By William Gallois

Utilizing newly-discovered documentation from the French army documents, A historical past of Violence within the Early Algerian Colony bargains a entire research of the different types of violence followed by way of the French military in Africa. Its assurance levels from exact case experiences of massacres to the query of no matter if a genocide happened in Algeria.

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35 A tension therefore existed between two types of wickedness here, with the demands of the sacred challenged by the avarice of the profane. What was clearer from such texts was the assurance that faced with the threats of the Mahometans, the good European should not renounce their own faith and convert. The angelic figures of French women, such as Mlle de Bourke, came to symbolise the virtues of such resistance. ’36 Yet the more detailed substance of such texts reveal the fact that such declarations were reflections of European anxieties that their countrymen should choose to convert to Islam.

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’.

Michel has analysed ‘Une guerre interminable’ and Benjamin Stora alleged that ‘The French army faced strong resistance. ’87 Such claims have in a sense cohered to become an uncontested backdrop to the story of the First Algerian War, yet there are compelling reasons for thinking that they rely on a somewhat uncritical reading of only very specific types of sources from the 1830s and ’40s. Indeed, a case can be made that the ‘interminable’, ‘long and difficult’ struggle in which ‘The French army faced strong resistance’ was essentially chimeric and a poor description of the encounters between soldiers and Indigènes at this moment.

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