From empire to exile

History and memory within the pied-noir and harki communities, 1962–2012

Author: Claire Eldridge

French rule in Algeria ended in 1962 following almost eight years of intensely violent conflict, producing one of the largest migratory waves of the post-1945 era. Almost a million French settlers - pieds-noirs - and tens of thousands of harkis - native auxiliaries who had fought with the French army - felt compelled to leave their homeland and cross the Mediterranean to France. Tracing the history of these two communities, From Empire to Exile explores the legacies of the Algerian War of Independence in France. It uses the long-standing grassroots collective mobilisation and memory activism undertaken by both groups to challenge the idea that this was a ‘forgotten’ war that only returned to public attention in the 1990s. Revealing the rich and dynamic interactions produced as pieds-noirs, harkis and other groups engaged with each other and with state-sanctioned narratives, this study demonstrates the fundamental ways in which postcolonial minorities have shaped the landscapes of French politics, society and culture since 1962. It also helps place the current ‘memory wars’ deemed to be sweeping France in their wider historical context, proving that the current competition for control over the representation of the past in the public sphere is not a recent development, but the culmination of long-running processes. By reconceptualising the ways in which the Algerian War has been debated, evaluated and commemorated in the five decades since it ended, this book makes an original contribution to important discussions surrounding the contentious issues of memory, migration and empire in contemporary France.

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Winner of the RHS Gladstone Prize, 2017

 

‘All in all, Eldridge has provided us with a fuller understanding of the evolution in the postcolonial terrain of memories and by extension, the terrain of identities constitutive of French society, which emerged in reaction to the Algerian War. From Empire toExile will no doubt remain indispensable reading for those interested in the role played by memory in decolonization.'
Professor Sung-Eun Choi, Bentley University
Reviews in History
May 2017

‘Eldridge's book provides an outstanding model to build on.'
Darcie Fontaine, University of South Florida
H-France Review Vol. 17, No. 53
March 2017

‘Eldridge's study provides consistently thorough and insightful analysis of the underlying factors that shape disputes in France over the commemoration of colonial past and the consequences of the Algerian War. Her study offers a compelling guide to a bitterly contested memorial landscape in contemporary France and the persistently tense conditions of interaction between the state and a range of competing interest groups.'
Hugh Hiscock, University of Liverpool
Bulletin of Francophone Postcolonial Studies 8.2

‘From empire to exile is essential reading on its subject. It is an exemplary illustration of the very best in memory studies – the author consistently engages with questions of who generates memory (her categories of analysis include age, social class, and gender, as well as political persuasion), to what political purposes and material goals different memories are put, and how memory is shaped by a shifting wider context (real or perceived competition from other memories, broader political and social developments, the perceived political efficiency of certain terminology and frameworks). Eldridge also provides key insights into the construction of the French récit national. Contrary to a common vision of this narrative as top-down and 'one and indivisible', she reveals the different levels at which this narrative is formulated and the negotiations and compromises, as well as conflicts, that take place as new elements work their way up into the state's official version.'
Natalya Vince, University of Portsmouth
The Journal of North African Studies
2017

‘Overall, Eldridge's study provides consistently thorough and insightful analysis of the underlying factors that shape disputes in France over the commemoration of colonial past and the consequences of the Algerian War. Her study offers a compelling guide to a bitterly contested memorial landscape in contemporary France and the persistently tense conditions of interaction between the state and a range of competing interest groups.'
Hugh Hiscock, University of Liverpool
Bulletin of Francophone Postcolonial Studies

‘Well constructed and meticulously argued. Highly recommended.'
M. L. Scott, York College of PA
Choice
July 2017

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