Assimilation and Association in French Colonial Theory, 1890-1914

By Raymond F. Betts | Go to book overview

PREFACE

THIS book considers an aspect of French colonial theory that was of particular importance in the formative years of the second French colonial empire. While all sorts of problems relating to the administration of the new empire perplexed Frenchmen, none was more acute or important than that of the relationship to be established with the native populations submitted to French control. Consideration of this problem led to a shift in theory from the idea of assimilation to the idea of association. Rather than attempt to absorb the native societies administratively and culturally into the French nation, France was to pursue a more flexible policy which would emphasize retention of local institutions and which would make the native an associate in the colonial enterprise. This is the essence of the ideas discussed by the theorists and popularizers in metropolitan France during the period under examination. The reasons for the shift comprise most of the chapter headings in this study.

Perhaps at no other period in French history was more active interest in colonial problems expressed by Frenchmen than that between 1890 and 1914. And yet the colonial theory discussed in metropolitan France during this time

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