Order and Chaos: Patterns of Decolonization in French and Belgian Africa

Part of the Themes in Comparative History book series (TCH)


This introductory outline of European decolonization has, up to this point, discussed African developments solely with reference to colonies which were either directly ruled by British administrations as Crown Colonies, or were self-governing entities within the British Empire-Commonwealth (the latter cases being those of South Africa and Southern Rhodesia). This by-passing of French, Belgian and Portuguese Africa is glaring given the vast physical extent of the territories involved, and to a somewhat lesser extent, their significant population sizes. The omission, however, is explained by the focus of our study: the dilemmas posed by social and political change were defined earlier and with a much greater degree of sharpness in British Africa. In the Portuguese dependencies, indeed, such a gradual destabilization did not become detectable until after 1960, and did not become acute until after 1970; our brief treatment of this is left until Part V. It was during the 1950s, nevertheless, that French and Belgian colonialism became vulnerable to those forces of change which had long been visited upon their British counterparts. The three significant components of this story which require our attention are events respectively in French West Africa, Algeria and the Belgian Congo.


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6 Order And Chaos: Patterns of Decolonization in French and Belgian Africa

  1. 1.
    See W. A. E. Skurnik, ‘France and Fragmentation in West Africa: 1945–60’, Journal of African History, viii, 2 (1967).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Edward Mortimer, France and the Africans (London, 1969) pp. 105–10.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    For a contemporary survey of late-colonial French West Africa see Virginia Thompson and Richard Adloff, French West Africa (London, 1958).Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    For a discussion of FIDES see Virginia Thompson, ‘French Economic Policy in tropical Africa’, in Peter Duignan and L. H. Gann (eds), Colonialism in Africa, 1870–1960. The Economics of Colonialism (Cambridge, 1975).Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    Two examples of neo-colonial interpretations of decolonization in French West Africa are Gerard Destanne de Bernis, ‘Some Aspects of the Economic Relationship between France and its Ex-colonies’ and Guy Caire, ‘Dependence, Independence and Interdependence in Economic Relations’ in W. H. Morris Jones and Georges Fischer, Decolonization and After: The British and French Experience (London, 1980).Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    Students interested in colonial Algeria may refer to Vincent Confer, France and Algeria: The Problem of Civil and Political Reform, 1870–1920 (Syracuse, 1966).Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    and Rudolf von Albertini, European Colonial Rule 1880–1940: The Impact of the West on India, South-East Asia and Africa (London, 1982).Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    The following treatment of events in Algeria after 1954 is largely based on John Talbot, The War Without a Name: France in Algeria (London, 1981).Google Scholar
  9. 8.
    Alistair Horne, A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954–1962 (New York, 1978).Google Scholar
  10. 8.
    Tony Smith, The French Stake in Algeria 1945–62 (Ithaca, 1978).Google Scholar
  11. 9.
    Lorna Hahn, North Africa: Nationalism to Nationhood (Washington, 1960) pp. 1–132.Google Scholar
  12. 11.
    For some relevant remarks on this matter see Philip M. Williams, Crisis and Compromise: Politics in the Fourth Republic (London, 1972).Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    The theme of the French Army and decolonization is pursued in George M. Kelly, Lost Soldiers: The French Army and Empire in Crisis (Cambridge, Mass., 1965).Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Henry F. Jackson, The FLN in Algeria: development in a revolutionary society (London, 1977) bravely attempts to discuss a subject where information is decidedly sparse.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Rene Lemarchand, Political Awakening in the Congo (Berkeley, 1964) pp. 55–75.Google Scholar
  16. 17.
    Jean Stengers, ‘Precipitous Decolonization: The Case of the Belgian Congo’ in Prosser Gifford and Wm Roger Louis (eds), The Transfer of Power in Africa: Decolonization 1940–60 (Yale, 1982) p. 319.Google Scholar
  17. 18.
    Crawford Young, Politics in the Congo: Decolonization and Independence (Princeton, 1965) pp. 146–52.Google Scholar
  18. 21.
    For a biography see Joseph P. Lash, Hammarskjbid (London, 1962).Google Scholar
  19. 22.
    Conor Cruise O’Brien, To Katanga and Back (New York, 1962) is a famous account of these events by one who was closely involved.Google Scholar

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© R. F. Holland 1985

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