Obtaining a waistcoat in exchange for a trouser button.


The Europeans and Americans residing in the town of Zanzibar are either Government officials, independent merchants, or agents for a few great mercantile houses in Europe and America… Henry Morton Stanley

Heligoland : the true story of German Bight and the island that Britain betrayed  George Drower  Thrupp, Stroud, Gloucestershire : Sutton Pub., 2002  Hardcover. 1st ed. xvi, 334 p., [8] p. of plates : ill., maps, ports. ; 23 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [301]-317) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

Heligoland is the astounding story of a mysterious British colony in the North Sea that the Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury, swapped for Zanzibar in 1890. After years of having a UK-style flag, postage stamps, taxation system and currency, Heligolanders were soon experiencing the crushing of their culture, and were forced into learning German.

The unscrupulous transference of the island to Germany, in defiance of the islanders’ wishes, sparked a public controversy; the explorer Stanley famously commented that Britain had obtained a waistcoat in exchange for a trouser button. The sacrifice of the enigmatic Heligoland became a strategic blunder during the two World Wars, when the island was made into a fortress by the Germans.

After the Second World War there was a plot to cover up the mistake when Britain planned to destroy Heligoland with an A-bomb strength explosion. Implicated in the epic scandal are many key personalities; among them Queen Victoria, Kaiser Wilhelm, Arthur Balfour, and The Riddle of the Sands author Erskine Childers.

Heligoland goes beyond an amazing story of intrigue, high adventure and national ambition. It highlights Britain’s relations with continental Europe; the conduct of the British Empire; even the shape and identity of the British Isles. Using techniques of biography, popular history and narrative, this book unravels for the first time the true story of the island Britain gave away.

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