- French colonial empire
Francewas a dominant empire in the world, from the 1600s to the late 1960s, possessing many colonies in various locations around the world. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the global rule of France was the second largest behind the British Empire. The second French colonial empire extended over 12,347,000 km² (4,767,000 sq. miles) of land at its largest, towards the beginning of the 20th century. Including metropolitan France, the total amount of land under French constituency reached 12,898,000 km² (4,980,000 sq. miles) between 1920 and 1930. This accounts to 8.6% of the world's land area.
Currently, the remnants of this large
empireare various islands and archipelagoslocated in the North Atlantic, the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean, the South Pacific, the North Pacific, and the Antarctic Ocean, as well as one mainland territory in South America, totaling altogether 123,150 km² (47,548 sq. miles), which amounts to only 1% of the pre-1939 French colonial empire's area, with 2,564,000 people living in them in 2007. All of these enjoy full political representation at the national level, as well as varying degrees of legislative . (See Administrative divisions of France.)
First French colonial empire
The excursions of
Giovanni da Verrazzanoand Jacques Cartierin the early 1500s, as well as the frequent voyages of French boats and fishermen to the Grand Banksoff Newfoundland throughout that century, were the precursors to the story of France's colonial expansion. But Spain's jealous protection of its foreign monopoly, and the further distractions caused in France itself in the later 16th century by the French Wars of Religion, prevented any constant efforts by France to settle colonies. Early French attempts to found colonies in 1612 at São Luís(" France Équinoxiale"), and in Brazil, in 1555 at Rio de Janeiro(" France Antarctique") and in Florida(including Fort Carolinein 1562) were not successful, due to a lack of official interest and to Portuguese and Spanish vigilance.
The story of France's colonial empire truly began on
July 27, 1605, with the foundation of Port Royal in the colony of Acadiain North America, in what is now Nova Scotia, Canada. A few years later, in 1608, Samuel De Champlainfounded Quebec, which was to become the capital of the enormous, but sparsely settled, fur-trading colony of New France(also called Canada).
Although, through alliances with various Native American tribes, the French were able to exert a loose control over much of the North American continent, areas of French settlement were generally limited to the
St. Lawrence RiverValley. Prior to the establishment of the 1663 Sovereign Council, the territories of New France were developed as mercantile colonies. It is only after the arrival of intendant Jean Talonin 1665 that France gave its American colonies the proper means to develop population colonies comparable to that of the British. But there was relatively little interest in colonialism in France, which concentrated rather on dominance within Europe, and for most of the history of New France, even Canada was far behind the British North American colonies in both population and economic development. Acadia itself was lost to the British in the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713.
In 1699, French territorial claims in North America expanded still further, with the foundation of Louisiana in the basin of the
Mississippi River. The extensive trading network throughout the region connected to Canada through the Great Lakes, was maintained through a vast system of fortifications, many of them centered in the Illinois Countryand in present-day Arkansas.As the French empire in North America grew, the French also began to build a smaller but more profitable empire in the West Indies. Settlement along the South American coast in what is today French Guianabegan in 1624, and a colony was founded on Saint Kittsin 1625 (the island had to be shared with the English until the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, when it was ceded outright). The " Compagnie des Îles de l'Amérique" founded colonies in Guadeloupeand Martiniquein 1635, and a colony was later founded on Saint Luciaby (1650). The food-producing plantations of these colonies were built and sustained through slavery, with the supply of slaves dependent on the African slave trade. Local resistance by the indigenous peoples resulted in the Carib Expulsionof 1660.
The most important Caribbean colonial possession did not come until 1664, when the colony of
Saint-Domingue(today's Haiti) was founded on the western half of the Spanish island of Hispaniola. In the 18th century, Saint-Domingue grew to be the richest sugarcolony in the Caribbean. The eastern half of Hispaniola (today's Dominican Republic) also came under French rule for a short period, after being given to France by Spain in 1795.
French colonial expansion was not limited to the
New World, however. In Senegalin West Africa, the French began to establish trading posts along the coast in 1624. In 1664, the French East India Companywas established to compete for trade in the east. Colonies were established in Indiain Chandernagore(1673) and Pondicherryin the Southeast (1674), and later at Yanam(1723), Mahe(1725), and Karikal(1739) (see French India). Colonies were also founded in the Indian Ocean, on the Île de Bourbon ( Réunion, 1664), Île de France ( Mauritius, 1718), and the Seychelles(1756).
Colonial conflict with Britain
In the middle of the 18th century, a series of colonial conflicts began between France and Britain, which ultimately resulted in the destruction of most of the first French colonial empire. These wars were the
War of the Austrian Succession(1744–1748), the Seven Years' War(1756–1763), the War of the American Revolution(1778–1783), and the French Revolution (1793–1802) and Napoleonic (1803-1815) Wars. It may even be seen further back in time to the first of the French and Indian Wars. This cyclic conflict is known as the Second Hundred Years' War.
Although the War of the Austrian Succession was indecisive — despite French successes in India under the French Governor-General
Joseph François Dupleix— the Seven Years' War, after early French successes in Minorcaand North America, saw a French defeat, with the numerically superior British (over one million to about 50 thousand French settlers) conquering not only New France(excluding the small islands of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon), but also most of France's West Indian (Caribbean) colonies, and all of the French Indian outposts. While the peace treaty saw France's Indian outposts, and the Caribbean islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe restored to France, the competition for influence in India had been won by the British, and North America was entirely lost — most of New Francewas taken by Britain (also referred to as British North America, except Louisiana, which France ceded to Spain as payment for Spain's late entrance into the war (and as compensation for Britain's annexation of Spanish Florida). Also ceded to the British were Grenadaand Saint Luciain the West Indies. Although the loss of Canada would cause much regret in future generations, it excited little unhappiness at the time; colonialism was widely regarded as both unimportant to France, and immoral.
Some recovery of the French colonial empire was made during the French intervention in the American Revolution, with Saint Lucia being returned to France by the Treaty of Paris in 1783, but not nearly as much as had been hoped for at the time of French intervention. True disaster came to what remained of France's colonial empire in 1791 when Saint Domingue (comprised of the Western third of the Caribbean island of
Hispaniola), France's richest and most important colony, was riven by a massive slave revolt, caused partly by the divisions among the island's elite, which had resulted from the French Revolutionof 1789. The slaves, led eventually by Toussaint Louvertureand then, following his capture by the French in 1801, by Jean-Jacques Dessalines, held their own against French, Spanish, and British opponents, and ultimately achieved independence as Haitiin 1804 (Haiti became the first black republic in the world, much earlier than any of the future African nations). In the meanwhile, the newly resumed war with Britain by the French, resulted in the British capture of practically all remaining French colonies. These were restored at the Peace of Amiensin 1802, but when war resumed in 1803, the British soon recaptured them. France's repurchase of Louisiana in 1800 came to nothing, as the final success of the Haitian revolt convinced Bonaparte that holding Louisiana would not be worth the cost, leading to its sale to the United Statesin 1803 (the Louisiana Purchase). Nor was the French attempt to establish a colony in Egyptin 1798–1801 successful.
econd French colonial empire
At the close of the
Napoleonic Wars, most of France's colonies were restored to it by Britain, notably Guadeloupeand Martiniquein the West Indies, French Guianaon the coast of South America, various trading posts in Senegal, the "Île Bourbon" ( Réunion) in the Indian Ocean, and France's tiny Indian possessions. Britain finally annexed Saint Lucia, Tobago, the Seychelles, and the "Île de France" ( Mauritius), however.
The true beginnings of the second French colonial empire, however, were laid in 1830 with the French invasion of Algeria, which was conquered over the next 17 years. During the Second Empire, headed by
Napoleon III, an attempt was made to establish a colonial-type protectoratein Mexico, but this came to little, and the French were forced to abandon the experiment after the end of the American Civil War, when the American president, Andrew Johnson, invoked the Monroe Doctrine. This French intervention in Mexicolasted from 1861 to 1867. Napoleon III also established French control over Cochinchina(the southernmost part of modern Vietnamincluding Saigon) in 1867 and 1874, as well as a protectorate over Cambodiain 1863.
It was only after the
Franco-Prussian Warof 1870–1871 and the founding of the Third Republic (1871-1940) that most of France's later colonial possessions were acquired. From their base in Cochinchina, the French took over Tonkin(in modern northern Vietnam) and Annam (in modern central Vietnam) in 1884-1885. These, together with Cambodia and Cochinchina, formed French Indochinain 1887 (to which Laoswas added in 1893, and Kwang-Chou-Wan[ www.worldstatesmen.org/China_Foreign_colonies.html] in 1900). In 1849, the French concession in Shanghaiwas established, lasting until 1946.
1. Panorama of "Lac-Kaï", French outpost in China.
2. "Yun-nan", in the quay of
3. Flooded street of Hanoi.
4. Landing stage of Hanoi]
Influence was also expanded in
North Africa, establishing a protectorate on Tunisiain 1881 (Bardo Treaty). Gradually, French control was established over much of Northern, Western, and Central Africaby the turn of the century (including the modern nations of Mauritania, Senegal, Guinea, Mali, Côte d'Ivoire, Benin, Niger, Chad, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo), as well as the east African coastal enclave of Djibouti( French Somaliland). The Voulet-Chanoine Mission, a military expedition, was sent out from Senegal in 1898 to conquer the Chad Basin and unify all French territories in West Africa. This expedition operated jointly with two other expeditions, the Foureau-Lamy and Gentil missions, which advanced from Algeria and Middle Congo respectively. With the death of the Muslim warlord Rabih az-Zubayr, the greatest ruler in the region, and the creation of the Military Territory of Chad in 1900, the Voulet-Chanoine Mission had accomplished all its goals. The ruthlessness of the mission provoked a scandal in Paris. As a part of the Scramble for Africa, France had the establishment of a continuous west-east axis of the continent as an objective, in contrast with the British north-south axis. This resulted in the Fashoda incident, were an expedition led by Jean-Baptiste Marchandwas opposed by forces under Lord Kitchener's command. The resolution of the crisis had a part in the bringing forth of the Entente Cordiale. During the Agadir Crisisin 1911, Britain supported France and Moroccobecame a French protectorate.
At this time, the French also established colonies in the South Pacific, including
New Caledonia, the various island groups which make up French Polynesia(including the Society Islands, the Marquesas, the Tuamotus), and established joint control of the New Hebrideswith Britain.
The French made their last major colonial gains after the First World War, when they gained mandates over the former Turkish territories of the
Ottoman Empirethat make up what is now Syriaand Lebanon, as well as most of the former German colonies of Togoand Cameroon. A hallmark of the French colonial project in the late 19th century and early 20th century was the civilizing mission("mission civilisatrice"), the principle that it was Europe's duty to bring civilization to benighted peoples. As such, colonial officials undertook a policy of Franco-Europeanization in French colonies, most notably French West Africa. Africans who adopted French culture, including fluent use of the French languageand conversion to Christianity, were granted equal French citizenship, including suffrage. Later, residents of the " Four Communes" in Senegal were granted citizenship in a program led by the Afro-French politician Blaise Diagne.
Collapse of the empire
The French colonial empire began to fall apart during the
Second World War, when various parts of their empire were occupied by foreign powers ( Japanin Indochina, Britain in Syria, Lebanon, and Madagascar, the USand Britain in Moroccoand Algeria, and Germanyin Tunisia). However, control was gradually reestablished by Charles de Gaulle. The French Union, included in the 1946 Constitution, replaced the former colonial Empire.
However, France was immediately confronted with the beginnings of the
decolonizationmovement. Paul Ramadier( SFIO)'s cabinet repressed the Malagasy insurrection in 1947. In Asia, Ho Chi Minh's Vietminhdeclared Vietnam's independence, starting the Franco-Vietnamese War. In Cameroun, the Union of the Peoples of Cameroon's insurrection, started in 1955 and headed by Ruben Um Nyobé, was violently repressed.
When this ended with French defeat and withdrawal from Vietnam in 1954, the French almost immediately became involved in a new, and even harsher conflict in their oldest major colony, Algeria.
Ferhat Abbasand Messali Hadj's movements had marked the period between the two wars, but both sides radicalized after the Second World War. In 1945, the Sétif massacrewas carried out by the French army. The Algerian War started in 1954. Algeria was particularly problematic for the French, due to the large number of European settlers (or " pieds-noirs") who had settled there in the 125 years of French rule. Charles de Gaulle's accession to power in 1958 in the middle of the crisis ultimately led to independence for Algeriawith the 1962 Evian Accords.
French Unionwas replaced in the new 1958 Constitution by the French Community. Only Guinearefused by referendum to take part to the new colonial organization. However, the French Community dissolved itself in the midsts of the Algerian War; all of the other African colonies were granted independence in 1960, following local referendums. Some few colonies chose instead to remain part of France, under the statuses of overseas "départements" (territories). Critics of neocolonialismclaimed that the " Françafrique" had replaced formal direct rule. They argued that while de Gaulle was granting independence on one hand, he was creating new ties through Jacques Foccart's help, his counsellor for African matters. Foccart supported in particular the Biafra secession(or Nigerian civil war) during the late 1960s.
Unlike elsewhere in
Europe, France experienced relatively low levels of emigration to the Americas, with the exception of the Huguenots. However, significant emigration of mainly Roman CatholicFrench populations led to the settlement of the provinces of Acadia, Canadaand Louisiana, both (at the time) French possessions, as well as colonies in the West Indies, Mascareneislands and Africa.
On December 31, 1687 a community of French Huguenots settled in
South Africa. Most of these originally settled in the Cape Colony, but have since been quickly absorbed into the Afrikanerpopulation. After Champlain's founding of Quebec City in 1608, it became the capital of New France. Encouraging settlement was difficult, and while some immigration did occur, by 1763 New France only had a population of some 65,000. [ [http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761563379_21/canada.html British North America: 1763-1841] ] From 1713 to 1787, 30,000 colonists immigrated from France to the St. Domingue. In 1805, when the French were forced out of St. Domingue ( Haiti) 35,000 French settlers were given lands in Cuba. [ [http://www.neta.com/~1stbooks/jrm2.htm Hispanics in the American Revolution] ]
French law made it easy for thousands of "colons", ethnic or national French from former colonies of North and East
Africa, Indiaand Indochinato live in mainland France. It is estimated that 20,000 "colons" were living in Saigonin 1945. 1.6 million European " pieds noirs" migrated from Algeria, Tunisiaand Morocco. [ [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=940DEFDE1539F935A35757C0A96E948260&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all For Pieds-Noirs, the Anger Endures] ] In just a few months in 1962, 900,000 French Algerians left Algeriain the most massive relocation of population in Europe since the World War II. In the 1970s, over 30,000 French "colons" left Cambodiaduring the Khmer Rougeregime as the Pol Potgovernment confiscated their farms and land properties. In November 2004, several thousand of the estimated 14,000 French nationals in Ivory Coastleft country after days of anti-white violence. [ [http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,138116,00.html France, U.N. Start Ivory Coast Evacuation] , FOXNews.com]
Québécois, Acadians, Cajuns, and Métis other populations of French ancestry outside metropolitan France include the " Caldoches" of New Caledoniaand the so-called "Zoreilles" and "Petits-blancs" of various Indian Ocean islands.
Evolution of the French Empire
Overseas departments and territories of France
French law on colonialism(2005 law, repealed in 2006)
Franco-Trarzan War of 1825
French colonial forces
French colonisation of the Americas
French Colonial Union
French Equatorial Africa
French Empire(for the European based empires)
French West Africa
*C. M. Andrew; A. S. Kanya-Forstner. French Business and the French Colonialists. The Historical Journal, Vol. 19, No. 4. (Dec., 1976), pp. 981-1000.
*Mathew Burrows. 'Mission civilisatrice': French Cultural Policy in the Middle East, 1860-1914. The Historical Journal, Vol. 29, No. 1. (Mar., 1986), pp. 109-135.
*Vincent Confer. French Colonial Ideas before 1789. French Historical Studies, Vol. 3, No. 3. (Spring, 1964), pp. 338-359.
*Rupert Emerson. Colonialism. Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 4, No. 1, Colonialism and Decolonization. (Jan., 1969), pp. 3-16.
*Guy Martin. The Historical, Economic, and Political Bases of France's African Policy. The Journal of Modern African Studies, Vol. 23, No. 2. (Jun., 1985), pp. 189-208.
*C. W. Newbury; A. S. Kanya-Forstner. French Policy and the Origins of the Scramble for West Africa. The Journal of African History, Vol. 10, No. 2. (1969), pp. 253-276.
*Thomas Pakenham, "The Scramble for Africa" (1991)
*Maria Petringa, "Brazza, A Life for Africa" (2006)
* [http://www.lafrique.com L'Afrique francophone]
* [http://www.mfa.go.th/web/120.php Threats to the national independence of Thailand] , from
Thailand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
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