French Policy towards Latin America, 1820–60
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Chapter 2 places Latin America within the context of French imperialism from 1820 to 1860. The chapter asks why France committed more resources to this region than any other in the extra-European world, Algeria excepted, in the period 1820–67, which culminated in the greatest challenge to the Monroe Doctrine until the Cuban Missile Crisis. The focus of the chapter is on the position the region occupied in the worldview of French policymakers, the long history of French involvement with Spain and its colonies, the economic and strategic importance of Latin America in the nineteenth century and the ideas which underpinned French imperialism more generally. The chapter explores how French thinkers and policymakers developed informal-imperial strategies within the context of the decolonisation of the Americas. It also details how these strategies were intended to emulate Britain’s informal empire. French intervention in the River Plate provided an opportunity to put these ideas into practice and French activities in this region are referred to as a comparative to Mexico in order to explore more general trends in French policy towards Latin America, particularly the discourse of civilisation that promoted an active role for France in the extra-European world and the use of local elites to further French goals. Finally, the relationship of Britain to French policy in Latin America is analysed in order to see what effect it had on French imperialism in the region.