Scramble for Africa: France

Figure 1.--Group of Betsimisaraka children taken in Madagascar. It is a postcard and it is undated. I think that it was taken in early 20th century. The picture attests the changing in children clothing, probably for missionaries' teaching. Some children wear only loincloth, others European or Arab clothing.

Histories of France often neglect the huge role that colonies played in the country's econonomy during the 18th century, especially Haiti and the other Caribbean sugar islands. Canada was the largest French coony, but Haiti was by far the most valuable. France lost most of its colonies in the Seven Years War and in the case of Haiti after a slave rebellion. After the Napoleonic Wars, France set out on a second effort to establish a colonial empire. This effort was persued by both the Bourbon monarchy, Napoleon III's Second Enpire, and the Third Republic. The debate over colonization that occurred in Britain never occurred in France. The British returned some small colonies they seized during the Napoleonic Wars, including Guadeloupe and Martinique (West Indies), French Guiana (South America), the Île de Bourbon-Réunion (Indian Ocean), and small Indian possessions. Included with the possessions returned were a few African trading posts in Senegal. This was to be the nucelus France's expanmsion throughout West Africa. Britain retained Saint Lucia and Tobago (West Indies) and the Seychelles and Île de France-Mauritius (Indian Ocean). The initial French activity to build an African empire was direcected at North Africa. The French invaded Algeria (1830). It took 17 years to fully establish control of Algeria beyond the coast. It was here that the legend of the French Foreign Legion was born. France only begn to expand its empire in sub-Saharan Africa after the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71). Gradually, French control was established over much of West Africa. The French Empire included the modern nations of Mauritania, Senegal, Guinea, Mali, Côte d'Ivoire, Benin, Niger, Chad, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo). The French also expanded their influence in North Africa with a protectorate over Tunisia (1881). After an international crisis with Germany, Morocco became a French protectorate (1911). Giving France control of all of northwest Africa. Many of the French African colonies were in West Africa south of the French North African colonies and connected to them. There were also Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. In addition to North Africa and West Africa, France also colonized the east African coastal enclave of Djibouti (French Somaliland) and Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. The last additions to France's colonia empite was after World War I when they acquired League of Nations mandates over Togo and Cameroon, former German colonies.


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Created: 12:31 AM 4/23/2006
Last updated: 12:31 AM 4/23/2006