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By William Gallois

Utilizing newly-discovered documentation from the French army files, A heritage of Violence within the Early Algerian Colony deals a entire learn of the sorts of violence followed via the French military in Africa. Its assurance levels from distinctive case experiences of massacres to the query of even if a genocide came about in Algeria.

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88 Bodichon was far from an objective witness to events in the colony, for he was a leading voice in the anti-militarist camp which argued that the army should cede control to civilian administrators. 89 Bodichon’s view was that the idea of ‘the interminable war’ was a political construct which served the interests of the Army in Africa, who were destined to retain control of the colony so long as it was seen to be in a state of war, and those political interests in Paris who were convinced by the generals’ arguments that only the Army could truly create a secure and meaningful national colonial space.

To take one example from 1837, Méchain wrote to the emperor of Morocco to contrast his behaviour towards prisoners as compared with that of Abd el-Kader, whom the French correspondent had to admit was surprisingly liberal in his treatment of prisoners, for this ‘embittered enemy’ tended simply to return such men to the occupying forces. 43 The contrast between the two was even more striking since the ‘devoted Emir never claimed that his prisoners had embraced Islam and had never encouraged them so to do’.

54 This realistic and nuanced appreciation of the effects that calls for holy war had on the lives of the members of their tribes lies absent from dominant French descriptions of the period, and indeed histories of this moment which find an easier concentration on the drama of a war between two opposing groups, represented as Christians and Muslims, the French opposed by Abd el-Kader. The interpretative traps such dichotomies lead towards are quite apparent in the words of Jacques Frémeaux on this theme: In their opposition to the conquest of their country, local populations fell back on their age-old ideology of Jihad [.

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