An Empire Divided: Religion, Republicanism, and the Making of French Colonialism, 1880-1914

An Empire Divided: Religion, Republicanism, and the Making of French Colonialism, 1880-1914

An Empire Divided: Religion, Republicanism, and the Making of French Colonialism, 1880-1914

An Empire Divided: Religion, Republicanism, and the Making of French Colonialism, 1880-1914


Between 1880 and 1914, tens of thousands of men and women left France for distant religious missions, driven by the desire to spread the word of Jesus Christ, combat Satan, and convert the world's pagans to Catholicism. But they were not the only ones with eyes fixed on foreign shores. Just asthe Catholic missionary movement reached its apex, the young, staunchly secular Third Republic launched the most aggressive campaign of colonial expansion in French history. Missionaries and republicans abroad knew they had much to gain from working together, but their starkly different motivationsregularly led them to view one another with resentment, distrust, and even fear. In An Empire Divided, J. P. Daughton tells the story of how troubled relations between Catholic missionaries and a host of republican critics shaped colonial policies, Catholic perspectives, and domestic French politics in the tumultuous decades before the First World War. With case studies onIndochina, Polynesia, and Madagascar, An Empire Divided--the first book to examine the role of religious missionaries in shaping French colonialism--challenges the long-held view that French colonizing and "civilizing" goals were shaped by a distinctly secular republican ideology built onEnlightenment ideals. By exploring the experiences of Catholic missionaries, one of the largest groups of French men and women working abroad, Daughton argues that colonial policies were regularly wrought in the fires of religious discord--discord that indigenous communities exploited in respondingto colonial rule. After decades of conflict, Catholics and republicans in the empire ultimately buried many of their disagreements by embracing a notion of French civilization that awkwardly melded both Catholic and republican ideals. But their entente came at a price, with both sides compromising long-held andmuch-cherished traditions for the benefit of establishing and maintaining authority. Focusing on the much-neglected intersection of politics, religion, and imperialism, Daughton offers a new understanding of both the nature of French culture and politics at the fin de siecle, as well as the power ofthe colonial experience to reshape European's most profound beliefs.


And he said to them: Go ye into the whole world and preach the gospel to
every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved: but he that
believeth not shall be condemned. and these signs shall follow them that
believe: in my name they shall cast out devils. They shall speak with new

—Mark 16:15–17

The republican party has shown… that [France] cannot just be a free
country; that it must also be a great country exercising all the influence it
has on the destiny of Europe, that it must spread this influence in the
world, and carry everywhere it can its language, its customs, its flag, its
arms, its genius.

—Jules Ferry, 1883

For what is wedlock forcèd, but a hell,
An age of discord and continual strife?

—William Shakespeare, Henry vi, Part 1

In late 1899, Monsieur Julia, a minor colonial administrator in rural Madagascar, was having trouble with a local French Jesuit missionary named Père Delmont. in a series of reports to his superior, Julia complained that Delmont had repeatedly interfered with official colonial business. First, Delmont obstructed the administration’s pursuit of justice by telling witnesses to give false testimony to help clear two Catholic converts accused of theft. the priest went so far as to sit in the courtroom to make sure the witnesses stuck to the fictitious script, even though the evidence against the accused was overwhelming. Several weeks later, Julia discovered that for five months Delmont had been assuring local villagers that, by working to build the mission’s new church, they were fulfilling their labor obligations to the colonial . . .

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