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Empire replayed, Resistance changes sides, 1945-1962

This lecture explores the reassertion of French power in its former Empire in the face of growing demands for self-determination, and the mobilisation in defence of empire not only of the rhetoric of French greatness but that of the universal Republic. It looks at the contradiction in the republican ideology that claimed to be civilising and liberating while imposing colonial domination and inequalities. It also traces how the language of resistance was contested between the defenders of French colonies and those who sided with the struggle of colonial peoples for national liberation and condemned the French army’s use of torture against rebels in Algeria as the use of Nazi practices. Attempts to think through more modern approaches to French power by Mendès France and de Gaulle were consistently denounced as capitulation and abandonment, recalling Munich or 1940. The battle over the future of Algeria is examined both a struggle within the Resistance camp - with those sympathising with Algerian liberation building bridges to Algerian workers in France - and between the former Free French who surrounded de Gaulle and generals of the former Army of Africa, in league with the formerly pro-Vichy settler community in Algeria, who tried by putsch and terrorism to prevent a further abandonment of its responsibilities by France.

A podcast of this lecture is available on Vimeo at:

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