Race and Sex, Fear and Loathing in France during the Great War

in Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques
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During the First World War, more than 500,000 colonial subjects served in the French Army. As these men, known as troupes indigenes, helped defend France from invasion, many of them had sexual and romantic relationships with French women. Such intimate contacts across the color line transgressed strict boundaries that separated the non-white colonized from white colonizers, boundaries that helped construct and sustain colonial rule. Thus these interracial relationships produced acute anxieties in the minds of French officials, who worried that their failure to control the passions and desires of colonial men and metropolitan women would ultimately undermine the French empire.

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