University of Nebraska Press

France Overseas: Studies in Empire and Decolonization Series

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France Overseas: Studies in Empire and Decolonization Series

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Beyond Papillon

The French Overseas Penal Colonies, 1854-1952

Stephen A. Toth

For French criminologists and colonialists of the mid-nineteenth century, the penal colonies of Guiana and New Caledonia seemed to satisfy two needs, namely, to incarcerate a growing number of criminals and to supply manpower for these developing colonies. But were these two goals not contradictory? Was the primary purpose of the penal colonies to punish or to colonize? In the prisons, inmates found means of subversion, guards resisted militaristic discipline, and camp commanders fought physicians for authority. Back in the metropole, journalistic exposés catered to the public’s fascination with the penal colonies’ horror and exoticism.

An understanding of modern France is not complete without an examination of this institution, which existed for more than a century and imprisoned more than one hundred thousand people. Stephen A. Toth invites readers to experience the prisons firsthand. Through a careful analysis of criminal case files, administrative records, and prisoner biographies, Toth reconstructs life in the penal colonies and examines how the social sciences, tropical medicine, and sensational journalism evaluated and exploited the inmates’ experiences. In exploring the disjuncture between the real and the imagined, he moves beyond mythic characterizations of the penal colonies to reveal how power, discipline, and punishment were construed and enforced in these prison outposts.

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Endgame 1758

The Promise, the Glory, and the Despair of Louisbourg's Last Decade

A. J. B. Johnston

The story of what happened at the colonial fortified town of Louisbourg between 1749 and 1758 is one of the great dramas of the history of Canada, indeed North America. The French stronghold on Cape Breton Island, strategically situated near the entrance to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, was from soon after its founding  a major possession in the quest for empire. The dramatic military and social history of this short-lived and significant fortress, seaport, and community, and the citizens who  made it their home, are woven together in A. J. B. Johnston’s gripping biography of the colony’s final decade, presented from both French and British perspectives.
 
Endgame 1758 is a tale of two empires in collision on the shores of mid-eighteenth-century Atlantic Canada, where rival European visions of predominance clashed headlong with each other and with the region’s Aboriginal peoples. The magnitude of the struggle and of its uncertain outcome colored the lives of Louisbourg’s inhabitants and the nearly thirty thousand combatants arrayed against it. The entire history comes to life in a tale of what turned out to be  the first major British victory in the Seven Years’ War. How and why the French colony ended the way it did, not just in June and July 1758, but over the decade that preceded the siege, is a little-known and compelling story.

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French Colonialism Unmasked

The Vichy Years in French West Africa

Ruth Ginio

Before the Vichy regime, there was ostensibly only one France and one form of colonialism for French West Africa (FWA). World War II and the division of France into two ideological camps, each asking for legitimacy from the colonized, opened for Africans numerous unprecedented options.

French Colonialism Unmasked analyzes three dramatic years in the history of FWA, from 1940 to 1943, in which the Vichy regime tried to impose the ideology of the National Revolution in the region. Ruth Ginio shows how this was a watershed period in the history of the region by providing an in-depth examination of the Vichy colonial visions and practices in fwa. She describes the intriguing encounters between the colonial regime and African society along with the responses of different sectors in the African population to the Vichy policy. Although French Colonialism Unmasked focuses on one region within the French Empire, it has relevance to French colonial history in general by providing one of the missing pieces in research on Vichy colonialism.

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The French Navy and the Seven Years' War

Jonathan R. Dull

The Seven Years’ War was the world’s first global conflict, spanning five continents and the critical sea lanes that connected them. This book is the fullest account ever written of the French navy’s role in the hostilities. It is also the most complete survey of both phases of the war: the French and Indian War in North America (1754–60) and the Seven Years’ War in Europe (1756–63), which are almost always treated independently. By considering both phases of the war from every angle, award-winning historian Jonathan R. Dull shows not only that the two conflicts are so interconnected that neither can be fully understood in isolation but also that traditional interpretations of the war are largely inaccurate. His work also reveals how the French navy, supposedly utterly crushed, could have figured so prominently in the War of American Independence only fifteen years later.
 
A comprehensive work integrating diplomatic, naval, military, and political history, The French Navy and the Seven Years’ War thoroughly explores the French perspective on the Seven Years’ War. It also studies British diplomacy and war strategy as well as the roles played by the American colonies, Spain, Austria, Prussia, Russia, Sweden, and Portugal. As this history unfolds, it becomes clear that French policy was more consistent, logical, and successful than has previously been acknowledged, and that King Louis XV’s conduct of the war profoundly affected the outcome of America’s subsequent Revolutionary War.

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Madah-Sartre

Alek Baylee Toumi

“Hell is other people,” Jean-Paul Sartre famously wrote in No Exit. The fantastic tragicomedy Madah-Sartre brings him back from the dead to confront the strange and awful truth of that statement. As the story begins, Sartre and his consort in intellect and love, Simone de Beauvoir, are on their way to the funeral of Tahar Djaout, an Algerian poet and journalist slain in 1993. En route they are kidnapped by Islamic terrorists and ordered to convert . . . or die. Since they are already dead, fearless Sartre gives the terrorists a chance to convince him with reason.
 
What follows is, as James D. Le Sueur writes in his introduction, “one of the most imaginative and provocative plays of our era.” Sartre, one of the greatest thinkers of the twentieth century, finds himself in an absurd yet deadly real debate with armed fanatics about terrorism, religion, intellectuals, democracy, women’s rights, and secularism, trying to bring his opponents back to their senses in an encounter as disturbing as it is compelling.

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Silence Is Death

The Life and Work of Tahar Djaout

Julija Sukys

On May 26, 1993, the Algerian novelist and poet Tahar Djaout was gunned down in an attack attributed to Islamist extremists. An outspoken critic of the extremism roiling his nation, Djaout, in his death, became a powerful symbol for the “murder of Algerian culture,” as scores of journalists, writers, and scholars were targeted in a swelling wave of violence.
 
The author of twelve books of fiction and poetry, Djaout was murdered at a critical point in his career, just as his literary voice was maturing. His death was a great loss not only for Algeria and for Francophone literature but also for world literature. Rage at the news of his slaying was explosive but did nothing to quell the increasing bloodshed.
 
Silence Is Death considers the life and work of Djaout in light of his murder and his role in the conflict that raged between Islamist terrorist cells and Algeria’s military regime in the 1990s. The result is an innovative meditation on death, authorship, and the political role of intellectuals. By collapsing the genres of history, biography, personal memoir, fiction, and cultural analysis, Julija Šukys investigates notions of authorial neutrality as well as the relationship between reader and writer in life and in death. Her work offers a view of reading as an encounter across time and place and opens the possibility of a relationship between different cultures under peaceful terms.

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A Workman Is Worthy of His Meat

Food and Colonialism in the Gabon Estuary

Jeremy Rich

In Libreville, the capital of the African nation of Gabon, the colonial past has evolved into a present indelibly marked by colonial rule and ongoing French influence. This is especially evident in areas as essential to life as food. In this complex, hybrid culinary culture of Libreville, croissants are as readily available as plantains. Yet this same culinary diversity is accompanied by high prices and a scarcity of locally made food that is bewildering to residents and visitors alike. A staggering two-thirds of the country’s food is imported from outside Gabon, making Libreville’s cost of living comparable to that of Tokyo and Paris. In this compelling study of food culture and colonialism, Jeremy Rich explores how colonial rule intimately shaped African life and how African townspeople developed creative ways of coping with colonialism as European expansion threatened African self-sufficiency.
 
From colonization in the 1840s through independence, Libreville struggled with problems of food scarcity resulting from the legacy of Atlantic slavery, the violence of colonial conquest, and the rise of the timber export industry. Marriage disputes, racial tensions, and worker unrest often centered on food, and townspeople employed varied tactics to combat its scarcity. Ultimately, imports emerged as the solution and have had a lasting impact on Gabon’s culinary culture and economy.
 
Fascinating and informative, A Workman Is Worthy of His Meat engages a new avenue of historical inquiry in examining the culture of food as part of the colonial experience and resonates with the questions of globalization dominating culinary economics today.

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