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  • Preface
  • Kenneth J. Orosz

The appearance of volume 20 marks the end of my term as editor of French Colonial History, and I am pleased to say that it is another strong issue that reflects the wide range of French colonial activities across the globe. The seven articles it contains range geographically from New France to the metropole by way of the Caribbean and Africa. They also cover a wide range of subjects, which are a testament to how far the field has come from its early focus on political and economic history. We begin with three standalone essays covering such disparate topics as etymology, tourism, and constitutional reform before turning to a special thematic section on transnational feminisms in the empire during the Second World War.

The early history of St. Louis starts with a pair of Missouri colonial outposts called Pain Court and Vide Poche. Pierre Gendreau-Hétu notes that the origins of both names represent a historic enigma obfuscated by misunderstanding and the superficial nature of early studies that wrongly assert they were linked to poverty, famine, and lack of supplies. According to Gendreau-Hétu, clues to the origins of both names can be found in eighteenth-century Canada, which not only provided the bulk of settlers, but also exported naming conventions to the region. His fascinating etymological study explores the existence and meaning of the names Pain Court and Vide Poche in French Canada as well as in the metropole, noting that they were often used in reference to resources such as timber, settlements on higher ground, or as nicknames for mills and communal ovens. While lack of evidence precludes finding a definitive answer as to their origins, Gendreau-Hétu concludes that Pain Court and Vide Poche [End Page v] were not locally derived nicknames, but were instead inherited from Canada and constitute another example of the often overlooked influence that the St. Lawrence Valley had on Upper Louisiana.

Kory Olson's essay looks at the Michelin Tire Company's effort to publicize North Africa as a destination for French drivers. Although there already were a number of tourist guides in print for Algeria, what made the 1929 Guide Michelin Maroc, Algérie, Tunisie unique was the inclusion of Tunisia and Morocco, the assertion of their commonalities and fluid borders, the dramatic increase in the number of mapped communities, and the liberation of tourists from the tyranny of set itineraries. Olson argues that the 1929 guide also reinforced the message of the mission civilisatrice by presenting north Africa as an exotic destination that was simultaneously firmly under Western control. In particular, the guide promoted the region's foreignness and natural wonders as something to see and experience from the comfort and safety of European infrastructure. The guide's descriptions of towns as well as its use of colors, symbols, and the simplification of maps rendered them familiar spaces by highlighting the presence of European-style hotels, roads, colonial architecture, and administration. In so doing, it removed most local culture and silenced problematic peoples and regions through exclusion. The result created a fictional colonial space that was exotic, foreign, and yet solidly French.

Our final standalone article takes us to 1950s metropolitan France, where postwar instability caused by the loss of Indochina, Moroccan and Tunisian independence, and nationalist agitation in other colonies led to extensive discussion of the need for constitutional reform and possible federation with the remaining colonies. Vincent Houle's essay focuses on the unsuccessful 1957 proposal by the Comité d'action pour une République fédérale française for a new constitution, arguing that it sheds important light on contemporary political thinking in the metropole. According to Houle, the Comité d'action's proposal was exceptional because it called for extending citizenship and uniting the hexagon, the overseas departments and territories, and the remaining French colonies into a federal Republic. He explains that this idea went well beyond the French Union and involved a reconceptualization of the Republic as one that transcended the nation-state and that required the reconfiguration of existing administrative units. While the Comité d'action's proposal was pitched as a progressive and innovative solution...


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