Assimilation and Association in French Colonial Theory, 1890-1914

Assimilation and Association in French Colonial Theory, 1890-1914

Assimilation and Association in French Colonial Theory, 1890-1914

Assimilation and Association in French Colonial Theory, 1890-1914

Synopsis

Until the close of the nineteenth century, French colonial theory was based on the idea of assimilation, which gave France the responsibility for "civilizing" its colonies by absorbing them administratively and culturally. By the turn of the twentieth century, this idea had given way to the theory of association, which held that France's new empire could be better served by a more flexible policy in which the colonized become partners with France in the colonial project. Raymond F. Betts examines the pivotal shift in colonial theory within the métropole, the debate that it generated, and its intellectual origins. A landmark book in the field of French colonial theory, Assimilation and Association in French Colonial Theory, 1890-1914, has served as the central point of reference for every major colonial historian during the four decades since its original publication in 1961. Available in paperback for the first time, with a new preface by the author, this edition will interest all students of colonialism and introduce many younger scholars to what remains the best and most original book in the field.

Excerpt

Raymond F. Betts

The attention still given to this study, written more than forty years ago, attests to the continuing concern with the historical significance of modern imperialism in which the French colonial empire played a part second only to the British. Yet the term empire only gained in popularity in France after World War I, most notably on the occasion of the International Colonial Exposition of 1931, when buildings representing the various possessions were gathered together in the Bois de Vincennes. In fact, scattered around the globe, the French colonial possessions never cohered in any effective administrative or political way and were declared by one disheartened Frenchman to be a collection of petits paquets, small packages.

Nor did colonial policy fare any better. Assimilation and Association in French Colonial Theory, 1890–1914 covers the years in which the major acquisition of territory was complete and the prevailing issue was one of governance. While more than twice the number of people who lived in France were found in these overseas possessions, “native policy,” as it was then called, became a matter of great concern to the proponents of empire. But it never reached the level of great national concern. Only when the annual budget was submitted to the Chamber of Deputies or when a crisis like that over Fashoda in 1898 occurred . . .

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