French Colonialism Unmasked: The Vichy Years in French West Africa

By Ruth Ginio | Go to book overview

PART IV
The Long-Term Significance of the Vichy
Period for West African History

In French collective memory the Vichy period is undoubtedly one of the most traumatic and controversial. According to Éric Conan and Henry Rousso those four dark years—1940–44—occupy for the French a place that is disproportionate with respect to the context of their country’s history. They see the presence of this past (un passé qui ne passe pas) both as a symptom of unfinished mourning and as a warning signal for the future of French identity and the strength of its universalistic values.1

This is hardly the case for FWA. This federation was a colony whose destiny was determined in France. The people of FWA had no say regarding the decision to support Pétain in 1940 and little freedom to choose whether to accept his policies or not. True, the changes in colonial policy from the republican era were not dramatic, and a large degree of continuity was maintained, as shown in parts II and III; nevertheless, one can certainly not dismiss the Vichy period in FWA as insignificant to the historical processes that began after the war. Something did change under Vichy: most particularly, new political options appeared that had not existed before. The change of regime was also highly significant for the small but politically important Western-educated elite that discovered for the first time the real nature of colonial rule and the deadlock it presented for them. Part IV addresses the ways in which the Vichy era influenced the decolonization of FWA.

To better appreciate this influence it is vital to first examine the Vichy period in a comparative colonial perspective. In chapter 9 I first discuss Free French policy in the parallel years in the neighboring federation of FEA. The comparison of the two colonial regimes, which were rivals in their ideologies, will help us to isolate the elements of Vichy policy that were part of an inherent ideology from those that emerged from the circumstances of the war. I then compare the main characteristics of Vichy

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French Colonialism Unmasked: The Vichy Years in French West Africa
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations viii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Introduction xiii
  • Part I - French West Africa and Its Place in the Vichy Colonial Idea 1
  • 1 - Setting the Stage for Vichy 3
  • 2 - "A Source of Pride and Greatness" 11
  • Part II 23
  • 3 - Vichy Settles In- Administrative Changes and Continuity 25
  • 4 - Spreading the National Revolution in FWA 33
  • 5 - "Thinking Big" 59
  • Part III 87
  • 6 - Vichy and the "Products" of Assimilation 93
  • 7 - The Vichy Regime and the "Traditional" Elements of African Society 117
  • 8 - Vichy Colonialism and African Society 153
  • Part IV 159
  • 9 - Vichy Colonialism 161
  • 10 - Vichy''s Postwar Impact 173
  • Conclusions 183
  • Notes 191
  • Bibliography 213
  • Index 231
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