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The Battle of El Herri in Morocco

Narratives of Colonial Conquest during World War I

Caroline Campbell

Abstract

What does the French massacre of Amazigh people at El Herri in November 1914 reveal about broader patterns of colonial conquest? How do such patterns demonstrate the beliefs of French officers about the best way to conduct war at the beginning of World War I? Using extensive archival research, published primary sources, and Amazigh oral tradition, this article provides a narrative of the Battle of El Herri that analyzes the physical, sexual, and gendered violence that French troops exacted against Amazigh tribes. It argues that leading French military figures spun the “battle” to create a narrative that was racially inflected and self-serving. Led by Resident-General Lyautey, these leaders claimed that their philosophy of conquest was the only one that could result in successful war in Morocco, and by extension, Europe itself.

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“Before the War, Life Was Much Brighter and Happier than Today”

Letters from French War Orphans, 1915–1922

Bethany S. Keenan

Abstract

This article examines a previously unstudied collection of letters from French World War I orphans and widows, published in US newspapers from 1915 to 1922, as a result of the US humanitarian effort Fatherless Children of France (FCOF). Through the analysis of the letters’ content and style, the article illuminates the lived experience of bereaved lower-income French families, notably highlighting the significance of grief and the impact of paternal loss on economic status, bringing out new evidence on how women and children experienced the war, as well as showing how humanitarian efforts connected French and American civilians during the war period.

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Competing Visions

The Visual Culture of the Congo Free State and Fin de Siècle Europe

Matthew G. Stanard

Abstract

Studies of the visual culture of the Congo Free State (CFS) have focused overwhelmingly yet narrowly on the “atrocity” photograph used to criticize Leopold II's colonial misrule. This article presents a new picture of the visual culture of Leopold II's Congo Free State by examining a broader, more heterogeneous range of fin de siècle images of varied provenance that comprised the visual culture of the CFS. These include architecture, paintings, African artwork, and public monuments, many of which were positive, pro-Leopoldian images emphasizing a favorable view of colonialism. The visual culture of the CFS was imbued with recurring themes of violence, European heroism, and anti-Arab sentiment, and emerged from a unique, transnational, back-and-forth process whereby Leopold and his critics instrumentalized images to counter each other and achieve their goals.

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Debating the “Jewish Question” in Tunisia

War, Colonialism, and Zionism at a Mediterranean Crossroads, 1914–1920

Chris Rominger

Abstract

In Tunisia, the end of World War I and the return of Muslims and European settlers from the front brought attacks against local Jews who had been exempt from conscription under French colonial rule. French commentators spoke of a “Jewish question” fueled by Muslim fanaticism and Jewish profiteering, obscuring their own divisive attitudes and policies. Colonial archives and the popular press, however, reveal that this was far from a monolithic sectarian concern. Jews responded to violence with a variety of transnational political visions. I explore how some Jews reaffirmed their loyalty to France, while others highlighted colonial hypocrisies. Others turned to solutions such as US protection or the Zionist movement. This Tunisian story, with its unique colonial arrangement and legal ambiguities, foregrounds an oft-overlooked North African perspective on the global questions of identity, nationalisms, and minority politics at the end of World War I.

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Introduction

France’s Great War from the Edge

Susan B. Whitney

World War I has been studied extensively by historians of France and for good reason. Waging the first industrial war required mobilizing all of France's resources, whether military, political, economic, cultural, or imperial. Politicians from the left and the right joined forces to govern the country, priests and seminarians were drafted into the army, factories were retooled to produce armaments and other war material, and women and children were enlisted to do their part. So too were colonial subjects. More than 500,000 men from France's empire fought in Europe for the French Army, while another 200,000 colonial subjects labored in France's wartime workplaces. The human losses were staggering and the political, economic, and cultural reverberations long-lasting, both in the metropole and in the colonies. More than 1.3 million French soldiers and an estimated 71,000 colonial soldiers lost their lives, leaving behind approximately 1.1 million war orphans and 600,000 war widows.

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Randolph Miller

Abstract

The popularity of Ultramontanism and the political energy provided by Sacred Heart piety gave French Catholicism of the post-Commune era a militant posture, one that republican socialists saw as antagonistic to their political objectives. This article shows that socialists responded by emasculating their Catholic opponents. Drawing on the materialist tradition that emerged from the Enlightenment and Revolution, and highlighting the resignation and emotive nature of radical Catholic piety, republican socialists maintained that religious belief was evidence of inadequate virility. Speaking to the anxieties of the period, which included concerns about racial degeneration and the adequacy of France on the world stage, this gendering of epistemological convictions allowed socialists to argue for the exclusion of religion and the religious male from French politics.

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Agricultural Fire or Arson?

Rural Denizens, Forest Administration, and the Colonial Situation in Algeria (1850–1900)

Antonin Plarier

Abstract

This article focuses on fire management practices in Algeria during the colonial period. Focusing on environmental usages of fires in Algerian rural society, this article shows that these practices were submitted to varied and opposite interpretations resulting in significant and durable conflicts. These conflicts exploded under the French colonial forestry administration, which forcefully imposed new legislation to criminalize existing agricultural practices, including fires. Despite this ban, these practices continued. The administration interpreted this persistence as rebellion and responded with severe sanctions. This only aggravated the situation, resulting in a real war of attrition. On the one hand, this situation does not diverge from the rural violence typical of the nineteenth century. On the other, the responses of the administration in colonial Algeria represent specific digressions compared to the policies carried out in metropolitan areas.

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Baya Hocine's Papers

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

Sylvie Thénault

Abstract

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.

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Investigating the Investigators

French Colonial Attempts to Supervise Its Policing System during the 1930s*

Ruth Ginio

Abstract

Three cases of re-opened murder investigations in French West Africa are at the heart of this article. My aim is to examine these cases as a lens into everyday colonial policing that was not directly linked to major anti-colonial protests. All three inquiries into low-ranking colonial officers and the way they conducted their investigations took place during the 1930s, in Mauritania, Senegal, and Dahomey. While their circumstances were different, the cases reflect the flawed and unprofessional character of colonial investigations. They also demonstrate that murder investigations—as well as criticism of them—were powered by two crucial French colonial notions: the maintenance of public order and the ideology of the civilizing mission.

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« Nous ne voulons pas de Blancs dans le pays »

l'insurrection des populations de la Haute-Sangha et la pacification de l'espace rebelle (1928–1931)

Patrick Dramé

Cet article se propose d'étudier à l'aune du concept de « commandement » et des notions de « pacification » et de résistance, l'insurrection des populations de la Haute-Sangha et, plus particulièrement, des Bayas du territoire colonial de l'Oubangui-Chari entre 1928 et 1931. La révolte est imputable aux nombreuses contraintes induites par l'encadrement administratif et la « mise en valeur » économique coloniale de l'Afrique Équatoriale Française (AEF). La dissidence est alors centrée autour d'un messianisme incarné par Karinou dont l'objectif ultime est le recouvrement de l'ordre précolonial. D'où la mobilisation d'une variété de modes de résistance vis-à-vis du colonisateur. Or, la détermination de l'État colonial à rétablir l'ordre l'amène à user de la violence armée et de la répression judiciaire afin de venir à bout de l'insurrection.