Jules Ferry and the Renaissance of French Imperialism

By Thomas F. Power Jr. | Go to book overview

PREFACE

This volume is concerned with the driving forces of the great French expansionist movement in the early years of the Third Republic, and addresses itself especially to the problem of the motives of Jules Ferry, the Premier under whom the greatest expansion occurred in 1881-1885. It attempts a reexamination of some of the commonly ascribed motives, particularly that of economic determinism. It undertakes to show the relatively small role that markets and financial penetration actually did play in French colonization. It tries for the first time, to correlate the colonial undertakings of the greatest French imperialist with the rest of his political activity and fortunes, as well as to draw together in one volume the story of almost simultaneous French action in Tunisia, West Africa, the Congo, Oceania, Madagascar, Egypt and Indo-China.

The secondary problem examined is the attitude of the French Parliament toward colonial expansion. Previously it has been generally assumed that Parliament was strongly and purposefully anti-colonial in feeling during these years. This work attempts to demonstrate that, in fact, Parliament was little perturbed about such questions, and gave Jules Ferry the same amount of support on his colonial ventures as on domestic questions.

The war and the fall of France forestalled my hope of study in Paris. However, there is little documentary evidence remaining abroad that could materially affect the findings incorporated here. In large part, the book is, therefore, a revaluation of material already available in printed form; for the most part it is based on the voluminous published collections of diplomatic documents, parliamentary debates, newspapers, memoirs and secondary works. The exception has been some useful material found in the National Archives among the State Department Archives.

The best biographer of Jules Ferry, M. Jean Dietz, very kindly advised me on several problems and has informed me that there is little unpublished data among the papers of Jules Ferry that bears on foreign or colonial matters. The Fondation Jules Ferry of Paris was good enough to supply me, in 1939, with considerable information on the documents in their possession regarding Jules Ferry. My sincere thanks are also due and gratefully rendered to the librarians of Columbia University, the Library of Congress, Harvard University, the National Archives and the University of Chicago.

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