1890, originally in geography, "a region behind and inland from a port city that is closely tied to it economically," from German Hinterland, from hinter "behind" (see hinder (adj.)) + Land "country" (see land (n.)). What in English would be called the back-country. George G. Chisholm, in "Handbook of Commercial Geography," translated the German word as hinderland, supposedly first in his 1888 edition, and Hinder-land also was used from 1881 by Richard Burton and others to translate an Egyptian hieroglyphic for "Syria." Hinterland came to prominence in the language of European colonialism in reference to an inland region behind a port along a coast that was claimed by a state.
[The East Africa Company] have seized a vast region, and the delightful terms of Hinterland, Sphere of Influence, Protectorate, Colony, have come into existence, with the common feature of plunder of the possessions, and destroying the lives, of unoffending millions. [Robert Needham Cust, "A Monroe-Doctrine for Africa," 1898]
updated on September 20, 2019