French Algeria

French Algeria
Algérie française
Départements of France

Flag Coat of arms
Flag Coat of arms
Location of Algeria
France and the French colonial empire as at 1945,
with Algeria shown in dark blue in French North Africa.
Capital Algiers
 - Surrender of Algiers July 5, 1830
 - Algerian Independence July 3, 1962

French Algeria (French: Alger to 1839, then Algérie afterward;[1] also Algérie française[citation needed]) lasted from 1830 to 1962, under a variety of governmental systems. From 1848 until independence, the whole Mediterranean region of Algeria was administered as an integral part of France, much like Corsica and Réunion are to this day. The vast arid interior of Algeria, like the rest of French North Africa, was never considered part of France. One of France's longest-held overseas territories, Algeria became a destination for hundreds of thousands of European immigrants, known as colons and later, as pieds-noirs. However, indigenous Muslims remained a majority of the territory's population throughout its history. Gradually, dissatisfaction among the Muslim population with its lack of political and economic status fueled calls for greater political autonomy, and eventually independence, from France. Tensions between the two population groups came to a head in 1954, when the first violent events of what was later called the Algerian War began. The war concluded in 1962, when Algeria gained complete independence following the March 1962 Evian agreements.



Initial conflicts

Purchase of Christian slaves by French monks in Algiers in 1662.
Bombardment of Algiers in 1682, by Abraham Duquesne.

Since the capture of Algiers by the Ottomans Oruch and Barbarossa in 1516, Algeria had been a base for conflict and piracy in the Mediterranean.

In 1681, Louis XIV asked Admiral Abraham Duquesne to fight the Barbary pirates, and he bombarded Algiers between 1682 and 1683 to help Christian captives.[2] Again, d'Estrées bombarded Tripoli and Algiers from 1685 to 1688. An ambassador from Algiers visited the Court in Versailles, and a Treaty was signed in 1690 that provided peace throughout the 18th century.[3]

During the Directory regime of the First French Republic (1795–1799), the Bacri and the Busnach, Jewish negotiants of Algiers, provided important quantities of grain for Napoleon's soldiers who participated in the Italian campaign of 1796. However, Bonaparte refused to pay the bill back, claiming it was excessive. In 1820, Louis XVIII paid back half of the Directory's debts. The Dey, who had loaned to the Bacri 250,000 francs, requested from France the rest of the money.

The Dey of Algiers himself was weak politically, economically, and militarily. Algeria was then part of the Barbary States, along with today's Tunisia - which depended on the Ottoman Empire then led by Mahmud II - but enjoyed relative independence. The Barbary Coast was then the stronghold of the Barbary pirates, which carried out raids against European and American ships.

Bombardment of Algiers on August 1816 by the British Royal Navy, commanded by Lord Exmouth and painted by Thomas Luny.

Conflicts between the Barbary States and the newly independent United States of America culminated in the First and Second Barbary War (1801–1805 and 1815). The same year, an Anglo-Dutch force, led by Admiral Lord Exmouth, carried out a punitive expedition, the August 1816 bombardment of Algiers. The Dey was forced to sign the Barbary treaties, while the technological advance of U.S., British and French armies overwhelmed the pirates' expertise at naval warfare. The name of "Algeria" itself came from the French: following the conquest under the July monarchy, the Algerian territories, disputed with the Ottoman Empire, were first named "French possessions in North Africa" before being called "Algeria" by Maréchal Général le Duc de Dalmatie in 1839.[4]

The French conquest of Algeria

The French colonial empire in the early twentieth century.

The conquest of Algeria was initiated in the last days of the Bourbon Restoration by Charles X as an attempt to increase his popularity amongst the French people, particularly in Paris, where many veterans of the Napoleonic Wars lived. He would bolster patriotic sentiment, and turn eyes away from his domestic policies by "skirmishing against the dey".[5]

The Fly Whisk Incident

In the 1790s, France had contracted to purchase wheat for the French army from two Jewish merchants in Algiers, Messrs. Bacri and Boushnak, and was in arrears paying them. These merchants, Bacri and Boushnak who had debts to the dey, claimed inability to pay those debts until France paid its debts to them. The dey had unsuccessfully negotiated with Pierre Deval, the French consul, to rectify this situation, and he suspected Deval of collaborating with the merchants against him, especially when the French government made no provisions for repaying the merchants in 1820. Deval's nephew Alexandre, the consul in Bône, further angered the dey by fortifying French storehouses in Bône and La Calle against the terms of prior agreements.[6]

After a contentious meeting in which Deval refused to provide satisfactory answers on 29 April 1827, the dey struck Deval with his fly whisk. Charles X used this slight against his diplomatic representative to first demand an apology from the dey, and then to initiate a blockade against the port of Algiers. When the dey responded to a demand to send an ambassador to France to resolve the incident with cannonfire directed toward one of the blockading ships, the French determined that more forceful action was required.[7]

Invasion of Algiers (June 1830)

The attack of Admiral Duperré during the take-over of Algiers in 1830.
Ornate Ottoman cannon, length: 385cm, cal:178mm, weight: 2910, stone projectile, founded 8 October 1581 in Algiers, seized by France at Algiers in 1830. Musée de l'Armée, Paris.

Deval and other French residents of Algiers left for France while the Minister of War, Clermont-Tonnerre, proposed a military expedition. The ultra-royalist Count of Villèle, President of the Council, and the monarch's heir opposed military action. The Restoration finally decided to blockade Algiers for three years. But the important tonnage of French ships forced them to keep away from the coasts[vague], while the Barbary pirates could easily exploit the geography of the coast. Before the failure of the blockade, the Restoration decided on 31 January 1830 to engage a military expedition against Algiers.

Admiral Duperré took the command in Toulon of an armada of 600 ships and then headed for Algiers. Using Napoleon's 1808 contingency plan for the invasion of Algeria, General de Bourmont then landed 27 kilometres (17 mi) west of Algiers, at Sidi Ferruch on 14 June 1830, with 34,000 soldiers. To face the French, the dey sent 7,000 janissaries, 19,000 troops from the beys of Constantine and Oran, and about 17,000 Kabyles. The French established a strong beachhead and pushed toward Algiers, thanks in part to superior artillery and better organization. The French troops took the advantage on 19 June during the battle of Staouéli, and entered Algiers on 5 July after a three-week campaign. The Dey agreed to capitulation in exchange for his freedom and the offer to retain possession of his personal wealth. Five days later, he exiled himself with his family, departing on a French ship for the Italian peninsula, then under the control of the Austrian Empire. 2,500 janissaries also quit the Algerian territories, heading for Asia,[clarification needed] on 11 July. The Dey's departure ended 313 years of Ottoman rule of the territory.

The French army then recruited the first zouaves regiments in October, followed by the spahis regiments, while France expropriated all the land properties belonging to the Turkish settlers, known as Beliks. In the western region of Oran, Sultan Abderrahmane of Morocco, the Commander of the Believers, could not remain indifferent to the massacres committed by the French Christian troops and to belligerent calls to enter jihad from the marabouts. Despite the diplomatic rupture between Morocco and the Two Sicilies in 1830, and the naval warfare engaged against the Austrian Empire as well as with Spain, then headed by Ferdinand VII, Sultan Abderrahmane lent his support to the Algerian insurgency triggered by Abd El-Kader. The latter would fight for years against the French. Directing an army of 12,000 men, Abd El-Kader first organized the blockade of Oran.

Algerian refugees were welcomed by the Moroccan population, while the Sultan's instructions recommended to the authorities of Tetuan of assisting them, by providing them jobs in the administration or the military forces. The inhabitants of Tlemcen, close to the Moroccan border, demanding the Sultan to be placed under his authority in order to escape to the invaders. Abderrahmane thus named nephew, prince Moulay Ali, as Caliph of Tlemcen, charged of the protection of the city. France executed in retaliations two Moroccans, Mohamed Beliano and Benkirane, under the pseudo-motives of espionage, while all their goods were seized by the military governor of Oran, General Boyer.

Hardly had the news of the capture of Algiers reached Paris than Charles X was deposed during the Three Glorious Days of July 1830, and his cousin Louis-Philippe, the "citizen king", was named to preside over a constitutional monarchy. The new government, composed of liberal opponents of the Algiers expedition, was reluctant to pursue the conquest begun by the old regime, but withdrawing from Algeria proved more difficult than conquering it.

The Conquest of the Algerian territories under the July Monarchy (1830-1848)

Battle of Somah (1836)

On December 1, 1830, King Louis-Philippe named the Duc de Rovigo as head of military staff in Algeria. De Rogivo took control of Bône and initiated colonisation of the land, expropriations, etc. He was recalled in 1833 due to the overtly violent nature of the repression. Wishing to avoid a conflict with Morocco, Louis-Philippe sent an extraordinary mission to the Sultan, mixed with displays of military might, sending war ships to the bay of Tangiers. An ambassador was sent to the Sultan Moulay Abderrahmane in February 1832, headed by count de Mornay and including the painter Eugène Delacroix. The Sultan, however, refused French demands to evacuate Tlemcen.

In 1834, France annexed the occupied areas of Algeria, which had an estimated Muslim population of about two million, as a colony. Colonial administration in the occupied areas — the so-called régime du sabre (government of the sword) — was placed under a governor general, a high-ranking army officer invested with civil and military jurisdiction, who was responsible to the minister of war. Marshall Bugeaud, who became the first governor-general, headed the conquest, making a systemic use of torture and following a "scorched earth" policy.

Soon after the conquest of Algiers, the soldier-politician Bertrand Clauzel and others formed a company to acquire agricultural land and, despite official discouragement, to subsidize its settlement by European farmers, triggering a land rush. Clauzel recognized the farming potential of the Mitidja Plain and envisioned the production there of cotton on a large scale. As governor general (1835–36), he used his office to make private investments in land and encouraged army officers and bureaucrats in his administration to do the same. This development created a vested interest among government officials in greater French involvement in Algeria. Commercial interests with influence in the government also began to recognize the prospects for profitable land speculation in expanding the French zone of occupation. They created large agricultural tracts, built factories and businesses, and exploited cheap local labor.

Among others testimonies, Lieutenant-Colonel de Montagnac wrote on 15 March 1843, in a letter to a friend:

"All populations which do not accept our conditions must be despoiled. Everything must be seized, devastated, without age or sex distinction: grass must not grow any more where the French army has put the foot. Who wants the end wants the means, whatever may say our philanthropists. I personally warn all good militaries which I have the honour to lead that if they happen to bring me a living Arab, they will receive a beating with the flat of the saber... This is how, my dear friend, we must do war against Arabs: kill all men over the age of fifteen, take all their women and children, load them onto naval vessels, send them to the Marquesas Islands or elsewhere. In one word, annihilate all that will not crawl beneath our feet like dogs."[8]

In the same way, Alexis de Tocqueville, deputy and famous representative of the liberal tradition in political philosophy, declared in 1841:

"war in Africa is a science. Everyone is familiar with its rules and everyone can apply those rules with almost complete certainty of success. One of the greatest services that Field Marshal Bugeaud has rendered his country is to have spread, perfected and made everyone aware of this new science... As far as I am concerned, I came back from Africa with the pathetic notion that at present in our way of waging war we are far more barbaric than the Arabs themselves. These days, they represent civilization, we do not. This way of waging war seems to me as stupid as it is cruel. It can only be found in the head of a coarse and brutal soldier. Indeed, it was pointless to replace the Turks only to reproduce what the world rightly found so hateful in them. This, even for the sake of interest is more noxious than useful; for, as another officer was telling me, if our sole aim is to equal the Turks, in fact we shall be in a far lower position than theirs: barbarians for barbarians, the Turks will always outdo us because they are Muslim barbarians. In France, I have often heard men I respect but do not approve of, deplore that crops should be burnt and granaries emptied and finally that unarmed men, women and children should be seized. In my view these are unfortunate circumstances that any people wishing to wage war against the Arabs must accept. I think that all the means available to wreck tribes must be used, barring those that the human kind and the right of nations condemn.I personally believe that the laws of war enable us to ravage the country and that we must do so either by destroying the crops at harvest time or any time by making fast forays also known as raids the aim of which it to get hold of men or flocks."[9][10]

"Whatever the case", continued Tocqueville, "we may say in a general manner that all political freedoms must be suspended in Algeria.[11]
Perrier à boîte cannon seized in Constantine by French troops in 1837.

Whatever initial misgivings Louis Philippe's government may have had about occupying Algeria, the geopolitical realities of the situation created by the 1830 intervention argued strongly for reinforcing the French presence there. France had reason for concern that Britain, which was pledged to maintain the territorial integrity of the Ottoman Empire, would move to fill the vacuum left by a French pullout. The French devised elaborate plans for settling the hinterland left by Ottoman provincial authorities in 1830, but their efforts at state building were unsuccessful on account of lengthy armed resistance.

Capture of Constantine by French troops, 13 October 1837. Horace Vernet.

The most successful local opposition immediately after the fall of Algiers was led by Ahmad ibn Muhammad, bey of Constantine. He initiated a radical overhaul of the Ottoman administration in his beylik by replacing Turkish officials with local leaders, making Arabic the official language, and attempting to reform finances according to the precepts of Islam. After the French failed in several attempts to gain some of the bey's territories through negotiation, an ill-fated invasion force led by Bertrand Clauzel had to retreat from Constantine in 1836 in humiliation and defeat. However, the French captured Constantine under Sylvain Charles Valée the following year, on 13 October 1837.

The controversial historian Daniel Lefeuvre has contested the common estimates concerning the death toll. He has recently alleged that if the Algerian population has decreased by 875,000 people between 1830 and 1872, the French military were not responsible for all of them, as a fraction of these deaths could be explained by the grasshopper invasions of 1866 and 1868, as well as by a rigorous winter in 1867-68, which caused a famine followed by an epidemic of cholera.[12]

Resistance of Lalla Fadhma N'Soumer

A print showing Fadhma N'Soumer during combat, although in real life, it seems that Lalla Fadhma did not herself use weapons

The French began their occupation of Algiers in 1830, starting with a landing in Algiers. As occupation turned into colonization, Kabylia remained the only region independent of the French government. Pressure on the region increased, and the will of her people to resist and defend Kabylie increased as well.

A turning point in Lalla Fadma's life was the arrival in Kabylie, in about 1849, of a mysterious man who presented himself as Mohamed ben Abdallah (the name of the Prophet), but who is more commonly known as Bou Baghla. He was probably an ex-lieutenant in the army of Emir Abdelkader, defeated for the last time by the French in 1847. Bou Baghla refused to surrender at that battle, and retreated to Kabylie. From there he began a war against the French armies and their allies, often employing guerrilla tactics . Bou Baghla was a relentless fighter, and very eloquent in Arabic. He was very religious, and some legends tell about his thaumaturgic skills.

Bou Baghla went often to Summer to talk with the high-ranking members of the religious community, and Lalla Fadhma was soon attracted by his strong personality. At the same time, the relentless combatant was attracted by a woman so resolutely willing to contribute, by any means possible, to the war against the French. With her inspiring speeches, she convinced many men to fight as imseblen (volunteers ready to die as martyrs) and she herself, together with other women, participated in combat by providing cooking, medicines, and comfort to the fighting forces.

Traditional sources tell that a strong bond was formed between Lalla Fadhma and Bou Baghla. She saw this as a wedding of peers, rather than the traditional submission as a slave to a husband. In fact, at that time Bou Baghla left his first wife (Fatima Bent Sidi Aissa) and sent back to her owner a slave he had as a concubine (Halima Bent Messaoud). But on her side, Lalla Fadhma wasn't free: even if she was recognized as tamnafeqt ("woman who left her husband to get back to his family", a Kabylie institution), the matrimonial tie with her husband was still in place, and only her husband's will could free her. However he did not agree to, even when offered large bribes. The love between Fadhma and Bou remained platonic, but there were public expressions of this feeling between the two.

Fadhma was personally present at many fights in which Bou Baghla was involved, particularly the battle of Tachekkirt won by Bou Baghla forces (18–19 July 1854), where the French General Randon was caught but managed to escape later. On 26 December 1854, Bou Baghla was killed; some sources claim it was due to the treason of some of his allies. The resistance remained without a charismatic leader and a commander able to guide it efficiently. For this reason, during the first months of 1855, on a sanctuary built on top of the Azru Nethor peak, not far from the village where Fadhma was born, there was a great council among combatants and important figures of the tribes in Kabylie. They decided to grant Lalla Fadhma, assisted by her brothers, the command of combat.

Resistance of Abd al Qadir

The French faced other opposition as well in the area. The superior of a religious brotherhood, Muhyi ad Din, who had spent time in Ottoman jails for opposing the bey's rule, launched attacks against the French and their makhzen allies at Oran in 1832. In the same year, tribal elders chose Muhyi ad Din's son, twenty-five-year-old Abd al Qadir, to take his place leading the jihad. Abd al Qadir, who was recognized as Amir al-Muminin (commander of the faithful), quickly gained the support of tribes throughout Algeria. A devout and austere marabout, he was also a cunning political leader and a resourceful warrior. From his capital in Tlemcen, Abd al Qadir set about building a territorial Muslim state based on the communities of the interior but drawing its strength from the tribes and religious brotherhoods. By 1839, he controlled more than two-thirds of Algeria. His government maintained an army and a bureaucracy, collected taxes, supported education, undertook public works, and established agricultural and manufacturing cooperatives to stimulate economic activity.

The French in Algiers viewed with concern the success of a Muslim government and the rapid growth of a viable territorial state that barred the extension of European settlement. Abd al Qadir fought running battles across Algeria with French forces, which included units of the Foreign Legion, organized in 1831 for Algerian service. Although his forces were defeated by the French under General Thomas Bugeaud in 1836, Abd al Qadir negotiated a favorable peace treaty the next year. The treaty of Tafna gained conditional recognition for Abd al Qadir's regime by defining the territory under its control and salvaged his prestige among the tribes just as the shaykhs were about to desert him. To provoke new hostilities, the French deliberately broke the treaty in 1839 by occupying Constantine. Abd al Qadir took up the holy war again, destroyed the French settlements on the Mitidja Plain, and at one point advanced to the outskirts of Algiers itself. He struck where the French were weakest and retreated when they advanced against him in greater strength. The government moved from camp to camp with the amir and his army. Gradually, however, superior French resources and manpower and the defection of tribal chieftains took their toll. Reinforcements poured into Algeria after 1840 until Bugeaud had at his disposal 108,000 men, one-third of the French army.

Battle of Smala, 16 May 1843. Prise de la smalah d Abd-El-Kader à Taguin. 16 mai 1843, by Horace Vernet.

One by one, the amir's strongholds fell to the French, and many of his ablest commanders were killed or captured so that by 1843 the Muslim state had collapsed.

French troops disembarking on the island of Mogador, in Essaouira bay in 1844.

Abd al Qadir took refuge in 1841 with his ally, the sultan of Morocco, Abd ar Rahman II, and launched raids into Algeria. This alliance led the French Navy to bombard and briefly occupy Essaouira (Mogador) under the Prince de Joinville on August 16, 1844. A French force was destroyed at the Battle of Sidi-Brahim in 1845. However, Abd al Qadir was obliged to surrender to the commander of Oran Province, General Louis de Lamoricière, at the end of 1847.

Abd al Qadir was promised safe conduct to Egypt or Palestine if his followers laid down their arms and kept the peace. He accepted these conditions, but the minister of war — who years earlier as general in Algeria had been badly defeated by Abd al Qadir — had him consigned in France in the Château d'Amboise.


Colonization and military control

A royal ordinance in 1845 called for three types of administration in Algeria. In areas where Europeans were a substantial part of the population, colons elected mayors and councils for self-governing "full exercise" communes (communes de plein exercice). In the "mixed" communes, where Muslims were a large majority, government was in the hands of appointed and some elected officials, including representatives of the grands chefs (great chieftains) and a French administrator. The indigenous communes (communes indigènes), remote areas not adequately pacified, remained under the régime du sabre (rule of the sword).

By 1848 nearly all of northern Algeria was under French control. Important tools of the colonial administration, from this time until their elimination in the 1870s, were the bureaux arabes (Arab offices), staffed by Arabists whose function was to collect information on the indigenous people and to carry out administrative functions, nominally in cooperation with the army. The bureaux arabes on occasion acted with sympathy to the local population and formed a buffer between Muslims and colons.

Under the régime du sabre, the colons had been permitted limited self-government in areas where European settlement was most intense, but there was constant friction between them and the army. The colons charged that the bureaux arabes hindered the progress of colonization. They agitated against military rule, complaining that their legal rights were denied under the arbitrary controls imposed on the colony and insisting on a civil administration for Algeria fully integrated with metropolitan France. The army warned that the introduction of civilian government would invite Muslim retaliation and threaten the security of Algeria. The French government vacillated in its policy, yielding small concessions to the colon demands on the one hand while maintaining the régime du sabre to control the Muslim majority on the other.

Under the French Second Republic and Second Empire (1848-1870)

Capture of the Zaatcha (1849)

Shortly after Louis Philippe's constitutional monarchy was overthrown in the revolution of 1848, the new government of the Second Republic ended Algeria's status as a colony and declared in the 1848 Constitution the occupied lands an integral part of France. Three civil territories — Algiers, Oran, and Constantine — were organized as French départements (local administrative units) under a civilian government. For the first time, French citizens in the civil territories elected their own councils and mayors; Muslims had to be appointed, could not hold more than one-third of council seats, and could not serve as mayors or assistant mayors. The administration of territories outside the zones settled by colons remained under the French Army. Local Muslim administration was allowed to continue under the supervision of French Army commanders, charged with maintaining order in newly pacified regions, and the bureaux arabes. Theoretically, these areas were closed to European colonization.

The land and colonizers

The Famine of 1869 in Algeria. French troops used to burn Algerians' yields, to force them to capitulate.

Even before the decision was made to annex Algeria, major changes had taken place. In a bargain-hunting frenzy to take over or buy at low prices all manner of property — homes, shops, farms and factories — Europeans poured into Algiers after it fell. French authorities took possession of the beylik lands, from which Ottoman officials had derived income. Over time, as pressures increased to obtain more land for settlement by Europeans, the state seized more categories of land, particularly that used by tribes, religious foundations, and villages[citation needed].

Called either colons (settlers), Algerians, or later, especially following the 1962 independence of Algeria, pieds noirs (literally, black feet), the European settlers were largely of peasant farmer or working-class origin from the poor southern areas of Italy, Spain,[13] and France. Others were criminal and political deportees from France, transported under sentence in large numbers to Algeria. In the 1840s and 1850s, to encourage settlement in rural areas, official policy was to offer grants of land for a fee and a promise that improvements would be made. A distinction soon developed between the grands colons (great settlers) at one end of the scale, often self-made men who had accumulated large estates or built successful businesses, and smallholders and workers at the other end, whose lot was often not much better than that of their Muslim counterparts. According to historian John Ruedy, although by 1848 only 15,000 of the 109,000 European settlers were in rural areas, "by systematically expropriating both pastors and farmers, rural colonization was the most important single factor in the destructing of traditional society."[citation needed]

European migration, encouraged during the Second Republic, stimulated the civilian administration to open new land for settlement against the advice of the army. With the advent of the Second Empire in 1852, Napoleon III returned Algeria to military control. In 1858 a separate Ministry of Algerian Affairs was created to supervise administration of the country through a military governor general assisted by a civil minister[citation needed].

Napoleon III visited Algeria twice in the early 1860s. He was profoundly impressed with the nobility and virtue of the tribal chieftains, who appealed to the emperor's romantic nature, and was shocked by the self-serving attitude of the colon leaders[citation needed]. He decided to halt the expansion of European settlement beyond the coastal zone and to restrict contact between Muslims and the colons, whom he considered to have a corrupting influence on the indigenous population. He envisioned a grand design for preserving most of Algeria for the Muslims by founding a royaume arabe (Arab kingdom) with himself as the roi des Arabes (king of the Arabs). He instituted the so-called politics of the grands chefs to deal with the Muslims directly through their traditional leaders[citation needed].

To further his plans for the royaume arabe, Napoleon III issued two decrees affecting tribal structure, land tenure, and the legal status of Muslims in French Algeria. The first, promulgated in 1863, was intended to renounce the state's claims to tribal lands and eventually provide private plots to individuals in the tribes, thus dismantling "feudal" structures and protecting the lands from the colons. Tribal areas were to be identified, delimited into douars (administrative units), and given over to councils. Arable land was to be divided among members of the douar over a period of one to three generations, after which it could be bought and sold by the individual owners. Unfortunately for the tribes, however, the plans of Napoleon III quickly unraveled. French officials sympathetic to the colons took much of the tribal land they surveyed into the public domain. In addition, some tribal leaders immediately sold communal lands for quick gains. The process of converting arable land to individual ownership was accelerated to only a few years when laws were enacted in the 1870s stipulating that no sale of land by an individual Muslim could be invalidated by the claim that it was collectively owned. The cudah and other tribal officials, appointed by the French on the basis of their loyalty to France rather than the allegiance owed them by the tribe, lost their credibility as they were drawn into the European orbit, becoming known derisively as béni-oui-oui ("yes men")[citation needed].

Napoleon III visualized three distinct Algerias: a French colony, an Arab country, and a military camp, each with a distinct form of local government. The second decree, issued in 1865, was designed to recognize the differences in cultural background of the French and the Muslims. As French nationals, Muslims could serve on equal terms in the French armed forces and civil service and could migrate to metropolitan France. They were also granted the protection of French law while retaining the right to adhere to Islamic law in litigation concerning their personal status. But if Muslims wished to become full citizens, they had to accept the full jurisdiction of the French legal code, including laws affecting marriage and inheritance, and reject the competence of the religious courts. In effect, this meant that a Muslim had to renounce some of the mores of his religion in order to become a French citizen. This condition was bitterly resented by Muslims, for whom the only road to political equality was perceived to be apostasy. Over the next century, fewer than 3,000 Muslims chose to cross the barrier and become French citizens. A similar status applied to the Jewish natives.[14]

Under the Third Republic (1870-1940)

La France painting by Alexandre Vuillemin, 1877

When the Prussians captured Napoleon III at the Battle of Sedan (1870), ending the Second Empire, the colons in Algiers toppled the military government and installed a civilian administration. Meanwhile, in France the government of the Third Republic directed one of its ministers, Adolphe Crémieux, "to destroy the military regime … [and] to completely assimilate Algeria into France." In October 1870, Crémieux, whose concern with Algerian affairs dated from the time of the Second Republic, issued a series of decrees providing for representation of the Algerian départements in the National Assembly of France and confirming colon control over local administration. A civilian governor general was made responsible to the Ministry of Interior. The Crémieux Decrees also granted blanket French citizenship to Algerian Jews, who then numbered about 40,000. This act set them apart from Muslims, in whose eyes they were identified thereafter with the colons. The measure had to be enforced, however, over the objections of the colons, who made little distinction between Muslims and Jews. (Automatic citizenship was subsequently extended in 1889 to children of non-French Europeans born in Algeria unless they specifically rejected it.)

The loss of Alsace-Lorraine to Prussia in 1871 after the Franco-Prussian War, led to pressure on the French government to make new land available in Algeria for about 5,000 Alsatian and Lorrainer refugees who were resettled there. During the 1870s, both the amount of European-owned land and the number of settlers were doubled, and tens of thousands of unskilled Muslims, who had been uprooted from their land, wandered into the cities or to colon farming areas in search of work.

The most serious native insurrection since the time of Abd al Qadir broke out in 1871 in the Kabylie and spread through much of Algeria. The revolt was triggered by Crémieux's extension of civil (that is, colon) authority to previously self-governing tribal reserves and the abrogation of commitments made by the military government, but it clearly had its basis in more long-standing grievances. Since the Crimean War (1854–56), the demand for grain had pushed up the price of Algerian wheat to European levels. Storage silos were emptied when the world market's impact was felt in Algeria, and Muslim farmers sold their grain reserves — including seed grain — to speculators. But the community-owned silos were the fundamental adaptation of a subsistence economy to an unpredictable climate, and a good year's surplus was stored away against a bad year's dearth. When serious drought struck Algeria and grain crops failed in 1866 and for several years following, Muslim areas faced starvation, and with famine came pestilence. It was estimated that 20% of the Muslim population of Constantine died over a three-year period. In 1871 the civil authorities repudiated guarantees made to tribal chieftains by the previous military government for loans to replenish their seed supply. This act alienated even pro-French Muslim leaders, while it undercut their ability to control their people. It was against this background of misery and hopelessness that the stricken Kabyles rose in revolt.

In the aftermath of the 1871 uprising, French authorities imposed stern measures to punish and control the whole Muslim population. France confiscated more than 5,000 km² of tribal land and placed the Kabylie under a régime d'exception (extraordinary rule), which denied the due process guaranteed French nationals. A special indigénat (native code) listed as offenses acts such as insolence and unauthorized assembly not punishable by French law, and the normal jurisdiction of the cudah was sharply restricted. The governor general was empowered to jail suspects for up to five years without trial. The argument was made in defense of these exceptional measures that the French penal code as applied to Frenchmen was too permissive to control Muslims.

During World War II (1940-1945)

Arzew inhabitants meet U.S. Army Rangers in November 1942 during Allied Operation Torch.

Colonial troops of French Algeria were sent to fight in the mainland during the battle of France. After the Fall of France, the Third French Republic aborted and was replaced by the Philippe Pétain's French State.

Under the Fourth Republic (1946-1958)

Supporters of General Jacques Massu set barricades in Algiers on January 1960.

Many Algerians had fought as French soldiers during the Second World War. Thus Algerian Muslims felt that it was even more unjust that their votes were not equal to those of the other Algerians, especially after 1947 when the Algerian Assembly was created. This assembly was composed of 120 members. Algerian Muslims, representing about 6.85 million people, could designate 50% of the Assembly members, while 1,150,000 non-Muslim Algerians could designate the other half. Moreover, a massacre occurred in Sétif May 8, 1945. It opposed Algerians who were demonstrating for their national claim to the French Army. After skirmishes with Police, Algerians killed about 100 French. The French army retaliated harshly, resulting in the deaths of approximately 6,000 Algerians.[15] This triggered a radicalization of Algerian nationalists and could be considered the beginning of the Algerian War. In 1956, about 512,000 French soldiers were in Algeria. No resolution was imaginable in the short term. A overwhelming majority of French politicians were opposed to the idea of independence while independence was gaining ground in Muslim Algerians' minds[citation needed]. France was deadlocked and the Fourth Republic collapsed over this dispute.

Under the Fifth Republic (1958-1962)

"Vive l'Algérie française !" (lit. "Long live French Algeria!") Declaration of Charles de Gaulle (June 6, 1958, Mostaganem, French Algeria[16]

In 1958, Charles de Gaulle's return to power through a military coup in Algiers on May was supposed to keep Algeria's status quo as departments of France as hinted by his famous, yet ambiguous, speeches delivered in Oran and Mostaganem on June 6, 1958. De Gaulle's republican constitution project was approved through the September 1958 referendum and the Fifth Republic was established the following month with De Gaulle as its President.

The latter consented independence in 1962 after a referendum on Algerian self-determination in January 1961 and despite a subsequent aborted military coup in Algiers led by four French generals in April 1961.


Algeria's population

1830 - 1,500,000

1851 - 2,554,100

1900 - 4,675,000

1910 - 5,500,000

1940 - 7,600,000

1960 - 10,853,000[17][18]

Hegemony of the Colons

A commission of inquiry set up by the French Senate in 1892 and headed by former Premier Jules Ferry, an advocate of colonial expansion, recommended that the government abandon a policy that assumed French law, without major modifications, could fit the needs of an area inhabited by close to two million Europeans and four million Muslims. Muslims had no representation in Algeria's National Assembly and were grossly underrepresented on local councils. Because of the many restrictions imposed by the authorities, by 1915 only 50,000 Muslims were eligible to vote in elections in the civil communes. Attempts to implement even the most modest reforms were blocked or delayed by the local administration in Algeria, dominated by colons, and by the 27 colon representatives in the National Assembly (six deputies and three senators from each department)[citation needed] .

Once elected to the National Assembly, colons became permanent fixtures. Because of their seniority, they exercised disproportionate influence, and their support was important to any government's survival[citation needed] . The leader of the colon delegation, Auguste Warnier (1810–1875), succeeded during the 1870s in modifying or introducing legislation to facilitate the private transfer of land to settlers and continue the Algerian state's appropriation of land from the local population and distribution to settlers. Consistent proponents of reform, like Georges Clemenceau and socialist Jean Jaurès, were rare in the National Assembly.

The bulk of Algeria's wealth in manufacturing, mining, agriculture, and trade was controlled by the grands colons[citation needed] . The modern European-owned and -managed sector of the economy centered around small industry and a highly developed export trade, designed to provide food and raw materials to France in return for capital and consumer goods. Europeans held about 30% of the total arable land, including the bulk of the most fertile land and most of the areas under irrigation[citation needed] . By 1900, Europeans produced more than two-thirds of the value of output in agriculture and practically all agricultural exports. The modern, or European, sector was run on a commercial basis and meshed with the French market system that it supplied with wine, citrus, olives, and vegetables. Nearly half of the value of European-owned real property was in vineyards by 1914. By contrast, subsistence cereal production — supplemented by olive, fig, and date growing and stock raising — formed the basis of the traditional sector, but the land available for cropping was submarginal even for cereals under prevailing traditional cultivation practices.

The colonial regime imposed more and higher taxes on Muslims than on Europeans[citation needed] . The Muslims, in addition to paying traditional taxes dating from before the French conquest, also paid new taxes, from which the colons were normally exempted. In 1909, for instance, Muslims, who made up almost 90% of the population but produced 20% of Algeria's income, paid 70% of direct taxes and 45% of the total taxes collected. And colons controlled how these revenues would be spent[citation needed] . As a result, colon towns had handsome municipal buildings, paved streets lined with trees, fountains and statues, while Algerian villages and rural areas benefited little if at all from tax revenues[citation needed] .

The colonial regime proved severely detrimental to overall education for Algerian Muslims, who had previously relied on religious schools to learn reading, writing, and engage in religious studies. Not only did the state appropriate the habus lands (the religious foundations that constituted the main source of income for religious institutions, including schools) in 1843, but colon officials refused to allocate enough money to maintain schools and mosques properly and to provide for enough teachers and religious leaders for the growing population[citation needed] . In 1892, more than five times as much was spent for the education of Europeans as for Muslims, who had five times as many children of school age. Because few Muslim teachers were trained, Muslim schools were largely staffed by French teachers. Even a state-operated madrasah (school) often had French faculty members. Attempts to institute bilingual, bicultural schools, intended to bring Muslim and European children together in the classroom, were a conspicuous failure, rejected by both communities and phased out after 1870. According to one estimate, fewer than 5% of Algerian children attended any kind of school in 1870[citation needed] .

Efforts were begun by 1890 to educate a small number of Muslims along with European students in the French school system as part of France's "civilizing mission" in Algeria. The curriculum was entirely French and allowed no place for Arabic studies, which were deliberately downgraded even in Muslim schools. Within a generation, a class of well-educated, gallicized Muslims — the évolués (literally, the evolved ones) — had been created. Almost all of the handful of Muslims who accepted French citizenship were évolués; ironically, this privileged group of Muslims, strongly influenced by French culture and political attitudes, developed a new Algerian self-consciousness[citation needed] .

Reporting to the French Senate in 1894, Governor General Jules Cambon wrote that Algeria had "only a dust of people left her." He referred to the destruction of the traditional ruling class that had left Muslims without leaders and had deprived France of interlocuteurs valables (literally, valid go-betweens), through whom to reach the masses of the people. He lamented that no genuine communication was possible between the two communities[citation needed].

The colons who ran Algeria maintained a dialog only with the beni-oui-ouis. Later they thwarted contact between the évolués and Muslim traditionalists on the one hand and between évolués and official circles in France on the other. They feared and mistrusted the Francophone évolués, who were classified either as assimilationist, insisting on being accepted as Frenchmen but on their own terms, or as integrationists, eager to work as members of a distinct Muslim elite on equal terms with the French.


Following its conquest of Ottoman controlled Algeria in 1830, for well over a century France maintained colonial rule in the territory which has been described as "quasi-apartheid".[19] The colonial law of 1865 allowed Arab and Berber Algerians to apply for French citizenship only if they abandoned their Muslim identity; Azzedine Haddour argues that this established "the formal structures of a political apartheid".[20] Camille Bonora-Waisman writes that, "[i]n contrast with the Moroccan and Tunisian protectorates", this "colonial apartheid society" was unique to Algeria.[21]

This "internal system of apartheid" met with considerable resistance from the Muslims affected by it, and is cited as one of the causes of the 1954 insurrection.[22]


Post colonial relations

Relations between post-colonial Algeria and France have remained close through-out the years, although sometimes difficult. In 1962, the Evian Accords peace treaty provided land in the Sahara for the French Army, which it had used under de Gaulle to carry out its first nuclear tests (Gerboise bleue). Many European settlers (pieds-noirs) living in Algeria and Sephardic Jews, who both had been granted French citizenship by the Crémieux decrees at the end of the 19th century, were expelled to France where they formed a new community. On the other hand, the issue of the harkis, the Muslims who had fought on the French side during the war, still remained unresolved. Large numbers of harkis were killed in 1962, during the immediate aftermath of the Algerian War, while those who escaped with their families to France have tended to remain an unassimilated refugee community. The present Algerian government continues to refuse to allow harkis and their descendants to return to Algeria.

On February 23, 2005 the French law on colonialism was an act passed by the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) conservative majority, which imposed on high-school (lycée) teachers to teach the "positive values" of colonialism to their students, in particular in North Africa (article 4). The law created a public uproar and opposition from the whole of the left-wing, and was finally repealed by president Jacques Chirac (UMP) at the beginning of 2006, after accusations of historical revisionism from various teachers and historians. It also jeopardized the Franco-Algerian Peace Treaty, which Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika refused to sign following the vote of this law.

Algerians feared that the French law on colonialism would hinder the task the French confronting the dark side of their colonial rule in Algeria because article four of the law decreed among other things that "School programmes are to recognise in particular the positive role of the French presence overseas, especially in North Africa, ..."[23] Benjamin Stora, a leading specialist on French Algerian history of colonialism, said "France has never taken on its colonial history. It is a big difference with the Anglo-Saxon countries, where post-colonial studies are now in all the universities. We are phenomenally behind the times."[23] In his opinion, although the historical facts were known to academics, they were not well known by the French public and this led to a lack of honesty in France over French colonial treatment of the Algerian people.[23]

See also


  1. ^ Scheiner, Virgile. "Le pays occupé par les Français dans le nord de l'Afrique sera, à l'avenir, désigné sous le nom d'Algérie." 14 October 1839. (French)
  2. ^ Martin's History of France by Henri Martin, p.522
  3. ^ Europe Through Arab Eyes, 1578-1727 by Nabil Matar, p.105-106
  4. ^ La Guerre d'Algérie, Collection Librio- Documents Le Monde (2003)
  5. ^ "Algeria, Colonial Rule". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica. p. 39. Retrieved 2007-12-19. 
  6. ^ Abun-Nasr, Jamil. A history of the Maghrib in the Islamic period, p. 249
  7. ^ Abun-Nasr, p. 250
  8. ^ Lieutenant-colonel de Montagnac, Lettres d'un soldat, Plon, Paris, 1885, republished by Christian Destremeau, 1998, p. 153; Book accessible on Gallica's website. French : "Toutes les populations qui n'acceptent pas nos conditions doivent être rasées. Tout doit être pris, saccagé, sans distinction d'âge ni de sexe : l'herbe ne doit plus pousser où l'armée française a mis le pied. Qui veut la fin veut les moyens, quoiqu'en disent nos philanthropes. Tous les bons militaires que j'ai l'honneur de commander sont prévenus par moi-même que s'il leur arrive de m'amener un Arabe vivant, ils recevront une volée de coups de plat de sabre. […] Voilà, mon brave ami, comment il faut faire la guerre aux Arabes : tuer tous les hommes jusqu'à l'âge de quinze ans, prendre toutes les femmes et les enfants, en charger les bâtiments, les envoyer aux îles Marquises ou ailleurs. En un mot, anéantir tout ce qui ne rampera pas à nos pieds comme des chiens."
  9. ^ Alexis de Tocqueville, 1841 - Extract of Travail sur l’Algérie, in Œuvres complètes, Gallimard, Pléïade, 1991, p. 704 & 705.
  10. ^ (English) Olivier LeCour Grandmaison (June 2001). "Torture in Algeria: Past Acts That Haunt France - Liberty, Equality and Colony". Le Monde diplomatique.  (quoting Alexis de Tocqueville, Travail sur l’Algérie in Œuvres complètes, Paris, Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, 1991, pp 704 and 705).
  11. ^ (French) Olivier LeCour Grandmaison (2001). "Tocqueville et la conquête de l'Algérie". La Mazarine. 
  12. ^ Daniel Lefeuvre, Pour en finir avec la repentance coloniale, Editions Flammarion (2006), ISBN 2082104400
  13. ^ Between 1882 and 1911, over 100,000 Spaniards moved to Algeria in search of a better life. During 1882 to 1887, it was the country that received a greater number of Spanish migrants [1]. However, a short-term migration also took place during harvesting seasons [2]. By 1915, while the total number of Spaniards in Algeria was still high, other countries in the New World had overtaken Algeria as the preferred destination.[3]
  14. ^ Brett, Michael (1988). "Legislating for Inequality in Algeria". Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 51.3: 440–461, see 456–457 
  15. ^ ^ Horne, Alistair, A Savage War of Peace, s. 27
  16. ^ Charles de Gaulle (1958.06.06). "Discours de Mostaganem, 6 juin 1958". Fondation Charles de Gaulle. Retrieved 2010-01-02. )
  17. ^ Algeria: population growth of the whole country
  18. ^ Timelines : History of Algeria
  19. ^ "Algeria was in fact a colony but constitutionally was a part of France and not thought of in the 1950s (even by many on the left) as a colony. It was a society of nine million or so 'Muslim' Algerians who were dominated by the million settlers of diverse origins (but fiercely French) who maintained a quasi-apartheid regime." Bell, David Scott. Presidential Power in Fifth Republic France, Berg Publishers, 2000, p. 36.
  20. ^ "[the] senatus-consulte of 1865 stipulated that all the colonised indigenous were under French jurisdiction, i.e., French nationals subjected to French laws, but it restricted citizenship only to those who renounced their Muslim religion and culture. There was an obvious split in French legal discourse: a split between nationality and citizenship which established the formal structures of a political apartheid encouraging the existence of 'French subjects' disenfranchised, without any rights to citizenship, treated as objects of French law and not citizens". Debra Kelly. Autobiography And Independence: Selfhood and Creativity in North African Postcolonial Writing in French, Liverpool University Press, 2005, p. 43.
  21. ^ "In contrast with the Moroccan and Tunisian protectorates, Algeria was made an integral part of France and became a colony of settlement for more than one million Europeans... under colonial rule, Algerians encountered France's 'civilising mission' only through the plundering of lands and colonial apartheid society..." Bonora-Waisman, Camille. France and the Algerian Conflict: Issues in Democracy and Political Stability, 1988-1995, Ashgate Publishing, 2003, p. 3.
  22. ^ "As a settler colony with an internal system of apartheid, administered under the fiction that it was part of metropolitan France, and endowed with a powerful colonial lobby that virtually determined the course of French politics with respect to its internal affairs, it experienced insurrection in 1954 on the part of its Muslim population." Wall, Irwin M. France, the United States, and the Algerian War, University of California Press, 2001, p. 262.
  23. ^ a b c Hugh Schofiel (2005-05-16). "Colonial abuses haunt France". BBC News. 

Sources and bibliography

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