Culture and Empire, 1830–1962: An Overview

  • Martin Evans


On 6 May 1931 France’s Colonial Exhibition finally opened at the Bois de Vincennes in Paris. Four years in the making, covering some 110 hectares, the vast scale of the project had created an eager sense of anticipation. People had been talking about the event for weeks and, as President Gaston Doumergue was driven from his residence to the main gate of the Exhibition, escorted by a squadron of colonial cavalry in full dress uniform, crowds cheered and clapped from the roadside. The motorcade was accompanied by a one-hundred gun salute and when Doumergue disembarked his entourage were visibly moved by this impressive display of imperial pageantry.


Political Culture Colonial Setting International Exhibition French Culture Superior Culture 
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Notes and References

  1. 1.
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  2. 2.
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  11. 8.
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    On this point see Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, On Colonialism, Articles from the New York Tribune (New York: International, 1972). On 9 November 1989 I interviewed Roger Rey who was involved in the underground opposition movement to the Algerian war in France. He underlined that in the 1930s his father was a member of the SFIO (Section Française de l’Internationale Ouvrière), a trade unionist and a freemason. Growing up in Oran in the 1930s he remembered how his parents, even if they were on the extreme Left, were nationalist and paternalist. They looked down upon Algerians because they considered themselves to represent a political culture and tradition that was superior to that of the Algerian peasantry. It simply did not enter their heads to question the legitimacy of the French presence in Algeria.Google Scholar
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    These events are the focus of Mohammed Dib’s 1952 novel La Grande Maison ( Paris; Seuil, 1952 ).Google Scholar
  21. 22.
    The Jews first arrived in North African with the Phoenicians around 1100 BC. Some Berber tribes also converted to Judaism. The numbers in North Africa were augmented by the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492. On the specific history of the Algerian Jews see Joelle Alouche-Benayoun and Doris Benisimon, Les Juifs d’Algérie ( Paris: BHP, 1989 )Google Scholar
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  25. 23.
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  28. 24.
    The French were keen to stress that the Arabs had done nothing positive since their arrival in the seventh century AD, so for the settler novelist Louis Bertrand the colonial presence was perfectly natural because they were taking up the Roman heritage that had been allowed to fall into rack and ruin under Muslim domination. On this point see Azzedine Haddour, Colonial Myths, Narratives of Resistance ( Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1998 ).Google Scholar
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  30. 29.
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    On this see Alec G. Hargreaves, The Colonial Experience in French Fiction ( London: Macmillan, 1983 ).Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    The colonial exhibits were shown the grounds of the Colonial Garden which was established in Paris in 1899 and modelled on Kew Gardens in Britain and the botanical gardens in Berlin. On this see Robert Aldrich, ‘Vestiges of the Colonial Empire: The Jardin Colonial in Paris in Robert Aldrich and Martin Lyons (eds), The Sphinx in the Tuileries ( Sydney: University of Sydney, 1999 ).Google Scholar
  33. 34.
    On this see Malek Alloula, The Colonial Harem (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986 ). Within this he analyses how many of the orientalist themes were reproduced in posed photographs of Algerian women. The photographs presented the women as inviting and sexually available.Google Scholar
  34. 35.
    On the importance of the colonial setting for films see Ginette Vincendeau, Pépé-le-Moko ( London: BFI, 1998 ).Google Scholar
  35. 38.
    On this see Ferhat Abbas, Le Jeune Algérien: De la colonie vers la province ( Paris: La Jeune Parque, 1931 ).Google Scholar
  36. The failure of reform in Algeria, most notably in 1936, radicalized Ferhat Abbas. In 1958 he became the president of the Provisional Algerian Government in Tunis: see Ferhat Abbas, La Nuit coloniale ( Paris: Julliard, 1962 ).Google Scholar
  37. 39.
    Léopold Senghor, Anthologie de la poésie nègre et malgache ( Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1947 ).Google Scholar
  38. 40.
    Frantz Fanon, Les Damnés de la Terre ( Paris: Maspero, 1961 ).Google Scholar
  39. 41.
    Robert Young, White Mythologies Writing History and the West ( London: Routledge, 1990 ).Google Scholar
  40. 42.
    Alec G. Hargreaves, Immigration and Identity in Beur Fiction: Voices From the North African Community in France (Oxford: Berg, 1997). IAM are a rap group from Marseilles. Their name stands for ‘Invasion Arriving from Mars’ and their first album, De la Planète Mars released in 1991, dealt with issues of racism, exclusion and opposition to the National Front.Google Scholar
  41. 43.
    On this see Max Silverman, Deconstructing the Nation: Immigration, Racism and Citizenship in Modern France ( London: Routledge, 1992 )CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Max Silverman, Facing Postmodernity: Contemporary French Thought on Culture and Society ( London: Routledge, 1999 ).Google Scholar
  43. See aslo Neil MacMaster, Colonial Migrants and Racism: Algerians in France, 1900–62 ( London: Macmillan, 1997 ).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Martin Evans 2004

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  • Martin Evans

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