Elsewhere in German Micronesia, government physicians acted as ëextension agentsí for meteorological research institutions and as ëlocal collectorsí for zoological museums. In the Marianas no government doctor existed until 1909. When he arrived, Dr. Paul Schnee, with previous experience in Micronesia, was scientifically inclined and published a series of papers on medical phenomena.
Fritz, when administrator from 1894‚1907, conducted the most extensive ethnographic research carried out to that date. He collected artefacts, noted and photographed latte sites, and speculated about the former use of the monuments. Much of the detail known today about Chamorro culture is a result of Fritzí work. In some of his work Fritz was doubtlessly too quick to define and to categorize. His grammar and dictionary of the Chamorro language was criticised, mainly by the son of a settler Hermann Costenoble who was critical of all aspects of his work. Fritzí main work ëDie Chamorroí (The Chamorro) was also critisised, as in it Fritz mingled his own observations with those gleaned from the Spanish sources, which leads to confusion. However, Georg Fritz took up many challenges with enthusiasm. For example, he repeatedly collected specimens for the Zoological Museum in Berlin, and while he is mainly known for his work on the Chamorro, he also managed to compile a dictionary and grammar of the Central Carolinian language. In judging his work we need to remember that Fritz was driven by interest, but that he had no formal training in the matter: he was a gifted enthusiast.
Beyond the work by Fritz and Schnee little else was done.
The literature covered in this bibliography encompasses German language sources published before, during and after the period that the Mariana Islands were a German possession. The literature of the pre-German period encompasses early missionary account translations of British voyages, as well as an 1848 call to establish a German colony in Oceania, albeit on New Caledonia. The literature of the immediate pre-German period is very limited, unlike the situation in the Marshall Islands, for example.
German interests in Micronesia had been concentrated on the Marshalls, and after the partition of Micronesia between Spain and Germany in 1885, German interest in western Micronesia had waned, largely because German trading interests had to withdraw at that time.
The purchase of Spanish Micronesia in 1899 led to a flurry of publications, mainly written by Georg Fritz. Literature dealing with the relations with Guam is conspicuously absent, with the exception of items on its economy which were furnished by the German consul in Manila.
The loss of the colonies as a result of World War I curtailed the publications on Micronesia. The Marianas were particularly affected insofar as no substantial ethnographic work had been carried out there. The famous German South Seas Expedition to Micronesia (1909‚1910), the results of which were published throughout the 1920s and 1930s, had specifically excluded the Marianas because the Chamorro culture was perceived as too acculturated by Spanish influences.
In the 1930s the reawakening of German nationalism and the concomitant interest in its former colonies brought about a few publications on the Japanese League of Nations Mandate of Micronesia.
To make the resources more accessible, the German titles of the publications have been translated into English and added into the citation in angular brackets. The titles have been translated as literally as possible. Where required, Anglicised versions of names have been used. For the Chinese place names, modern spelling has been substituted: ëJiazhouí for ëKiautschouí and ëQingdaoí for ëTsingtau.í