In the twenty years between the end of the First World War and the start of the Second, the French empire reached its greatest physical extent. At the end of the First World War, the priority of the French political community was to consolidate and expand the French empire for, inter alia, industrial mobilisation and global competition for strategic resources. The book revisits debates over 'associationism' and 'assimilationism' in French colonial administration in Morocco and Indochina, and discusses the Jonnart Law in Algeria and the role of tribal elites in the West African colonies. On the economy front, the empire was tied to France's monetary system, and most colonies were reliant on the French market. The book highlights three generic socio-economic issues that affected all strata of colonial society: taxation and labour supply, and urban development with regard to North Africa. Women in the inter-war empire were systematically marginalised, and gender was as important as colour and creed in determining the educational opportunities open to children in the empire. With imperialist geographical societies and missionary groups promoting France's colonial connection, cinema films and the popular press brought popular imperialism into the mass media age. The book discusses the four rebellions that shook the French empire during the inter-war years: the Rif War of Morocco, the Syrian revolt, the Yen Bay mutiny in Indochina, and the Kongo Wara. It also traces the origins of decolonisation in the rise of colonial nationalism and anti-colonial movements.
Between 1940 and 1945 the French empire divided against itself. This book presents the events in the French empire in the 1940s, and traces the period of wartime French imperial division, setting it within the wider international politics of the Second World War. It discusses the collapse of France's metropolitan forces during the second week of June 1940, which became a calamity for the French empire. The final breakdown of the Anglo-French alliance during the latter half of 1940 was played out on the African continent, in heavily defended French imperial territory of vital strategic importance to Allied communications. The Vichy empire lost ground to that of the Charles de Gaulle's Free French, something which has often been attributed to the attraction of the Gaullist mystique and the spirit of resistance in the colonies. Indo-China was bound to be considered a special case by the Vichy regime and the Free French movement. Between late 1940 and 1945, the French administration in Indo-China was forced by circumstances to plough a distinctive furrow in order to survive intact. The book discusses the St Pierre and Miquelon affair, and the invasion of Madagascar, and deals with the issue of nationalism in North Africa, before and after the Operation Torch. The contradiction between the French commitment to constitutional reform and the few colonial subjects actually affected by it was echoed in the wartime treatment of France's colonial forces.
Patterns of policing in the European empires during the depression years
This chapter focuses on significant changes in the styles and objectives of colonial protest policing during a period of tremendous economic distress. Building on the outstanding work on colonial policing published in the last twenty years - much of it within the Studies in Imperialism series, it suggests that there is more to learn something from a political economy approach to the forms and practices of colonial policing across the European empires. The chapter shows that police actions reflected, not just the political order, but also the economic organisation prevailing in their colony. The chapter also focuses on changing colonial policing priorities of Colonel Verney Asser's successors in British, French and Dutch territories as the depression began to bite. Its aim is to demonstrate the worsening difficulties experienced by local forces as they struggled to balance the requirements of political containment, preventive policing and labour control.
One irony of the turbulent history of France's wartime empire is that, while the Gaullist recovery was mounted from colonial territory, it was the Vichy state which made empire central to the ethos of its regime. Between 1940 and 1942 both Gaullist and Vichy propaganda emphasised the need to preserve imperial solidarity and a colonial patrimony for France. In general, where Vichy looked southward towards a collapsing imperial position, Free France inevitably gazed northward to metropolitan France. The severity of French colonial rule in black Africa was much affected by the local availability of cheap labour in individual colonies. To the Vichy government, the Levant states were never fertile grounds for the national revolution. After June 1940, possession of the Maghreb territories was the single most important diplomatic lever remaining to the Vichy regime.
The collapse of France's metropolitan forces during the second week of June 1940 was a calamity for the French empire. The French supreme commander, General Maurice Gamelin, was made the scapegoat for the German breakthrough and was dismissed in disgrace at the height of the battle on 19 May. French defeat in Europe was bound to make the preservation of imperial control more difficult, especially in North Africa. In Tunis, popular unease over the French defeat was fuelled by the intimidating shadow of neighbouring Italian Libya and the rapid arrival of Italian armistice commissioners in the capital. In June 1940, the British government soon lost the initiative in persuading the French colonies to continue the fight. In spite of the prevailing conservatism within French colonial administration, during July and early August converts to the Free French cause emerged in a number of French territories.
By the time Operation Torch commenced, the Vichyite regimes across French North Africa had long since suppressed nationalist parties in all three Maghreb territories. In the two North African protectorates, Vichy's extension of the etat de siege martial law provisions enacted in 1939 allowed Resident Ministers Nogues and Esteva to employ military law to curb nationalist activity. Unable to influence events in Axis-occupied Tunisia, after Darlan's murder, the Free French reserved their most violent criticism for General Nogues. Whereas the Americans were the first to arrive in French North Africa, the British maintained an efficient economic infrastructure across West Africa. French vengeance upon the Muslim population of eastern Constantine was immediate and massive. Aside from its intrinsic importance as a dreadful landmark in the history of French Algeria, the Setif uprising perhaps exposed four issues of lasting historical significance.
Indo-China was bound to be considered a special case by the Vichy regime and the Free French movement. The development of a coexistence policy between Jean Decoux's administration and the Japanese military was never equivalent to Vichy collaborationism in Europe and Africa. Between late 1940 and 1945, the French administration in Indo-China was forced by circumstances to plough a distinctive furrow in order to survive intact. The Franco-Japanese clash at Langson set an important precedent. In October 1940 Decoux returned from a tour of Indo-China's colonial capitals convinced that the suppression of Vietnamese nationalism was fundamental to the continued exclusion of the Japanese. After the uprisings in late 1940, an inverse equation was soon established. As Decoux's real power and room for manoeuvre diminished in 1940-1941, so his determination to impose French authority upon Indo-China increased.
The Syrian campaign and Free French administration in the Levant, 1941–45
Premier Raymond Poincare first officially confirmed French ambitions in Syria in 1912. Vichy administration and Free French administration shared much in common in that each sought to evade France's implicit obligation to quit the Middle East. Both the Free French and the British claimed that Vichy complicity in Axis support of Rashid Ali al-Ghailani's Iraqi revolt justified the Anglo-Gaullist attack on Syria on 8 June. The British empire and Free French columns that invaded the French Levant from Palestine and Transjordan on 8 June fell under the overall command of General Sir Henry Maitland Wilson. As the Levant was occupied by British land forces, the War Office bore primary responsibility for the cost of the occupation administration. By 14 July a Occupied Territories Committee had agreed that the best solution for Syria was a Free French administration with full executive powers.
During August 1940 Winston Churchill's government confirmed its support for Free France. Following an agreement reached with the Prime Minister on August, Charles de Gaulle was officially permitted to recruit armed forces under Free French jurisdiction. By late 1940 the banks of Free French Africa relied upon the assurance of regular sterling transactions within individual colonies to assure their liquidity. Writing in mid-November 1940, the British Colonial Secretary, Lord Lloyd, concluded that the recent spate of Free French successes in Africa was at an end. The British blockade of Vichy Africa did not yield immediate results. With Operation Menace (the codename for the Dakar assault), de Gaulle became openly complicit in British attempts to destroy what remained of Vichy's overseas armed forces. In the event, the British and Free French contacts with Weygand were soon undermined by increased Vichy collaborationism.
St Pierre and Miquelon and the Madagascar invasion, 1942
The exclusion of the Free French left the way open for Britain's Middle East command to arrange a settlement in French Somaliland. In 1942 Djibouti was a minor unresolved problem for Charles de Gaulle. The major colonial prizes of French North and West Africa, both still firmly under Vichy control, were far more critical. Long after the dissolution of the first French empire in North America, St Pierre and Miquelon's fishing community remained faithful to France. The proposed occupation of Vichyite Madagascar also contributed to this inter-Allied friction, and actually took up more French National Committee time than discussion of French North Africa. Japan's relentless southward advance during the spring of 1942 transformed Madagascar's role within British strategic planning for the defence of the Indian Ocean. In the early months of 1942 the British government rejected further Free French proposals for a joint invasion of the island.