Roll Out the Barrel

French and Algerian Ports and the Birth of the Wine Tanker

in French Politics, Culture & Society
Owen White University of Delaware

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When shipping companies first experimented with transporting wine in steel containers in the 1930s they promised to revolutionize the way French Algeria sent its most important export to metropolitan France. What capitalists saw as a rational and efficient use of new technology, however, dockworkers and barrel-makers saw as a dire threat to their livelihoods in a time of intense economic hardship. This article traces the social conflict that followed the introduction of the wine tanker and the declining use of wine barrels in port cities in both Algeria and France. In doing so it illustrates the wide range of people and places that held a direct stake in economic activity arising from France’s colonization of Algeria, from the rural environments in which wine was produced all the way to distant urban spaces such as Rouen.

Contributor Notes

Owen White is an associate professor of history at the University of Delaware. He is currently completing a history of Algeria’s wine industry. E-mail:

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