Tricolor and Crescent: France and the Islamic World

Tricolor and Crescent: France and the Islamic World

Tricolor and Crescent: France and the Islamic World

Tricolor and Crescent: France and the Islamic World

Synopsis

For 1,400 years, France has been in contact with Islam and Muslim populations. This study explores their long relationship and history, examining in particular the expansion and contraction of France's Islamic Empire throughout the 20th century. This modern empire essentially consisted of conquered territories inhabited by Muslims and administered by Frenchmen. Thus far, France has avoided a September 11-type terrorist attack despite the intra-country presence of Muslim terrorist groups like the Roubaix gang and Bin Laden's al-Qa'ida. Other Western countries can learn a great deal from France's long and varied experiences.

Watson addresses the origins of Franco-Muslim contact and details early cases of French expansion into the Islamic world. The bulk of the book, however, focuses on the creation of the modern French Empire in Saharan and Sudannic Africa, as well as in Syria and the Lebanese Mandates, during the New Imperialism of the 19th and 20th centuries. Features include a selection of pertinent documents that illustrate the extent of French involvement with the Islamic world.

Excerpt

Whoever first coined the phrase, “When the siecle hit the fin,” described the twentieth century perfectly! The past century was arguably a century of intellectual, physical, and emotional violence unparalleled in world history. As Haynes Johnson of the Washington Post has pointed out in his The Best of Times (2001), “since the first century, 149 million people have died in major wars; 111 million of those deaths occurred in the twentieth century. War deaths per population soared from 3.2 deaths per 1,000 in the sixteenth century to 44.4 per 1,000 in the twentieth.” Giving parameters to the twentieth century, however, is no easy task. Did it begin in 1900 or 1901? Was it, as in historian Eric Hobsbawm’s words, a “short twentieth century” that did not begin until 1917 and end in 1991? Or was it more accurately the “long twentieth century,” as Giovanni Arrighi argued in The Long Twentieth Century: Money, Power, and the Origins of Our Times? Strong cases can be made for all of these constructs and it is each reader’s prerogative to come to his or her own conclusion.

Whatever the conclusion, however, there is a short list of people, events, and intellectual currents found in the period between the nineteenth and twenty-first centuries that is, indeed, impressive in scope. There is little doubt that the hopes represented by the Paris Exhibition of 1900 represented the mood of the time—a time of optimism, even Utopian expectations, in much of the so-called civilized world (which was the only world that counted in those days). Many saw the fruits of the Industrial Revolution, the application of science and technology to everyday life, as having the potential to greatly enhance life, at least in the West.

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