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French Colonization of Africa
Transcript of French Colonization of Africa
France began its colonization of Africa with the invasion of Algeria in 1830. Algeria became the start of French rule in Western Africa and led to the spread of domestic slavery and the transatlantic slave trade in French territories. France was paternalistic over its colonies in Western Africa and they saw it as their duty as the colonizer to bring advancement and enlightenment to this part of the world.
Start of African Colonization
French Rule in Africa
Reactions to Colonialism
There was continual resistance in Algeria to French rule from 1830-1847. In 1847, the Algerian Nationalist leader Abd el-Kader was defeated. A series of uprisings over loss of land, racial tensions and the demand for civil, economic, and political rights followed up until Algeria gained its independence
Military power in West African Colonies began to decline in 1895 when the Afrique Occidentale Francaise, or AOF, was formed. The AOF unified all of the African Colonies as a culturally and linguistically diverse region made up of territories located in modern day Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Senegal.
Algeria, as well as Tunisia and Morocco, later became “Protectorates” and were no longer considered colonies by the French. Algeria became a protectorate in 1878 and Tunisia followed three years later in 1881, but Morocco did not become a protectorate until 1912. These protectorates differed from the other colonies because they technically had more independence from French rule, but most of the time they received similar treatment.
The French Empire tried to impose French culture on their new colonies, Senegal being one of the first. They attempted to “civilize” the natives by implementing French language, dress, food, education, mannerisms, and ways of life. However, tensions rose as the French denied the natives political, economic, and social equality. In Senegal they reacted to inequality in a more moderate way. Violent resistance was rare.
Decline in Military Power
French rule was enforced primarily through their military presence in the West African Colonies from 1830-1895. A centralized federalist administration was established by the French Military in order to act as a system of direct rule over the Colonies in West Africa. This political organization did not respect ethnic, linguistic, or other boundaries and used forced labor, imprisonment, and harsh treatment to maintain their influence and support their economic interests.
Decolonization in West Africa began as World War II came to an end. The process of decolonization was gradual so the various colonies achieved independence at different times. Opposition to foreign rule had grown as time went on which ultimately caused movements for independence in these colonies and even acts of rebellion with sustained violence in some cases.
In 1944, the Brazzaville Conference was held in the French Congo and a new constitution of the Fourth Republic in France was made which allowed some African representation in the French National Assembly as well as for political parties and nationalist programs to rise in Western Africa.
In 1956, the French passed the Loi Cadre (an enabling law) which officially allowed individual territories in West Africa to have local government. It did not give the colonies independence, but it did give them autonomy. As time passed, the colonies gained independence one of the last being Algeria.
The First Imperialism
In 1659 France occupied two island bases: Saint-Louis in the mouth of the Senegal River and Goreé in Senegal's Dakar harbor. Trading posts on the upper Senegal River, along the West African coast, and in Madagascar served as bases for French trade. French position in Africa was marginal until the 1850's.
Like many Western European countries, as France started colonizing Africa, missionaries imposed Christianity upon the natives. French missionaries considered religious conversion an integral part of the mission to "civilize" Africa. They believed Christianity to be superior to native beliefs.
A local chief welcoming French officers in Senegal
A stamp commemorating French explorer Pierre de Brazza
A depiction of a boat in French West Africa
A depiction of French rule in the Ivory Coast
A depiction of a small village under French rule
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