Baya Hocine's Papers

A Source for the History of Algerian Prisons during the War of Independence (1954–1962)

in Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques
Sylvie Thénault CNRS Centre d'Histoire Social des mondes contemporains, France

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In 1958, a search of the Barberousse Prison in Algiers led to the confiscation of the journal, notes, and correspondence of Baya Hocine, a 17-year-old female detainee who had been sentenced to death for an attack. Written in the intimate style of a personal diary, Hocine's papers are a valuable source for the historiography of prisons during the Algerian War of Independence (1954–1962). The purpose of this article is to reconstruct the trajectory from prison to the French Archives, where they appear in typed form, as well as to shed light on the circumstances under which they were written. While they may be insufficient to reconstitute the actual conditions of life in the prison because they communicate private thoughts, they highlight the radical specificity of Barberousse in these wartime years as a place where people who had been sentenced to death were detained and executed and where death was omnipresent.

Contributor Notes

Sylvie Thénault is a research director at the CNRS research institute Centre d'Histoire Sociale des mondes contemporains. She specializes on the colonial history of Algeria and the Algerian War of Independence, especially through the lens of law and repression. She has written many books and articles on the topic, notably Une drôle de justice, les magistrats dans la guerre d'Algérie (Paris: La Découverte, 2001) and Histoire de la guerre d'indépendance algérienne (Paris: Flammarion, 2005/2012). She also co-edited Histoire de l'Algérie à la période coloniale in France as well as in Algeria (Paris/Algiers: La Découverte/Barzakh, 2012). Email:

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