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  • Preface
  • Jeremy Rich

Volume 15 of French Colonial History features six articles exploring the impact of French and imperial history from the Jesuit missions of New France to the end of empire in Central Africa in the 1950s. Although the contributors to this volume cover a diverse range of topics in different locales, there are some common features that bring their different approaches together. One is a willingness to read critically both their primary sources and the secondary literature on their subjects. Takao Abé’s essay takes to task the common assumption of historians since the mid-nineteenth century that French Jesuit missionaries in Quebec in the seventeenth century drew on the Native American missions in Paraguay. Abé contends that a close reading of the Jesuit Relations and other sources indicates that French missionaries probably had a very vague understanding at best of how their South American counterparts actually operated. Jérémie Boutier examines the controversy of the Furcy affair in La Réunion (then Ile Bourbon) in 1816 and 1817. Furcy was a slave who tried to contend in court that he actually was free, and the case has been already examined in light of Indian Ocean slavery. Boutier uses the event to explore the motivations and the career of Sully Bousquet, Furcy’s lawyer, as well as the byzantine disputes within the colonial administration already reeling in the wake of the collapse of Napoleon’s government. Gavin Murray-Miller uses the well-trodden ground of Algeria in the Second Empire to discuss debates over nationality and citizenship. Murray-Miller notes how the universal language of citizenship became a matter of personal choice in Algeria, thereby finding a way for the colonial regime to express liberal views while ensuring the exclusion of most Algerians from gaining the same legal [End Page v] rights as metropolitan French citizens. Murray-Miller contends that this juxtaposition prepared the way for the great contradiction of republican values that rested on racial and colonial hierarchies of difference.

Three authors take on different periods of European colonialism in sub-Saharan Africa. Kelly Duke Bryant investigates the experiences of young Senegalese people who studied in metropolitan France and Algeria in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This small group relied on a range of formal and informal networks to find lodging, allies, and assistance during their education. Their ability to develop varied social networks challenged the prevailing social hierarchies of Saint Louis and the urban milieu from which most of them came. Sabine Luning, Jan Jansen, and Cristiana Panella take on a similar set of challenges by state authorities in the Guinean goldfield regions in the 1920s and 1940s. French officials in the interwar period struggled to maintain rural populations in agriculture while still maintaining aspects of the colonial economy that required mobility in its workforce, such as the mining industry. As was all too typical in French colonial economic policies throughout Africa in the 1920s and 1930s, the result was a contradictory set of policies that sought to alternately restrict the choices of rural workers and promote gold mining. Matt Stanard covers the links between the Belgian Congo and the metropole, especially in the last decades of colonial rule. Why this article is included in French Colonial History lies in its value in comparing the links between nation and empire in both the French and Belgian cases. The Belgian government, in great contrast to their French counterpart, went out of its way to limit the ability of Congolese to live and study in Belgium until the last decade of colonial rule in the 1950s. Stanard contends that the Belgian and Congolese experience does not fit at all with the French model of interweaving colonial territories with the nation, and he suggests that historians need to investigate areas where the metropole remained quite distinct and isolated from its colonial territories.

It has been a pleasure to read such fine work, and I have been honored to be the editor of this journal. My term as editor ends in May 2014, so a new hand will guide the development of the 2015 volume of French Colonial History. [End Page vi]


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