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Think Global, Fight Local

Recontextualizing the French Army in Algeria, 1954–1962

Terrence G. Peterson


For many within the French military, the war over Algeria's independence that raged from 1954 to 1962 appeared global: not an isolated conflict, but one front in a broader subversive war waged by Communist revolutionaries. As historians have long noted, this perspective was inaccurate. For that reason, the social and cultural contexts that defined military practice during the early years of the conflict have not been fully explored. This article argues, however, that these global narratives mattered, and can help historians to trace both how global events shaped military thinking about Algeria and how the war helped forge more concrete transnational connections. As they honed their operational doctrines in Algeria, French military leaders looked abroad: not only to understand the war in Algeria, but to promote their own practices as a universal response to the social upheavals of the era.