By the late 19th century, the presence of Europeans in Africa had become familiar – as merchants, missionaries, explorers, colonizers, planters, or conquerors. Yet they were rare enough that the meeting of two groups was still a special event. And one of the most special of those happened 120 years ago at the Nile in what is now South Sudan. The French Major Jean-Baptiste Marchand and the British Major-General Herbert Kitchener had met in the village of Fashoda – each with a small army under their command. While the two officers personally got along well, the rivalry between their governments placed the threat of war over their heads. But why would two major powers squabble over a small Sudanese village? The one-word answer is colonialism, but let’s be more specific. In the end, the Fashoda crisis did not lead to a war and instead paved the way for one of the more unlikely alliances of history. As usual, expect board games on the way!
130 years ago, the German Empire was ruled by three emperors (kaisers) in quick succession. The old emperor, William I, died at age 91. His son Frederick (III) was already suffering from laryngeal cancer and died after only 99 days as emperor. He was succeeded by his son William (II), the best-known German emperor who would continue to rule until monarchy was abolished in Germany at the end of World War I. The three men stand for three distinctly different visions for their country. Let’s look at each of them in turn – William I, Frederick III, and William II.