Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Decolonization Pains

Seminar Questions:

  • How did the French "invent" decolonization?

  • Why did the Algerian War become so brutal?

  • How did the French react to the Algerian War?

  • How did decolonization reshape French society?

  • Consider and compare Sartre's introduction and A Djebar's Fantasia. How do they reflect tensions between particular national identities and university principles stretching back to the French Revolution.

Core Texts:

  • T Shepard, The Invention of Decolonization (2006), chap 2.

  • J Cole, 'Massacres and their historians: Recent Histories of State Violence in France and Algeria in the Twentieth Century' French Politics, Culture, and Society 28:1 (2010) 106-26

  • J P Sartre's 'Preface' to Frantz Fanon, Wretched of the Earth (1967)

  • Background: Popkin, History of Modern France, ch. 30.
  • Optional: The history of decolonization is complex. A useful introduction is: R Kedward, La vie en bleu (2005), chap 13 [digitized book extract]

Further reading:

Primary sources


  • J Dulffer and M Frey (eds), Elites and decolonization in the twentieth century (2011)

  • D Schalk, War and the ivory tower: Algeria and Vietnam (2005)

  • K Ross, Fast Cars, Clean Bodies (1995)

  • P C Sorum, Intellectuals and Decolonization in France (1977)

  • R Betts, France and Decolonization 1900-1960 (1991)

  • H Lebovics, Bringing the Empire Back Home (2004)

  • B Digre, 'The United Nations, France, and African Independence: A Case Study of Togo,' French Colonial History 5 (2004)

  • D Sherman, French Primitivism and the End of Empire, 1945-1975 ( 2011)

The Algerian War

  • P Naylor, 'A Reconsideration of the Fourth Republic's Legacy and Algerian Decolonization' French Colonial History, 2, (2002). 159-180

  • Philip Dine, Images of the Algerian war: French fiction and film, 1954-1992 (1994)

  • John Talbot, The war without a name: France in Algeria, 1954-1962 (1981)

  • J Le Sueur, Uncivil War: Intellectuals and Identity Politics during the decolonization of Algeria (2005)

  • Patricia M. E. Lorcin, ed., Algeria and France, 1800–2000: Identity, Memory, Nostalgia (2006)

  • J Ruedy, Modern Algeria: The Origins and Development of a Nation (2005)

  • N Vince, Transgressing Boundaries: Gender, Race, Religion, and “Françaises Musulmanes” during the Algerian War of Independence,' French Historical Studies, Vol. 33, No. 3 (Summer 2010)

  • J Cole, 'Massacres and their historians,' French Politics, Culture, and Society 28: (2010)

  • A Horne, A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962 (1997)

  • B Stora, Algeria, 1830-2000: A short History (2004)

  • C Ageron, Modern Algeria: A History from 1830 to the Present (1991)

  • D Joly, The French Communist Party and the Algerian War (1991)

  • G Adams, The Call of Conscience: French Protestant Responses to the Algerian War (1998)

  • M Evans, The Memory of Resistance: French Opposition to the Algerian War (1997)

  • M Alexander et al. (eds) The Algerian War and the French Army, 1954-1962 (2002)

  • M Alexander, 'Seeking France's "Lost Soldiers",' in K Moure and M Alexander (eds), Crisis and Renewal in France (2002)

  • J House and N MacMaster, Paris 1961 (2006)

  • M Lazreg, Torture and the twilight of empire : from Algiers to Baghdad (2008)

  • V Crapanzano, The Harkis: The Wound that never heals (2011)

  • S Tyre, 'From Algerie Française to France Musulmane: Jacques Soustelle and the Myths and Realities of ‘Integration’, 1955–1962,' French History 20:3 (2006)


  • D Biggs, Quagmire: Nation-Building and Nature in the Mekong Delta (2010)

  • P Brocheux and Dl Heìmery,Indochina: An Ambiguous Colonization, 1858-1954 (2009)

  • R. E. M. Irving. The First Vietnam War (1975)

  • M Shipway, The Road to War, France and Vietnam 1944-47 (1996)