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French Colonial History 5 (2004) ix-xi
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As the new editor of French Colonial History, I would like to greet members of the French Colonial Historical Society and other readers, and welcome you all to what I think you will find is another useful collection of scholarship on French colonial history. I am a past president of the Society and have served as an editor of our former Proceedings volumes, and I am happy to be working in this more flexible journal format. My predecessor, Robert DuPlessis, now the Society's president, has set a high standard that I hope to match.
This volume consists primarily of papers from the 28th annual meeting of the French Colonial Historical Society, held in 2003 in Toulouse, France. It is leavened by four papers drawn from the 27th meeting in New Haven, Connecticut. The range of papers demonstrates the Society's chronological interests both in France's older colonial ventures in the Western Hemisphere, and in her more recent ones in Africa and South Asia. It also reflects a topical range from the formalities of law and diplomacy to details of the lives of colonized peoples. In the light of recent events, many of the papers remind us that the repertoire of grand imperial strategies is actually quite limited, and ignorance of history has indeed doomed modern actors to exacerbate previous mistakes.
To begin the volume, we present the late William Cohen's keynote address from the 2002 meeting, in which he shared with us both his early experiences as a researcher in what was then a new field for American historians, and many of the concerns that led to the formation of the Society. Though we bitterly regret the untimely loss of so fine a scholar and friend, we are happy to be able to share his wise and often amusing reflections, especially with our younger colleagues in the academic world, and I thank Kim Munholland for undertaking the editing of this piece for publication. The other papers are divided by region, and in roughly chronological order within region. [End Page ix]
For Greater New France, the papers cover New France as a whole and Acadia. Benoît Grenier considers the question of seigneurial residence in New France in comparison with historical and contemporary practices in the mother country. Kenneth Donovan's paper presents information on the lives of enslaved individuals in eighteenth-century Île Royale to reveal the striking role they played in demographic expansion. Owen Stanwood takes another look at the romanticized saga of the Baron of St. Castin and finds a pattern of economic interest as significant as that of cultural brokering on the Acadian borderlands. With a broader focus, John Johnston considers the perennial attractions of archetypal thinking about the past and its role in the construction of the Evangeline myth.
A set of papers treating France's more southerly New World ventures is led off by Karol Weaver's consideration of accusations of infanticide against enslaved women in Saint-Domingue as part of the politics of struggle over control of enslaved women's fertility. Gilles-Antoine Langlois's consideration of Laussat's last acts in New Orleans on behalf of Napoleonic France before the sale of Louisiana exposed conditions in a society still dominated by slave owners. Jean-François Brière explores Charles X's ploy of decolonization by decree, granting sovereignty to a newly independent Haiti without actually doing so.
This issue of the journal is particularly strong in its insights on Francophone Africa. Johann Rage and Jean Michel Delaplace show how even so obscure a practice as competitive physical exercises in the public schools of colonial Algeria could be a tool of political assimilation. Ibra Sene traces the close connection between the economic development of colonial Senegal in the second quarter of the twentieth century, and government use of prison labor in the construction and maintenance of a highway system. Through the lens of colonial and postcolonial fiction, Kwaku Gyasi shows how the struggles of African laborers against both colonial exploitation and postcolonial corruption were significantly strengthened by new social and political roles for...