Martin Thomas
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Prelude to decolonisation? The inter-war empire revisited
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By 1939 France was a declining European power in crisis, with an unmanageable colonial empire. The French empire after 1919 was fundamentally different from that of 1914, just as the French Union of 1946 did not replicate the colonial system of the inter-war years. An essential paradox of French imperialism was that France's governing elite remained overwhelmingly Eurocentric in outlook despite the global reach of colonial rule. French governments rarely placed empire at the forefront of decisions made in economic or foreign policy. Popular Frontism in the empire unleashed social changes and political forces that colonial authorities struggled to contain for years afterward. The absence of state welfare provision for colonial populations set them apart from French society, helping to perpetuate stereotypical racial images of modern and primitive, civilised and uncivilised, progressive and backward.

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The French empire between the wars

Imperialism, Politics and Society


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