Assimilation and Association in French Colonial Theory, 1890-1914

By Raymond F. Betts | Go to book overview

Chapter 6
A NEW POLICY: ASSOCIATION

ALTHOUGH denunciations of traditional French colonial policy and doctrine often appeared to be more ardent than attempts to substitute a new policy for the old, several new, if not original, plans for native administration did emerge at the beginning of the twentieth century. Essentially all resembled one another and were more often than not grouped together under the name of association.1 Because of the almost generic sense in which it was used, the term, never sharply defined, was often fused with the idea of the colonial protectorate and was at times simply seized upon as a convenient catchword. Despite these shortcomings there was wide agreement on the general ideas which the term was to embrace.

The great virtue of this policy was proclaimed to lie in its simplicity, flexibility, and practicality. Opposed to the rigidity and universalism of the condemned doctrine of assimilation, the policy of association emphasized the need for variation in colonial practice. One of its essential tenets was the idea that the determining factors in all colonial policy should be the geographic and ethnic characteristics and the state of social development of the particular region submitted to foreign control. Evolution of native groups along their own lines was the key.

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