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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.

Imperialism, Politics and Society

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.

Bao Dai, Norodom Sihanouk and Mohammed V
Christopher Goscha

minders. He soon spoke French with a perfect accent and frequented elite Parisian circles. Sarraut and Pasquier’s trust in their new colonial monarch was such that in 1931 they seated him at the centre of the opening ceremony of the famous International Colonial Exhibition at Vincennes. Bao Dai did not speak that day; he had no subjects. He was the symbol of the French Empire on display for all the French to see ( Figure 9.1 ). A year later, as nationalist and communist revolts rocked Tonkin and Annam, the French rushed the young emperor back to Indochina to

in Monarchies and decolonisation in Asia
Colonialism and material culture

This study explores the shared history of the French empire from a perspective of material culture in order to re-evaluate the participation of colonial, Creole, and indigenous agency in the construction of imperial spaces. The decentred approach to a global history of the French colonial realm allows a new understanding of power relations in different locales. Traditional binary models that assume the centralization of imperial power and control in an imperial centre often overlook the variegated nature of agency in the empire. In a selection of case studies in the Caribbean, Canada, Africa, and India, several building projects show the mixed group of planners, experts, and workers, the composite nature of building materials, and elements of different ‘glocal’ styles that give the empire its concrete manifestation. Thus the study proposes to view the French overseas empire in the early modern period not as a consequence or an outgrowth of Eurocentric state building, but rather as the result of a globally interconnected process of empire building.


The late nineteenth century saw a rapid increase in colonial conflicts throughout the French and British empires. It was also the period in which the camera began to be widely available. Colonial authorities were quick to recognise the power of this new technology, which they used to humiliate defeated opponents and to project an image of supremacy across the world. Drawing on a wealth of visual materials, from soldiers’ personal albums to the collections of press agencies and government archives, this book offers a new account of how conflict photography developed in the decades leading up to the First World War. It explores the various ways in which the camera was used to impose order on subject populations in Africa and Asia and to generate propaganda for the public in Europe, where a visual economy of violence was rapidly taking shape. At the same time, it reveals how photographs could escape the intentions of their creators, offering a means for colonial subjects to push back against oppression.

Abstract only
Geoffrey Hicks

a new French Empire, which finally occurred in December. The British recognition of the Empire, and with it Louis Napoleon’s new title of Napoleon III, is the achievement for which the 1852 Government is chiefly remembered. It was certainly the one which Malmesbury himself later regarded with the greatest pride; it was a personal triumph for his vision of the Anglo-French relationship. He and Derby successfully maintained Britain’s good relations with the ‘northern’ powers, and established a close alliance with the new French regime. While doing their best to

in Peace, war and party politics
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Martin Thomas

Between 1940 and 1945 the French empire divided against itself. To be more precise, the administrative, military and settler elites that ran French imperial affairs became adversaries in the contest between Vichy loyalism and Free French republicanism. Although no colony remained openly committed to the discredited Vichy regime by 1944, vestiges of reactionary ‘Pétainism

in The French empire at war 1940–45
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Prelude to decolonisation? The inter-war empire revisited
Martin Thomas

1919 and 1939, are absorbing in themselves. But few would question the truism that the two World Wars wrought fundamental changes to the international system, to European colonialism and to French society. 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. In trying to unravel what sets

in The French empire between the wars
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Building the French empire
Benjamin Steiner

French empire and how this global polity can be understood in terms of its function, stability, and coherence. As there are several claims that deny the formal existence of a French empire before 1804, when Napoleon Bonaparte became emperor of France, the task at hand does not pose itself as obvious. But considering the bond that existed between Louis XVI and his subjects in the colonies (for example, Toussaint Louverture, who, despite his socially inferior status, maintained his allegiance), the existence of some sort of empire that maintained this relationship is not

in Building the French empire, 1600–1800
Real and imagined boundaries between metropole and empire in 1920s Marseilles
Yaël Simpson Fletcher

The 1922 National Colonial Exposition in Marseilles included a West African tower three times the height of the original in Timbuctu, an enormous Indochinese palace based on the temple of Angkor Wat, and a Near Eastern compound crowded with minarets, domes and courtyards (see Figures 23 – 4 ). Together these buildings were designed to materialise the cultural heterogeneity of the French empire. These inflated simulations of indigenous architecture, with their ‘vertiginous and phony exactitude’ (to

in Imperial cities