Selective Empathy

Workers, Colonial Subjects, and the Affective Politics of French Romantic Socialism

in French Politics, Culture & Society


During the 1830s and 1840s, romantic socialists in France wrote about three subjugated groups in the French empire: metropolitan workers, slaves in the Caribbean and Indian Ocean colonies, and Algerian civilians. Although these three groups ostensibly shared similar conditions of deprivation and violent treatment at the hands of the French state, socialists depicted them in importantly different terms, with the effect of humanizing workers and slaves, while dehumanizing the Algerians suffering French conquest and colonization. This article explores these presentations and examines the way they worked together to champion the socialist priority, the emergent working classes of the July Monarchy, and to indirectly endorse the settler colonial project in Algeria.

Writing in the first issue of his journal La Revue sociale, ou Solution pacifique du problème du prolétariat in 1845, Pierre Leroux suggested the ambitious scope of early socialism: “man’s right and his interest being the free communion with all of mankind, and through mankind all of the universe, anything that destroys this right, anything that divides mankind and pens men in tribes that are hostile or indifferent to each other, deserves in turn to be destroyed.”1 Leroux and other romantic socialists used expansive language such as this in critiquing the core, and in their view, divisive, values dominant in French society—liberal individualism and its economic correlates—and offering instead a more harmonious and interdependent model of social relations. Leroux evokes the multi-faceted nature of human interdependence in observing, “Humanity suffers through all its children.… This universal pain, although indivisible in its essence because of human solidarity, expresses itself in oppressors and the oppressed.”2

Socialists elaborated their alternative worldview in the France of the July Monarchy and Second Republic (1830–1851), a society deeply divided by the legacy of the French Revolution and by issues of class and race that played out in the metropole and in the empire. Despite the universalist idiom they often used, socialists responded to these divisions in ways that conflicted with the inclusiveness of a statement such as Leroux’s. The post-Revolutionary decades in which socialism developed were marked by rapid industrial and urban change within metropolitan France, and by a significant ideological shift in the logic and justification of French imperialism, dynamics that informed the way socialists conceived of the “universal” human community. Socialists’ inconsistent empathy with various subjugated groups in the French body politic are acutely apparent when we examine their positions on key metropolitan and imperial issues during the July Monarchy, especially colonial slavery, wage labor, and the violent takeover of Algeria.

The July Monarchy was marked by repeated, violent episodes of conflict between the state and its subjects, both within the hexagon and in its empire. Throughout the 1830s, and especially after 1840, France waged a scorched earth battle for control over first the coastal and then the interior regions of Algeria. Civilian Algerians were specifically targeted by the French Army of Africa, and the French military presence in Algeria numbered in the tens of thousands throughout the July Monarchy.3 Military violence in Algeria was an ongoing backdrop to episodic rebellions in France’s slave colonies in the Caribbean, and to frequent and often widespread worker unrest in French cities in the 1830s and 40s, particularly the revolts of the Lyon silkworkers (canuts) in 1831 and 1834. The French state had its hands full maintaining order on all fronts.4

Early French socialists, developing their views on social relations in the context of these conflicts, denounced violence and subjugation, especially of the French laboring classes. Given the similarities in the circumstances of workers and colonial subjects during these years, and in the romantic socialists’ stated concern for human suffering, we might expect the latter to take a broadly anti-imperial stance, condemning not only colonial slavery but also the brutality of the Algerian conquest. This was not, however, the case. Despite widespread denunciations of tactics used against Algerian civilian populations by the Army of Africa in Algeria in the press, where socialists participated vociferously, indigenous civilian displacement, integral to the logic of settler expansion, went unproblematized by socialist writers as an inevitability. Instead, socialists called for the demilitarization of the French presence in Algeria, lobbying for a shift to civilian governance. Thus, even though socialists were able to see the obvious parallels between the treatment of colonial slaves and the exploitation of metropolitan workers, they appear not to have drawn another logical parallel—between slavery in the Caribbean and colonialism in Algeria. On the contrary, they supported colonial settlement there.5

The utopian socialist Victor Considerant, a longtime friend and admirer of General Bugeaud, governor general of Algeria from 1840 to 1847, was especially outspoken in response to Bugeaud’s defense of Colonel Pelissier’s enfumade at Dahra in 1845, which entailed the brutal asphyxiation of hundreds of Algerians. Considerant denounced the terms of military rule, and lambasted the military for tarnishing the glory of France. Nonetheless, he supported the imperial project at hand, calling for an alliance of civilians, workers, and bourgeois that would then “carry to Algeria the progress you will already have realized in France.”6

Socialists’ privileging of the working classes in France was the critical determinant of their views on the colonies, old and new. In their writings, socialists portray the colonizing workers as the civilizing vanguard of French society, victimized by the twin evils of capitalism and the French military. As Pierre Leroux noted, “[i]t is capital that is killing Humanity. It is killing it in a thousand ways: by illness, by crime, by prostitution, it kills it through all of the plagues of body and soul.”7 Like Considerant, Leroux lamented the events at Dahra, particularly decrying the death by asphyxiation of the Algerian “men, women, and children … of the Ouled Riah,” and the “barbaric” treatment of French soldiers at the hands of the army’s leadership, a common complaint from socialists about military discipline.8 The idea that the process of conquering Algeria would in turn “barbarize” French forces was frequently voiced during the 1840s, and came to prominence in mainstream commentary on the June Days of 1848.9 But for Leroux and other contributors to his journals, it would be the worker-colonists who could act as the transporters of civilization to Algeria, “la nation barbare.”10

The dominant discourse among liberal and conservative contemporaries on the French working classes was quite distinct from that of the romantic socialists. Economist Eugène Buret, for example, depicted the proletariat as beaten down by economic and cultural deprivation, “excluded from civilization,” and lacking even the traditions and “savage grandeur” of “true” barbarians.11 Similar depictions, not all unsympathetic, appeared in reports beginning in the early 1830s documenting the extent of urban poverty and extrapolating the potentially dire, if not always revolutionary, consequences for French society.12 Alexis de Tocqueville, for example, likened the “so-called people” who toppled the July Monarchy in February 1848 to the Vandals and Goths, describing “the terror felt by all the other classes” and their anticipation of “unheard-of acts of violence,” since for the moment, the people “alone bore arms.”13

Romantic socialists offered a different perspective, emphasizing the workers’ humanity and their Christ-like suffering to evoke sympathy from their readers, often through gendered language and imagery. Part of socialists’ counter-narrative of industrialization and urban crowding involved borrowing the pathos associated with the abject figure of the slave to inflect their descriptions of working-class life. The empathic portrayals of French workers, frequently expressed through the vocabulary of slavery and emancipation, I argue, operated to occlude the evident similarities with the treatment of Algerians by the French military. Socialists had observed in the old slave colonies a version of the laborers’ plight at home; in Algeria they saw a potential site for the reconstruction of French society on terms advantageous to its laboring class. This latter perspective, however, required a strategic obscuring of the analogous suffering of Algerian civilians that such settlement would entail. Sympathy for the workers, then, effectively negated recognition of what socialists in another context would have seen as illegitimate violence taking place in Algeria. I explore below how these two lines of reasoning were in fact interdependent: drawing the analogy between metropolitan workers and colonial slaves in effect gave socialists the illusion of having moral cover to support the ongoing conquest in Algeria, despite their rhetorical commitment to universal notions of the human community.

Selective Empathy, a Humanitarian Trope

My understanding of this apparent contradiction is informed by the body of scholarship in both history and literature that has examined the role of emotions in the critiques of human inequality and suffering that were central to the Enlightenment. Studies of sentimentality and empathy have linked a variety of factors, including the maturation of the novel and the development of capitalism to discourses of natural rights, human rights, the antislavery movement, and other manifestations of humanitarian sensibility.14 Scholars disagree as to whether these emotions promote universal notions of humanity, or if they effectively dehumanize the suffering of others and thereby avoid disrupting conventional morality. Historians of human rights, most notably Lynn Hunt, have largely adopted a progressive, at times triumphalist narrative, arguing for the gradual expansion of the empathic circle, beginning in the Enlightenment, to include an increasingly broad swath of humanity.15 By her account, national, racial, and gender boundaries were ineluctably transcended by the cascading moral imperative of universal human rights.16 Criticism of this position, most prominently from Samuel Moyn, asserts the discontinuity between Enlightenment notions of natural rights and the twentieth century “utopia” of human rights, rooting “rights talk” in the origins of the nation-state and calling into question the universality of the humanity championed in Enlightenment and revolutionary discourses.17

Literary scholars have problematized the Whig account of expanding empathy from another perspective, questioning the nature and function of the emotional shift in the eighteenth century. These scholars argue that rereading sentimental literature—the prime vehicle of the empathic expansion according to Hunt—within the context of European colonialism dramatically challenges the narrative of expanding human rights. By these accounts, literary imaginings of the relationship between well-meaning Europeans and non-European “others” were coping mechanisms by which Europeans dealt with the moral consequences of imperial growth. Lynn Festa thus argues that sentimentality “consolidated a sense of metropolitan community grounded in the selective recognition of the humanity of other populations.”18 Strategies of denial and deferral, Christopher Miller suggests, served similar purposes while absolving Europeans of the moral burden of chattel slavery, most particularly.19

Madeleine Dobie, similarly, demonstrates the importance of another “other” to the occluding of slavery in eighteenth-century literature, wherein the Orient played a pivotal role in French writings.20 This process enabled the French to “see what they wanted to see,” with regard to the slave trade, and to deflect the challenge it posed to French ideological assertions about natural rights and human dignity.21 In these colonially-minded accounts of the political function of sentiment, the interaction of empathic evocations, humanitarian sensibility, and rights discourses is far from straightforward.

This rich scholarly discussion has primarily focused on the eighteenth century and on literary rather than journalistic representations; the historiography of human rights tends to touch only lightly on the early nineteenth century.22 This is not surprising, as the era witnessed a notable caesura in pronouncements about the universal applicability of rights. Eighteenth-century discourses that highlighted commonalities among all peoples—particularly between Europeans and non-Europeans—took a back seat to biological notions of civilizational, racial, and sexual difference which, although often couched in sympathetic language, posited radical difference and underwrote the reestablishment of social hierarchy.23Indeed, the early nineteenth century saw the emergence of humanitarian discourses that rested on significantly different premises than those of natural rights, as they invoked a moral code rather than a legal order for their legitimacy.24 Historians who focus on humanitarianism, therefore, pay far greater attention to the early nineteenth century, highlighting the influence of the contemporaneous religious resurgence and the conservative turn in Europe after 1815.

In offering their divergent genealogies of human rights, Hunt and Moyn each focus on a distinctive feature of the discourse. For Hunt, the expansion of the empathic field in the eighteenth century is the key element in the emergence of universal notions of human rights. Moyn, in contrast, anchors his argument in the primacy of claims to citizenship rights through the nation, claims that predominated until the failure of other kinds of universalist “utopias” such as communism and decolonization in the late 1970s. In questioning Hunt’s thesis, Moyn argues she is in fact describing how “the rise of humanitarianism affected and broadened the rights tradition,” rather than inventing it per se, suggesting that humanitarianism, and ultimately twentieth-century rights discourses, built sequentially upon natural rights doctrines of the eighteenth century.25 My research supports Moyn’s chronology, highlighting the distinct qualities of humanitarian socialism in the nineteenth century, while demonstrating its reliance on the rhetorical strategies that literary scholars such as Festa, as well as Hunt, have described in relation to questions of empathy. Shaped by their imbrication in the expansion of the French empire and battles over economic rights generated by industrialization, romantic socialists developed a Christian inflected humanitarianism that diverged sharply from the rights-based, individualistic claims to citizenship of the eighteenth century.

Romantic socialism, like humanitarianism, made use of moral rather than legalistic reasoning, drawing on Christianity for its arguments on behalf of humanity. Both socialism and humanitarianism invoked notions of Christian charity as central to social relations; and both used hierarchical language then developing among social scientists and ethnologists to differentiate the classes, races, and sexes of the newly hegemonic imperial nation-states.26 Examining how romantic socialists deployed these rhetorical strategies, moreover, calls into question the progressive narrative that has until recently dominated the scholarship on human rights and humanitarianism. Contradictory avowals of sympathy and practices of distancing, as I show below, were deeply intertwined in early socialism. Just as the role of empathy in attitudes toward empire in the eighteenth century has been contested by the scholars discussed above, I argue that its role is similarly ambiguous in socialist writings of the nineteenth century.

Socialists’ seemingly contradictory views on colonial violence exemplify this ambiguity. Where liberals in the early nineteenth century tended to rationalize colonial expansion in terms of national interests and international rivalries, as Jennifer Pitts and others have shown, early socialists used expansive, humanitarian language in their support for colonization. Like Enlightenment era thinkers, romantic socialists invoked a holistic “humanity,” eschewing overt calls for national glory and aggressive imperialism in its pursuit. Rather than the fear-mongering that many bourgeois commentators resorted to, socialists used gendered and paternalistic language to evoke sympathy for society’s downtrodden—workers, slaves, and women, the main objects of socialist rhetoric. These gendered symbols of victimhood emphasized the docility and abjection of these groups, while mitigating contemporary fears about colonial and metropolitan violence.27 Echoing novelistic tropes discussed by eighteenth-century scholars, where the figure of the disempowered woman ostensibly stirred the sympathy of readers, portrayals of longsuffering slaves and workers encouraged empathic identification with these groups.28 Where the self-referential notion of natural rights that Enlightenment thinkers developed posited the masculine attributes of autonomy and reason as definitional of humankind, the objects of humanitarian discourse and intervention were commonly represented in feminized language and imagery.29 The combination of paternalist and gendered language, which reflected the power structures inherent in the emerging humanitarianism, served to evoke the passive suffering of abject populations. It became the bedrock of antislavery rhetoric in this era, and discernible in romantic socialism as well.30

Romantic socialism, although deeply informed by the trauma of the revolutionary and industrial decades that shaped the broader romantic movement, was also tied rhetorically to eighteenth-century ideals of natural law, as Leroux’s assertion quoted at the beginning of this article suggests, and to Christian universalist notions of humanity.31 Proponents of early socialism thus espoused inclusive and egalitarian views while they simultaneously partitioned members of the human community into organically ordered groups, a hallmark of romanticism more generally. Although their focus on the working classes sensitized them to the inherent paternalism of what Grégoire Champseix called “pity,” they nonetheless participated in their own manner in such sorting of humanity into relative levels of autonomy and individuality.32 From another perspective, persistent tropes of sentimentalism and empathy were frequent in early socialist writings, and their intermittent absence also helped to create moral distance between the “humanitarian” and the sufferer. As Dobie in Trading Places notes, “Though the silence surrounding a social phenomenon [such as slavery] can certainly betoken indifference and even approval, it just as often reflects reluctance to confront or come to terms with a moral issue.”33 This selective empathy, according to which some suffering outranked (and obscured) other suffering, enabled romantic socialists to support an inherently violent imperial agenda. At the heart of this dynamic is the problematic differentiation between the two suffering groups in the colonies—slaves and Algerians—and their juxtaposition with the downtrodden workers of metropolitan France. In their use of analogies between workers and slaves, alongside dehumanizing depictions of Algerians, we can see the rationale for socialists’ discrepant responses to colonial suffering. I analyze below socialist anti-slavery positions and compare them with accounts of Algerian colonization, to demonstrate how socialists’ notions of a universal humanity were delimited by their deployment of the worker/slave analogy.

Abject Workers and Slaves

The twin agendas of slave emancipation and settler colonization were closely connected during the 1830s and 40s. However, while socialists rejected slave labor and endorsed settler colonialism, their reasoning differed significantly from that of their liberal opponents. Where socialists’ interventions in these issues derived from their desire to ameliorate the suffering of the workers, their contemporaries were preoccupied with the threat that politicized, potentially revolutionary workers posed to bourgeois society.34 Nonetheless, as it was for their interlocutors, one solution to the problem of labor central to abolition debates and wage labor critiques lay in newly available Algeria. Although socialists, unlike mainstream commentators, did not see Algeria as a dumping ground for paupers and subversives, they did see migration as a panacea for what ailed the French body politic.35 Many members of the romantic socialist movement saw in Algeria the possibility to remake society on a new footing, and in terrain otherwise unpolluted by the deficits of Civilisation as they experienced them in the metropole.36 This was the hope of the first Saint Simonian officers, one which would be shared by other socialists who moved to Algeria during the 1840s, including Fourierists who established a short-lived community at Sig, and Prosper Enfantin, who proposed a plan for the settlement of Algeria in 1843. They believed the suffering of the “wage slaves” of the metropole, the primary object of early socialist reform efforts, could be “ameliorated”— in Saint Simonian terminology—in the new colonial world being established across the Mediterranean, a possibility that fed socialist enthusiasm for the colonial project.

To successfully deflect the underlying similarities between the treatment of colonial slaves and Algerians—never mind the workers themselves—substantively different ways of conceptualizing these groups and their treatment were necessary. These differences were demonstrated in representations of slavery, of the working classes, and of the Algerian conquest published by romantic socialists in the 1830s and 40s. Leroux and his collaborators, such as Hippolyte Carnot, Grégoire Champseix, Philippe Faure, Charles Poncy, Jean Reynaud, and Robert du Var, regularly covered imperial issues and their relationship to metropolitan politics and used a consistent set of images to evoke the suffering of the proletariat. These images were intimately connected to their rhetorical construction of slaves in the old colonies (those that predated the French Revolution and were predominantly plantation-based) and the inhabitants of the incompletely pacified territory of Algeria.

The analogy between the status of the working classes and that of chattel slaves was common in socialist discussions during these years.37 In invoking this analogy, socialists joined a widening consensus on the illegitimacy of slavery and made strategic use of the growing opprobrium against the institution. As Carnot observed, “After a long period of indifference, it seems that our country is renewing interest in the pariahs of colonial society … not only isolated men or philanthropic organizations, but the mass of workers.”38 Socialists often deployed discussions of slavery and emancipation to intervene in debates about wage relations in industrial society, using the seemingly settled moral question of chattel slavery to cast a shadow on other issues.39 Speaking broadly about societal problems, Pierre Leroux categorized man’s plight as determined, though to different degrees, by three kinds of slavery—that of family, country, and property.40 In using this vocabulary, socialists were hardly alone, as everyone from planters and their metropolitan hacks to esteemed liberals (including antislavery advocates) also deployed the worker/slave analogy.

The following examples demonstrate its elasticity. The opportunistic journalist Adolphe Granier de Cassagnac, who had earlier published a vituperative attack around 1840 in Revue du XIXe siècle aimed at antislavery leader François Isambert and his abolitionist cohorts, asserted that “the majority of workers in France would be too happy to rent themselves for all their lives to any employer who would guarantee them the same conditions to which the slaves are subjected.”41 Similarly, planter lobby employee Alphonse Ride, in his 1843 Esclavage et liberté, made an extended argument for the superiority of slavery over freedom for the “development of the intelligence of the worker and the perfection of mechanical arts.”42

From a different perspective, Saint-Marc Girardin, in his infamous 1831 article “Les Barbares” on the canut uprising in Lyon, highlighted the violent potential of the situation by invoking slavery, specifically counseling his middle-class readers to: “[i]nquire in every industrial city as to the ratio of manufacturers to workers, and you will be astonished by the disproportion: each producer lives in his factory like the colonial planters amidst their slaves, one among a hundred; and the sedition of Lyon is a version of Saint-Domingue’s insurrection.”43 Even Tocqueville used the analogy in subtle ways, for example noting in 1843 that proposed constraints on post-emancipation land ownership by freedmen would amount only to putting them in the same condition as the European worker finds himself “naturally” and that “this is assuredly no tyranny.”44

Socialists, however, emphasized rather different aspects of the worker/slave analogy. Notably absent from their discussions are the kinds of fear-mongering that Saint-Marc Girardin famously deployed, and they certainly were no fans of colonial slavery in its contemporaneous incarnation. Paeans to the freedom of the wage laborers in Europe (what Tocqueville in 1843 referred to as the workers’ “sovereign power”) also are predictably absent.45 Like their pro-slavery contemporaries, socialists often cited the superior material circumstances of colonial slaves, arguing that because they constituted property they were better cared for than their “on demand” brethren in the metropole. Unlike the pro-slavery writers who took this tack, however, socialists who argued against wage slavery did not seek to justify colonial slavery, but rather depended rhetorically on its moral intolerability to strengthen their critiques of capitalist wage relations.

Throughout their works, socialist writers exploited the horrors and degradation of chattel slavery to morally denounce the “problem of the proletariat,” which was their primary goal.46 Major socialists such as Flora Tristan and Louis Blanc used this reasoning, as did Félicité Lamennais in his widely read 1839 work L’Esclavage moderne.47 Similarly, Robert du Var, in his Histoire de la classe ouvrière, depuis l’esclave jusqu’au prolétaire de nos jours drew continuities between ancient slavery, medieval serfdom, and modern wage labor, and argued that the kind of deprivation visible in modern society would have been unthinkable in the ancient world, due to the ubiquity and paternalistic structure of slavery itself.48 Like many of his contemporaries, du Var used the vocabulary of antislavery in discussing the workers, referring both to their enfranchisement and their eventual emancipation.49 Thus, while socialists regularly denounced colonial slavery, they also leveraged its moral obnoxiousness in service of their primary agenda, the reform of the wage labor system. Jules Leroux (Pierre’s brother) made the political utility of the worker/slave analogy (and perhaps its hollowness where colonial slavery was concerned) explicit in his comments about the Second Republic’s April 1848 abolition decree:

just after February [1848], a voice, departing from France, crossed the seas saying: “Slavery is abolished.” Why wasn’t this voice intelligible at home? Why was it thought necessary to distinguish between the slavery of blacks and the slavery of whites, between ancient slavery and modern slavery, between the direct exploitation of man and his indirect exploitation; and in a word, between slavery itself and the proletariat?50

As much as some socialists resented what they perceived as the overemphasis on chattel slavery and the denial of wage slavery, it is nonetheless apparent in their writings that both forms of slavery were understood as problems internal to French society. In the moral landscape painted by socialists, atoning for slavery—both wage and chattel—was the obligation of French Christian society. This obligation derived from the fact that the slaves had been essentially incorporated into the familial structure of France through their conversion to Christianity and through the paternalism of slavery itself. This incorporation was denoted through the language of moral redemption and civilizational superiority that was a hallmark of nineteenth-century imperialism.51 In the Encyclopédie nouvelle entry “Esclavage” by Hippolyte Carnot, for example, the author repeatedly asserts that slavery damages the oppressor as much as the oppressed, a hackneyed observation long used in pro-slavery circles.52

Denouncing slavery as a form of “suicide of humanity … against which our heart protests” Carnot characterized it as the “fertile source of horrible social crises,” and subsistence at the “price of morality.”53 Carnot depicts slaves in the same way that other European and American antislavery writers did, referring to them as childlike and in need of maturation (usually posed as a prerequisite to emancipation) and thereby reinforcing perceptions of their dependence and docility. Throughout this literature the agent is European society, whether as the donor of what Marcus Wood calls the “horrible gift” of freedom, or as the victim of the moral depredations of slave ownership.54 In “Esclavage” Carnot denounces the cruelty and depravity of the white Creole populations, and links their character intimately to the “odious character” of slavery itself.55 Thus socialists, like liberal antislavery critics, depicted the institution of slavery as a fault on the part of European societies, and one that had to be remedied through their efforts in order to ensure the salvation of slave and master alike.

This framework of familial ties and obligations is evident elsewhere in “Esclavage.” After a cursory review of ancient and “oriental” forms of slavery and obligatory and formulaic topics including the white slave trade in Algeria and the moral blight that slavery imposes on masters, the bulk of the article focuses on colonial slavery in modern times. The religious and cultural incorporation of Africans into western, Christian society is foundational to slavery as Carnot presents it. However reprehensible slavery is, the author notes, “[i]t is probable that before the arrival of Europeans, the black population [of Africa] was like all barbarous populations; slavery, in putting it in contact with a more advanced society, has thus allowed it to make progress.”56 Likewise, the author invokes the moral obligation of French society, in this instance in a call for the Creole population of the colonies to live up to their own claim to occupy “an elevated rank on the ladder of civilization.”57 Throughout the article, which contains a detailed assessment of the recently enacted British emancipation, the reader is assured of the gentle, even docile, nature of the slave population when beneficently cared for: “When [he] cannot doubt his [eventual] liberty, calm enters into his spirit, and he will accept without difficulty the preparatory conditions of an assured future.” The colonists have the responsibility to ensure that those conditions are met. Whatever assistance the metropole might provide, it is the paternal authority of the masters that would enable the peaceful transition from servitude to freedom for the child-like slaves.58 Thus, whatever threat the enslaved may present to slave-owning societies, responsibility for remediating the consequences of slavery remained that of the French.

These depictions of colonial slaves share key characteristics with those of workers in socialist literature during these years. Despite evidence to the contrary, both subjected groups are presented as docile and longsuffering. This version of human suffering is consistent with the socialist project of recasting the social contract to privilege interdependence and charity while discounting competition and the “égoïsme” they abhorred. Just as antislavery discussions tended to emphasize slaves’ humane and childlike qualities, and to shy away from overt recognition of the very real threat of colonial violence, portrayals of violent conflicts between workers and the state framed workers as victims at the hands of the ruling power rather than as militants willing to fight exploitation. Where liberal and monarchist journalists and fiction writers repeatedly depicted the “dangerousness” of the laboring classes, socialists rendered the workers benign and longsuffering in a variety of representations. In one of the many poems he published in La Revue sociale between 1845 and 1850, for example, Edmond Tissier called upon the workers to overwhelm their opponents with love: “To battle! But not armed/but with a heart full of love and fraternity.”59 In another of his poems, “Le suicide,” Tissier presented an image of the patient and longsuffering worker dying from hunger in quiet resignation after being summarily dismissed from his long-time employment. Planning his death with “ancient calm” he “gives up his divine soul” without “uttering a cry.”60

Pierre Leroux commemorated instances of class violence in the early 1830s with articles championing the working man and critiquing the leadership of the Orleanist monarchy.61 In “De l’individualisme et du socialisme,” published in 1834, Pierre Leroux denounced the violence of the early 1830s.62 The article was published, according to the masthead, just after the “massacres at the rue Transnonain, in April 1834” in France and referred to the infamous events in which soldiers killed twelve non-combatants in their home while engaged in barricade fighting related to the canuts uprising in Lyon that year. The “massacre” was commemorated by Daumier in his eponymous etching and became shorthand among socialists and republicans for the persecution of the “people” by the military. In his essay, Leroux describes the victimization of the workers in the name of “material interests,” embodied by French shopkeepers, in hunting costume, armed and “with joy” departing to “hunt helots.”63 The workers, on the other hand, are depicted as banding together to resist the exploitative hegemony of the merchants, and any violence they engage in is in the name of a higher goal: their lives over the profits of the bosses. The violence of the urban landscape of July Monarchy France is front and center in this seminal article of early socialism, and the pathos of the working people—analogs of the Spartan helots—underlines the egalitarian cause that socialism defended in the name of “humanity.”

In a particularly biting reversal of the construction of the “barbarians” at the gates to the city, Grégoire Champseix, writing in 1845 in the La Revue sociale, described barbarity and civilization as class traits, the former that of the bourgeois capitalist, and the latter of the anti-materialistic, empathic laboring man. The bourgeois is the ultimate product of contemporary society: materialistic, amoral, self-justifying, and intent on preserving the social hierarchy. Notable among his vices is his disregard for the value of women, who “only rank among the objects that cause him pleasure.” Bereft of ideals, Le Barbare “pursues a way of overhauling this world which would result in arresting the progress of Humanity in its tracks, plunging it into a barbarity more horrible and more backward than all those from which we have emerged.” “Le Civilisé,” by contrast is a sweet, good-humored laborer who loves his fellow man, embracing the religion of “equality,” which Champseix argues is “the product of Christianity and of philosophy. Equality should unite, tie together all men in unity.” The laborer knows what is important in life, and “feels himself united to Nature, to Humanity, to God, but most particularly and most directly to Humanity.” Sympathetic to his fellow man and woman, he cherishes solidarity above all else. Emphasizing the centrality of Christianity to civilization and the benevolence and integrity of that civilization, Champseix depicts a workingman as “Christ on the barricades,” a ubiquitous image in romantic-era France, a man who “dies without fear or terror … full of confidence and hope in God.”64

Throughout these discussions of colonial slaves and the proletariat in France, overlapping depictions link the suffering of these two groups. Socialists focused particularly on the victimization of the working classes and their analogous situation to that of the enslaved of the colonies. While proponents of slavery also employed the analogy between worker and slave, socialists did so to emphasize the intolerability of wage labor. In service of that aim, the violence employed by the state against the working classes is much discussed, and the workers consistently emerge as pacific and righteous. Like the slaves, they are Christians, not the ‘barbarians’ that the proper bourgeois press would suggest; and their suffering, like that of the slaves, is the outcome of endemic problems in French society, in particular greed and egoism.

Distanced Algerians

Socialists described the native population of Algeria in quite different terms. In their various forms of writing about Algeria, ranging from first person reportage, to ethnographic and topographic accounts, to poetic evocations, the native populations of the recently claimed Algérie française were very rarely depicted with the kind of individualized and sympathetic care accorded to colonial slaves and metropolitan workers. Instead, contrasts were often drawn in terms of religious differences between French workers (and colonial slaves, implicitly) and their Muslim antagonists. Depictions of these populations fall into two broad modes. The first is the most striking and also typical of other kinds of nineteenth-century “virgin territory” writing, namely, the detailed description of empty and uncultivated lands, ripe for the taking.65 To the extent that indigenous populations are described at all, it is in similar terms to those used to describe the landscape and natural resources. Algerians are presented as members of groups or through orientalist stereotypes, rather than as individuals worthy of inclusion in the human family.

The second mode of description relies implicitly on gendered categories, wherein the Algerians appear as hardened and potentially threatening men. Algeria is “still the PATRIARCHY, with theocratic authority of the father of the family, slavery of the woman, and thus that of the children.”66 Where indigenous women and children are depicted, they represent the debauched and archaic patriarchy of the Algerians. Such descriptions appear in contrast to those of the vulnerable European settler women, cast as symbols of innocence and fruitfulness, such as the young Frenchwoman, wife of an infantry officer, who struggles valiantly to reproduce a French household “far from all resources.”67 Both modes distance and dehumanize Algerians experiencing conquest and expulsion from their homes, while humanizing and empathizing with the settler populations following the roads “pierced by the government.”68

Beyond ethnographic descriptions of the population, there is relatively little discussion of actual Algerians to be found in socialist journalism before the widespread metropolitan horror at the 1845 events at Dahra.69 Instead, articles from the 1830s and 40s highlight the transience of political control and the warlike nature of the indigenous peoples in Algerian history. Another persistent theme is the agricultural richness of the coastal lands, as well as detailed assessments of their suitability for European habitation. The Encyclopédie nouvelle article “Alger” by M.-A. d’Avezac, written in 1834, contains an exhaustive survey of the territory’s land, vegetation, and animal life, including detailed testimony identifying the analogous weather between southern Europe and the coastal parts of Algeria.70 The article’s discussion of the territory’s tribes reflects the taxonomical practices of early ethnography, and there is no parallel to the individualized and humanizing—if paternalistic—discussions of workers and slaves we saw earlier.71 For a poetic version of this erasure of Algerians, we might also look at the 1845 poem “l’Afrique dans cent ans” by worker-poet Charles Poncy, reprinted in La Revue sociale in 1846. The opening stanza, in which it is the land rather than the people of Algeria that suffers, neatly encapsulates this point: “For a long time Africa has suffered. Its fields/Ravaged by war and desiccating winds/Were covered everywhere by blood and smoke./A shroud weighed on this beautiful continent./But I have torn it away. Come and see now,/Come and see the treasures with which Africa is sown.”72

Philippe Faure, a long-time compatriot of Leroux’s, used a similar set of images in a series of letters that appeared in La Revue sociale between September 1846 and October 1847, letters devoted to the study of “the future possibilities of Algeria.”73 These letters follow Faure and unnamed companions through various regions of Algeria in 1845. Faure’s account offers tableaux of settler-hungry Algeria and the opportunity it represents for the longsuffering wage slaves of the metropole to remake themselves in the newly available, fertile lands of the colony. Epitomizing the logic of settler colonization, Faure repeatedly invokes images of French laborers cultivating Algerian land beneath the African sun.74 Elaborating on themes already circulating in socialist discussions of colonization, Faure calls upon France to redeem the bloodiness of the conquest through the morally admirable work of colony building.75

Given the religious cast of French socialism, there are surprisingly few discussions of Islam in Faure’s letters. References include, for example, descriptions of mosques that had been converted for French uses, and expressions of a grudging respect for Muslim religious devotion. Noting the deprivations of Ramadan and their faithful observance of the prayer schedule, Faure observed: “… the prayers of the Muslims struck me, when I remembered that it was Sunday, and that no one had reminded we Christians that it was the day of the Lord.”76 Nonetheless, antipathy toward Islam was certainly constitutive, for these French socialists, of Algerians’ otherness, given the centrality of Christian imagery and identifications throughout their writings. Faure makes this clear when he asks in his first letter, “Will France understand that our battle against barbarism cannot be legitimate and cannot succeed except in opposing a religious idea to Muslim fatalism?”77

In his first letter Faure recounts his boat ride on the Pharamond on 25 August 1845 bound for Algiers.78 Front and center in this account are the immigrant workers crammed into steerage, “men, women, and children … heaped up with the animals on the bridge of the boat… badly dressed, poorly fed, … burnt by the heat…” unable to access the rear of the boat, an area reserved for officers and first-class passengers. In an aside, Faure notes the bitterness he feels at the sight of this “inequality.” He crowns his pitiful evocation of the suffering masses with a touching portrait of a beautiful young Italian woman, nursing at her breast “a pink and white baby girl.” Juxtaposed to this humane personification of the nursing settler mother are a series of ethnographic descriptions of the various racial and religious groups of Algiers, including the (predictable) veiled woman “entirely hidden by an enormous burnoose,” the first of several instances in which Algerian women are depicted in depersonalized, mysterious terms. In contrast, interestingly, Faure paints the black African slaves in both generous and specific detail, noting “that their beautiful and straight features disrupt classifications founded on the facial angle” and emphasizing for his reader (through italics) that they “belong” to the families of Arabs whom they followed in the street, reinforcing, obliquely, the familial construction of slavery seen earlier.79 From the first glimpse of the Algerian coastline, the narrative of arrival and colonization is framed in terms that highlight worker-colonist families, and the moral and sympathetic anchor they provide implicitly legitimizes the colonial project.

Changing scenes, we find Faure at the monastery at Notre Dame de Staouëli. In three rapidly succeeding sequences, the enabling blind spots of socialist imperialism are on display. In the first, our author laments the dearth of settler families in Algeria, rhetorically asking, “Isn’t it obvious that one has to populate the desert with families, not with monks?” and then momentarily contemplating moving to Algeria himself. But this fantasy quickly dissipates when he hears the name of his pew-mate at mass, Pélissier, the “assassin of Dahra” whose name sets him trembling.80 He then graphically denounces the horrors of conquest but uses only abstractions, from which Algerian victims are absent and in which the exploitative social relations of France are instead invoked: “The ferocious and implacable war, the devastation, then the exclusive and jealously held property of a few fat farmers; the arrogant domination of the military, the corruption and cupidity of the colonists, this is what we are establishing in Algeria.”81

Finally, the third scene brings us to the newly established villages of Cheragas and Delly-Ibrahim, half built and already depopulated by discouraged settlers, the majority of whom were workers. Amid the defeats, however, a few hopeful signs are visible. Faure’s letter closes with an image of fertility and intrepidity in the form of the wife of a colon, temporarily on her own and living in peace amidst her vegetables, vines, and fruit trees. Evoking the safety in which this woman “sleeps tranquilly” in her “isolated dwelling [habitation]” reassures readers, as all this cultivation has occurred in the four years since the Arabs were “sent packing” from the region. Throughout Faure’s letter, the only human suffering recounted with empathy is that of the colonists, and though he certainly expresses outrage at the tactics of the military, he does so in depersonalized and abstracted language, whereas the feminized and stalwart settlers are vividly described.

Writing later from Oran, Faure elaborates upon the issues raised in his first letter, intermingling images of warlike Arabs, sacrificial French soldiers, and wholesome families of settlers. Specifically referring to the enfu-made at Dahra, for example, Faure puts an even stronger emphasis on the suffering of the French than Pierre Leroux had in the opening volume of La Revue sociale by describing the “incessant fire” of the Kabyles upon “our” soldiers, who have suffered “the death of their comrades” and the obstinate resistance of the “populations.” Given the bad leadership and danger they face, Faure asks why it is necessary to constantly dwell on the razzias at the “odiously celebrated” mountains of Dahra?82 Although we have already seen the revulsion with which Faure reacts to the very name of Pélissier, it remains the case that the suffering in this scene is that of the French soldiers, while his account focuses on the physical site of the enfu-made rather than its Algerian victims. As in the bleeding landscape Poncy described, so here it is the abstraction of the land rather than the lived experience of Algerians that Faure evokes. Where suffering is embodied, in other words, it is the French body that suffers, not the Algerian one.

When Faure does discuss native Algerians, he draws on familiar orientalist themes of the timeless east—for example, he describes a caravan they encounter, noting that it “recalled Israel in the desert,” and later observes, “for centuries the social condition of these tribes has not varied.” Faure also repeats numerous anecdotes of the confused or unintelligible nature of the Arabs. In his second letter, dated 2 September, Faure describes a Moor asleep under a fig tree, “feet in the shade, and face in the sun!” This practice, “so opposed to our customs,” he tells us, is followed by the local people. Such reversals of common sense and practice are integral to Faure’s account, in which fertile land goes uncultivated, shade unused, and women unprotected. Faure intones, “Poor women! Ruddy from the sun, deformed by work, brutalized by slavery, they seem not to belong to the same race as the men with their noble traits, energetic, and imposing, who misuse them and treat them like animals.”83 Arab men, by contrast, are repeatedly depicted as proud patriarchs who abuse their women and treat them worse than animals: “… their horses are better loved and treated.”84

In another letter, Faure recounts his and his companions’ encounter with an indigenous group, which allows the reader a further glimpse into his perception of Arab patriarchy:

jumping down from a rock, we practically tripped over some straw huts, tall as dog houses, populated by women and children in rags, and guarded by red dogs, quarrelsome but quite cowardly.… The poverty, dirtiness of these populations is only equaled by their indifference to the results of this condition. For centuries, these clans have led the same life, obeying their sheikh, and each repeating in his life the life of the head of the family. This is what they call patriarchy, the ideal of the family!85

This vignette stands in stark contrast to the depiction of the solitary colonist’s wife that Faure provides in his first letter, also guarded by her dog. The French woman, unlike the faceless and undifferentiated women and children met here, is well protected and fed, living in grace and plenitude and drawing sustenance from the properly cultivated land, while the indigenous clan’s agricultural enterprise is described as “mean” despite its location in the Metidja, described earlier in the letter as the “granary of Africa.” The contrast between Faure’s descriptions of colonizer and colonized come together in these antithetical images of women, in which the fertility of the land and the propriety of the family are intertwined to present the colons as the proper and productive occupants of Algeria, and to delegitimize Algerians’ claims to their homeland.

Throughout these accounts, as from the first embarkation of our narrator from the Pharamond, it is the long suffering peuple of France who appear either as nuclear families or as women living intrepidly under threat of violence, transplanted to ill-used but fertile soil, whose vulnerability invokes our sympathy and with whose fate the reader is meant to empathically identify. Depictions of the abased Algerian woman, on the other hand, foreshadow in important ways justifications for colonial intervention later in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as well as contemporary debates about the relative agency of Muslim women.86

The Settler Project Justified?

The transition from the slave based system of the “old” colonies to the settler driven model of Algeria was the result of the economic and moral discrediting of chattel slavery over the turn of the nineteenth century.87 For liberal economists and colonialists, settler colonies based on the free labor of European migrants to neo-Europes came to be the only defensible form of colonialism, while slave emancipation was an acknowledged, if grudgingly implemented, necessity. For a figure like Tocqueville, the two proposals were driven by the common logic of maintaining the viability and power of the French imperial nation state.88 For many liberal contemporaries, and for the French state both under Orleanist and Republican governments, settler migration offered a solution to the perceived over-population and urban labor discontent that plagued the metropole, as well as a means of rebuilding France’s overseas empire. Socialists, in contrast, though identifying promise in the newly conquered lands, understood the significance of Algeria quite differently, working to evoke empathy for the suffering of the workers in need of a new life rather than the glory of France as a whole. If both groups of metropolitan observers recognized the relationship between colonial settlement and social control, they drew rather different moral conclusions from these observations.

In conclusion, I want to return to the question of empathy, as the differences in socialist descriptions of workers, slaves, and Algerians demonstrate that there is an affective element to the way metropolitan readers and writers thought about empire, and this history sheds light on the origins of similar and persistent blind spots today. If novels and slave narratives allowed eighteenth-century readers to conceptualize the “other” as both more and less human than themselves, a similar dynamic can be seen at work in socialist journalism, where the imaginative space of empire provided an opportunity to selectively engage with the suffering of others. The pervasive analogy between the worker and the slave personalized, humanized and, moreover, domesticated the colonial slave and also provided rhetorical lift for socialist critiques of industrial relations. In fact, the very contemporaneity of these two forms of colonialism—plantation and settler—with the heyday of socialism, enabled the distancing that was necessary for socialists to be able to support the Algerian conquest. Ultimately, it was the plight of the metropolitan worker, described with great sympathy and pathos by socialist philosophers, journalists, and poets, which drove the logic of socialist imperialism during these years, whether in the metropole through the reform of industrial relations, or in the search for terra nova overseas as a site for social renewal. The moral cover provided by the figure of the abject colonial slave allowed socialists to maintain their devotion to “humanity” while overlooking the inhumane treatment of natives in Algeria.

Romantic socialists conceptualized humanity as a family, laterally and hierarchically bound by ties of obligation and affection. To the extent that other races and cultures could be folded into that family—as, for example, the infantilized and Christian slave populations of their imaginings—their empathic circle was flexible and inclusive. Algerians, however, refused—both through their adherence to Islam and their ongoing resistance to colonial conquest—to join that family. The logics contained in the socialist texts discussed here remain operative today, legible in contemporary conflicts within France over immigration, religious and gender identities, and the frontiers of the French nation.


Pierre Leroux, “De l’abolition des castes et l’organisation de l’égalité,” La Revue sociale, ou solution pacifique du problème du prolétariat (October 1845), 1. On Leroux, Armelle LeBras-Chopard, L’Égalité dans la différence: Le socialisme de Pierre Leroux (Paris: Presses de la Fondation nationale des sciences politiques,1986); P.-F. Thomas, Pierre Leroux, sa vie, son oeuvre, sa doctrine (Paris: Félix Alcan, 1904); Thomas Bouchet et al, Quand les socialistes inventaient l’avenir: Presse, théories et expériences, 1825–1860 (Paris: La Découverte, 2015).


Ibid., 2.


Benjamin Brower estimates that about 825,000 Algerians died “because of the violence” between 1830 and 1875, and as many died of famine and disease. Benjamin Brower, A Desert Named Peace: The Violence of France’s Empire in the Algerian Sahara, 1844–1902 (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009), 4, quoted in William Gallois, “Genocide in Nineteenth-Century Algeria,” Journal of Genocide Research 15, 1 (2013): 69–88. On the conquest more broadly, Jennifer E. Sessions, By Sword and Plow: France and the Conquest of Algeria (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2011).


Jeremy D. Popkin, Press, Revolution, and Social Identities in France, 1830–1835 (University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2002); Robert J. Bezucha, The Lyon Uprising of 1834: Social and Political Conflict in the Early July Monarchy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1974); Ludovic Frobert, Les Canuts, ou, La démocratie turbulente: Lyon, 1831–1834 (Lyon: Tallandier, 2009); Rebecca Hartkopf Schloss, Sweet Liberty: The Final Days of Slavery in Martinique (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009), 91; Dale Tomich, “Liberté ou Mort: Republicanism and Slave Revolt in Martinique, February 1831,” History Workshop Journal 29 (Spring 1990): 85–91; Myriam Cottias, D’une abolition, l’autre (Paris: Agone éditeur, 1998), 6.


This pairing reflects a broader shift in this period, see Jennifer Pitts, A Turn to Empire: The Rise of Imperial Liberalism in Britain and France (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005).


Victor Considerant, “Contraste,” Démocratie Pacifique, 27 July 1845.


Pierre Leroux, “De la recherche des biens matériels,” La Revue sociale (March 1846).


E.g., Etienne Cabet’s denunciations discussed in Naomi J. Andrews, “‘The Universal Alliance of All Peoples’: Romantic Socialists, the Human Family, and the Defense of Empire during the July Monarchy, 1830–1848,” French Historical Studies 34, 3 (Summer 2011): 491–496.


Jennifer Sessions, “Colonizing Revolutionary Politics: Algeria and the French Revolution of 1848,” French Politics, Culture & Society 33, 1 (Spring 2015): 75–100.


Pierre Leroux, “L’évènement du Dahra,” La Revue sociale (October 1845), 14.


Eugène Buret, De la misère des classes laborieuses en Angleterre et en France, vol. 2 (Paris: Paulin, 1840), 14.


E.g., H. A. Frégier, Des classes dangereuses de la population dans les grandes villes, et des moyens de les rendre meilleures (Paris: J.-B. Baillière, 1840). Novelists Jules Janin, Eugène Sue, and Honoré de Balzac popularized images of dangerous workers to bourgeois audiences. Louis Chevalier, Laboring Classes and Dangerous Classes in Paris during the First Half of the Nineteenth Century (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973).


Alexis de Tocqueville, Recollections (New York: Transaction Publishers, 1987), 72.


See Seymour Drescher, Econocide: British Slavery in the Era of Abolition (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1977); Thomas Haskell, “Capitalism and the Origins of the Humanitarian Sensibility,” Parts 1 & 2, The American Historical Review 90, 2 (April 1985): 339–361, and 90, 3 (June 1985): 547–566.


Lynn Hunt, Inventing Human Rights (New York: Norton Publishers, 2007); most historical narratives of human rights share her overall optimism, e.g., Micheline R. Ishay, The History of Human Rights: From Ancient Times to the Globalization Era, 2nd edition (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008).


Hunt, Inventing Human Rights, 147.


Samuel Moyn, The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010).


Lynn Festa, Sentimental Figures of Empire (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006), 2, 3. Similar tropes of sentimentality occur in socialist writings. David Denby, Sentimental Narrative and the Social Order in France (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), 3.


Christopher Miller, The French Atlantic Triangle (Durham: Duke University Press, 2008), 7.


Madeleine Dobie, Trading Places: Colonization and Slavery in Eighteenth-Century French Culture (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2010).


Miller, The French Atlantic Triangle, 6.


Matthew Specter has highlighted this deficit. Specter, “Decline of Natural Rights, Rise of Humanitarianism? Emplotments of the Nineteenth Century in Recent Human Rights History,” unpublished manuscript, presented at Duke University (15 January 2012). Stefan-Ludwig Hoffmann argues for the era’s importance in “Human Rights and History,” Past and Present 233 (November 2016).


Michèle Duchet, Anthropologie et histoire au siècle des lumières (Paris: Maspero, 1971); Sankar Muthu, Enlightenment Against Empire (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003); Laurent Estève, Montesquieu, Rousseau, Diderot: Du genre humain au bois d’ébène (Paris: Unesco, 2002); Loïc Rignol, Les Hiéroglyphes de la Nature: Le socialisme scientifique en France dans le premier XIXe siècle (Paris: Les presses du réel, 2014).


Michael Barnett, Empire of Humanity: A History of Humanitarianism (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2011), 21.


Moyn, “On the Genealogy of Morals,” The Nation, 16 April 2007: 25–31.


Claude Blanckaert, “Of Monstrous Métis? Hybridity, Fear of Miscegenation, and Patriotism from Buffon to Paul Broca,” in The Color of Liberty: Histories of Race in France, ed. Sue Peabody and Tyler Stovall (Durham: Duke University Press, 2003), 42–70; Blanckaert, “On the Origins of French Ethnology,” in Bones, Bodies, Behavior: Essays on Biological Anthropology, ed. George Stocking, Jr. (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1988), 18–55; Staum, Labeling People: French Scholars on Society, Race, and Empire 1815–1848 (Montreal: McGill Queens University Press, 2003); Rignol, Les Hiéroglyphes de la nature.


Cynthia Bouton, “Reconciliation, Hope, Trust, and Instability in July Monarchy France,” French Historical Studies 35, 3 (Summer 2012): 541–575.


K. Adele Okoli, ““Que ne sommes-nous assez riches”: Colonialist Reverie in George Sand’s Indiana,” Nineteenth-Century French Studies 44, 3 & 4 (2016): 201–217.


Denis Diderot, “Droit naturel” in Encyclopédie d’Alembert et Diderot, Vol. 5 (1755), 115–116; Uday Mehta, “Liberal Strategies of Exclusion,” Politics & Society 18, 4 (December 1990): 427–454.


The tone of French anti-slavery was influenced by the British movement, from which propaganda was freely borrowed and translated. Lawrence Jennings, French Anti-Slavery: The Movement for the Abolition of Slavery in France (Cam-bridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 144. On the gendered valence of British antislavery, see for example, Mimi Sheller, “Bleeding Humanity and Gendered Embodiments: From Antislavery Sugar Boycotts to Ethical Consumers,” Humanity 2, 2 (Summer 2011): 171–192.


Deborah Jenson, Trauma and Representation: The Social Life of Mimesis in Post-Revolutionary France (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001).


Grégoire Champseix, “Barbare et civilisé,” La Revue sociale (June 1846).


Dobie, Trading Places, 6.


Popkin, Press, Revolution, and Social identities in France, 2.


Osama Abi-Mershed Mershed, Apostles of Modernity (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2010); Prosper Enfantin, Colonisation d’Algérie (Paris: P. Bertrand, 1843); Bernard Desmars, “L’Union agricole d’Afrique: Projet phalanstérien, oeuvre philanthropique ou entreprise capitaliste?” and Michèle Madonna-Desbazeille, “L’Union agricole d’Afrique: Une communauté fouriériste à Saint-Denis du Sig, Algérie,” both in Cahiers Charles Fourier 16 (2005); David Prochaska, Making Algeria French: Colonialism in Bône, 1870–1920 (London: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 67.


Marcel Emerit, Les Saint-simoniens en Algérie (Paris: Les belles lettres, 1941); Naomi J. Andrews, “L’association en théorie et en pratique: La Revue sociale de Leroux,” in Quand les socialistes inventaient l’avenir, 1825–1860, ed. Thomas Bouchet, Vincent Bourdeau, Edward Castleton, Ludovic Frobert, and François Jarrige (Paris: la Découverte, 2015), 247–255. Beyond Algeria, see Guarneri, The Utopian Alternative: Fourierism in Nineteenth-Century America (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1994); Beecher, Victor Considerant and the Rise and Fall of French Romantic Socialism (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000), 295–388.


Naomi J. Andrews, “Breaking the Ties: French Romantic Socialism and the Critique of Liberal Slave Emancipation,” Journal of Modern History 85, 3 (September 2013).


Hippolyte Carnot, “De l’esclavage colonial, extrait de la revue indépendante” (Paris: Bureau de la revue indépendante, 1845), v.


The moral case against slavery was “won” by the 1830s, but emancipation encountered obstacles, including Louis-Philippe’s opposition. See Jennings, French Anti-Slavery, 70.


Leroux, “L’abolition des castes,” La Revue sociale (October 1845).


Adolphe Granier de Cassagnac, “De la société pour l’abolition de l’esclavage,” Revue du XIXe siècle VII (s.d.): 353–360. On Granier de Cassagnac see Lawrence C. Jennings, “Slavery and the Venality of the July Monarchy Press,” French Historical Studies 17, 4 (Autumn 1992): 957–978; William M. Reddy, “Condottieri of the Pen: Journalists and the Public Sphere in Postrevolutionary France (1815–1850),” American Historical Review 99, 5 (December 1994): 1546–1570.


Alphonse Ride, Esclavage et liberté: Existence de l’homme et des sociétés en harmonie avec les lois universelles tome II (Paris: H.-L. Delloye, 1843), 5. Ride was in the pay of Thomas Jollivet, the Martinican planters’ lobbyist. See Jennings, French Anti-Slavery, 223–224.


Saint-Marc Girardin, “Les Barbares,” in Souvenirs et réflexions politiques d’un journaliste (Paris: Michel Lévy frères, 1859), 145. See Pierre Michel, Un mythe romantique: Les Barbares, 1789–1848 (Lyon: Presses universitaires de Lyon, 1981); Philip Spencer, “‘Barbarian Assault’: The Fortunes of a Phrase,” Journal of the History of Ideas 16, 2 (April 1955): 232–239.


Alexis de Tocqueville, “The Emancipation of Slaves,” in Writings on Empire and Slavery, Tocqueville and Jennifer Pitts (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001), 221.


Ibid., 214.


Pierre Leroux, “De la recherche des biens matériels, ou de l’individualisme et du socialisme,” 3e article, “L’économie politique et l’évangile,” La Revue sociale (February 1846).


E.g., Louis Blanc, “De l’abolition de l’esclavage aux colonies,” Revue du Progrès (1840); Flora Tristan, Promenades dans Londres (Paris: H.-L. Delloye, 1840).


Robert du Var, Histoire de la classe ouvrière, depuis l’esclave jusqu’au prolétaire de nos jours, tome 2, (Paris: A.D. Blondeau, 1845–1850).


Ibid., 172.


Jules Leroux, “De la prochaine révolution économique, ou du budget républicain,” La Revue sociale (May 1850).


Pitts, A Turn to Empire, 241.


“Esclavage,” Encyclopédie nouvelle, vol. 5 (1843), 30–47. Author unattributed in the volume but according to Griffiths’ biography of Jean Reynaud it was written by Hippolyte Carnot. D.A. Griffiths, J. Reynaud, encyclopédiste de l’époque romantique, d’après sa correspondance inédite (Paris: M. Rivière, 1965), 180, 217.


“Esclavage,” 31.


Marcus Wood, The Horrible Gift of Freedom: Atlantic Slavery and the Representation of Emancipation (Atlanta: University of Georgia Press, 2010).


“Esclavage,” 31.


Ibid., 47.






Edmond Tissier, “Le Banquet égalitaire,” La Revue sociale (January 1847).


Edmond Tissier, “Le Suicide,” La Revue sociale (May 1846); on Christ imagery, see Bowman, Le Christ romantique; Edward Berenson, Populist Religion and Left Wing Politics in France, 1830–1852 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984).


The first of these articles, “De la nécessité d’une représentation spéciale pour les prolétaires,” written in 1832 “after the bloody funeral of General Lamarque,” was only published after the fact in his collected works, in 1850. Leroux, Oeuvres 1825–1850 (Geneva: Slatkine Press, 1978), 347.


Pierre Leroux, “De l’individualisme et du socialisme,” Revue encyclopédique (1834). Leroux first used the term socialisme in this essay; it entered wide usage thereafter.




Gregoire Champseix, “Barbare et civilisé,” La Revue sociale (June 1846).


Sessions, By Sword and Plow, 208–263.


Faure, “Souvenirs d’Algérie, IIIe course: Oran IIe partie, Le Sig,” La Revue sociale (January 1847).




Faure, “Souvenirs d’Algérie: Blidah,” La Revue sociale (October 1846).


Jennifer E. Sessions, “‘Unfortunate Necessities’: Violence and Civilization in the Conquest of Algeria,” in France and its Spaces of War: Experience, Memory, Image, ed. Patricia M. E. Lorcin and Daniel Brewer (New York: Macmillan, 2009), 29–44. Leroux was a vociferous supporter of emigration to Algeria after the June days. See Claire Salinas, “Colonies without Colonists: Colonial Emigration, Algeria, and Liberal Politics in France, 1848–1870” (PhD dissertation, Stanford University, 2005).


“Alger,” Encyclopedie nouvelle, vol. 1 (1834), 290–303. On d’Avezac, see Staum, Labeling People (Montreal: McGill Queen’s University Press, 2003) and his obituary in Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society of London by Royal Geographical Society, 24 May 1875, 383. D’Avezac was a repeated contributor to Leroux and Reynaud’s Encyclopedie Nouvelle. See Griffiths, J. Reynaud.


Patricia M. E. Lorcin, Imperial Identities: Stereotyping, Prejudice and Race in Colonial Algeria (London: Taurus Books, 1995).


Charles Poncy, “L’Afrique dans cent ans,” La Revue sociale (January 1846): 63–64. William Sewell, Work and Revolution: The Language of Labor in France 1789–1848 (London: Cambridge University Press, 1980), 236–242; Jacques Rancière, The Nights of Labor: The Workers’ Dream in Nineteenth-Century France, trans. John Drury (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1989); Edgar Leon Newman, “L’arme du siècle, c’est la plume: The French Worker Poets of the July Monarchy and the Spirit of Revolution,” Journal of Modern History 51, 4 (December 1979).


“Souvenirs d’Algérie,” signed Ph. – F, La Revue sociale (August 1846): 195–197; Philippe Amédée Faure, Pierre Leroux, Journal d’un combattant de février (Jersey: C. Le Feuvre, 1859).


Faure, “Souvenirs d’Algérie, IIIe course: Oran,” La Revue sociale (March 1847).


Faure references Reynaud’s 1837 article “Colonies” in the Encyclopédie Nouvelle, See Andrews, “‘Universal Alliance.’”


“Souvenirs d’Algérie: IIIe Course: Oran, IIIe partie, ‘Les Bains de la Reine’,” La Revue sociale (May 1847).


Faure, “Souvenirs d’Algérie, IIe course: Blidah.”


Compagnie Bazin-Perrier ran service on seven ships, including the Pharamond, from Marseille to Alger from 1842–1852.


Faure, “Souvenirs d’Algérie, IIIe course: Oran,” La Revue sociale (September 1846).


On Pélissier and Dahra, see William Gallois, “Dahra and the History of Violence in Early Colonial Algeria,” in The French Colonial Mind, vol. 2, ed. Martin Thomas (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2011), 3–25.


Faure, “Souvenirs d’Algérie, IIIe course: Oran.” Faure says that the only thing lacking is “men who understand the force of association,” a key socialist concept.


Faure, “Souvenirs d’Algérie, IIIe course: Oran, part 1,” La Revue sociale (December 1846).


Faure, “Souvenirs d’Algérie, IIIe course: Oran, IIe partie, Le Sig.”




Faure, “Souvenirs d’Algérie, IIe course: Blidah.”


There is a vast scholarship on gender and imperialism. On Algeria specifically, see Marnia Lazreg, The Eloquence of Silence: Algerian Women in Question (New York: Routledge, 1994). For discussions of contemporary manifestations, see Joan W. Scott, The Politics of the Veil (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010); Lila Abu-Lughod, Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving? (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2013).


Sessions, By Sword and Plow, 200–207.


Tocqueville and Pitts, Writings, 203.

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Contributor Notes

Naomi J. Andrews is Associate Professor of History at Santa Clara University. She is the author of Socialism’s Muse: Gender in the Intellectual Landscape of French Romantic Socialism, and a series of articles on the engagement of romantic socialists with the French empire on the issues of colonial slavery and settler colonialism, both actively debated during the July Monarchy. E-mail: