French Algeria

French Algeria

Algérie française (French)
الجزائر المستعمرة (Arabic)
Anthem: La Marseillaise
(instrumental only)
Chronological map of French Algeria's evolution.
Chronological map of French Algeria's evolution.
and largest city
Official languages
GovernmentFrench Department
July 5 1830
July 5 1962
• Total
2,381,741 km2 (919,595 sq mi)
CurrencyFranc (FF)
Time zoneUTC+1 (CET)
Date formatdd/mm/yyyy
Driving sideright
ISO 3166 codeDZ
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Regency of Algiers
People's Democratic Republic of Algeria
Today part of Algeria

French Algeria (French: Alger to 1839, then Algérie afterwards;[1] unofficially Algérie française,[2][3] Arabic: الجزائر المستعمرة‎), also known as Colonial Algeria, began in 1830 with the invasion of Algiers and lasted until 1962, under a variety of governmental systems. From 1848 until independence, the whole Mediterranean region of Algeria was administered as an integral part of France.

One of France's longest-held overseas territories, Algeria became a destination for hundreds of thousands of European immigrants known as colons and, later, as pieds-noirs. However, the indigenous Muslim population remained a majority of the territory's population throughout its history. Gradually, dissatisfaction among the Muslim population with its lack of political and economic status fueled calls for greater political autonomy, and eventually independence from France. Tensions between the two population groups came to a head in 1954, when the first violent events began of what was later called the Algerian War, characterized by guerrilla warfare and illegal methods used by the French in order to put down the revolt. The war concluded in 1962, when Algeria gained independence following the March 1962 Evian agreements and the July 1962 self-determination referendum.

During its last years of existence, French Algeria was the founding member state of the United Nations, NATO and the European Economic Community (later the European Union).


Initial conflicts

Purchase of Christian slaves by French monks in Algiers in 1662
Bombardment of Algiers in 1682, by Abraham Duquesne

Since the 1516 capture of Algiers by the Ottoman admirals, the brothers Ours and Hayreddin Barbarossa, Algeria had been a base for conflict and piracy in the Mediterranean. In 1681, Louis XIV asked Admiral Abraham Duquesne to fight the Berber pirates and also ordered a large-scale attack on Algiers between 1682 and 1683 on the pretext of assisting Christian captives.[4] Again, Jean II d'Estrées bombarded Tripoli and Algiers from 1685 to 1688. An ambassador from Algiers visited the Court in Versailles, and a Treaty was signed in 1690 that provided peace throughout the 18th century.[5]

During the Directory regime of the First French Republic (1795–99), the Bacri and the Busnach, Jewish negotiators of Algiers, provided important quantities of grain for Napoleon's soldiers who participated in the Italian campaign of 1796. However, Bonaparte refused to pay the bill back, claiming it was excessive. In 1820, Louis XVIII paid back half of the Directory's debts. The dey, who had loaned to the Bacri 250,000 francs, requested from France the rest of the money.

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Emblem of Algeria.svg
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The Dey of Algiers himself was weak politically, economically, and militarily. Algeria was then part of the Barbary States, along with today's Tunisia – which depended on the Ottoman Empire then led by Mahmud II — but enjoyed relative independence. The Barbary Coast was then the stronghold of the Berber pirates, which carried out raids against European and American ships.

Bombardment of Algiers in August 1816 by the British Royal Navy, commanded by Lord Exmouth and painted by Thomas Luny.

Conflicts between the Barbary States and the newly independent United States of America culminated in the First (1801–05) and Second (1815) Barbary Wars. An Anglo-Dutch force, led by Admiral Lord Exmouth, carried out a punitive expedition, the August 1816 bombardment of Algiers. The Dey was forced to sign the Barbary treaties, while the technological advance of U.S., British, and French forces overwhelmed the Algerians' expertise at naval warfare.[citation needed]

The name of "Algeria" itself came from the French. Following the conquest under the July monarchy, the Algerian territories, disputed with the Ottoman Empire, were first named "French possessions in North Africa" before being called "Algeria" by Marshal General Jean-de-Dieu Soult, Duke of Dalmatia, in 1839.[6]

French conquest of Algeria

The French colonial empire in 1920

The conquest of Algeria was initiated in the last days of the Bourbon Restoration by Charles X, as an attempt to increase his popularity amongst the French people, particularly in Paris, where many veterans of the Napoleonic Wars lived. His intention was to bolster patriotic sentiment, and distract attention from ineptly handled domestic policies by "skirmishing against the dey".[7]

Fly Whisk Incident (April 1827)

In the 1790s, France had contracted to purchase wheat for the French army from two merchants in Algiers, Messrs. Bacri and Boushnak, and was in arrears paying them. These merchants, Bacri and Boushnak who had debts to the dey, claimed inability to pay those debts until France paid its debts to them. The dey had unsuccessfully negotiated with Pierre Deval, the French consul, to rectify this situation, and he suspected Deval of collaborating with the merchants against him, especially when the French government made no provisions for repaying the merchants in 1820. Deval's nephew Alexandre, the consul in Bône, further angered the dey by fortifying French storehouses in Bône and La Calle against the terms of prior agreements.[8]

After a contentious meeting in which Deval refused to provide satisfactory answers on 29 April 1827, the dey struck Deval with his fly whisk. Charles X used this slight against his diplomatic representative to first demand an apology from the dey, and then to initiate a blockade against the port of Algiers. France demanded that the dey send an ambassador to France to resolve the incident. When the dey responded with cannon fire directed toward one of the blockading ships, the French determined that more forceful action was required.[9]

Invasion of Algiers (June 1830)

The attack of Admiral Duperré during the take-over of Algiers in 1830
Fighting at the gates of Algiers in 1830
Ornate Ottoman cannon, length: 385cm, cal:178mm, weight: 2910, stone projectile, founded 8 October 1581 in Algiers, seized by France at Algiers in 1830. Musée de l'Armée, Paris.

Pierre Deval and other French residents of Algiers left for France, while the Minister of War, Clermont-Tonnerre, proposed a military expedition. However, the Count of Villèle, an ultra-royalist, President of the Council and the monarch's heir, opposed any military action. The Restoration finally decided to blockade Algiers for three years, but the overpowering presence of the French naval force prevented an incursion beyond the coastal perimeter. Meanwhile, the Berber pirates were able to exploit the geography of the coast with ease. Before the failure of the blockade, the Restoration decided on 31 January 1830 to engage a military expedition against Algiers.

Admiral Duperré commandeered an armada of 600 ships that originated from Toulon, leading it to Algiers. Using Napoleon's 1808 contingency plan for the invasion of Algeria, General de Bourmont then landed 27 kilometres (17 mi) west of Algiers, at Sidi Ferruch on 14 June 1830, with 34,000 soldiers. In response to the French, the Algerian dey ordered an opposition consisting of 7,000 janissaries, 19,000 troops from the beys of Constantine and Oran, and about 17,000 Kabyles. The French established a strong beachhead and pushed toward Algiers, thanks in part to superior artillery and better organization. The French troops took the advantage on 19 June during the battle of Staouéli, and entered Algiers on 5 July after a three-week campaign. The dey agreed to surrender in exchange for his freedom and the offer to retain possession of his personal wealth. Five days later, he exiled himself with his family, departing on a French ship for the Italian peninsula, then under the control of the Austrian Empire. 2,500 janissaries also quit the Algerian territories, heading for Asia,[clarification needed] on 11 July. The dey's departure ended 313 years of Ottoman rule of the territory.

The French army then recruited the first zouaves (a title given to certain light infantry regiments) in October, followed by the spahis regiments, while France expropriated all the land properties belonging to the Turkish settlers, known as Beliks. In the western region of Oran, Sultan Abderrahmane of Morocco, the Commander of the Believers, could not remain indifferent to the massacres committed by the French Christian troops and to belligerent calls to enter jihad from the marabouts. Despite the diplomatic rupture between Morocco and the Two Sicilies in 1830, and the naval warfare engaged against the Austrian Empire as well as with Spain, then headed by Ferdinand VII, Sultan Abderrahmane lent his support to the Algerian insurgency triggered by Abd El-Kader. The latter would fight for years against the French. Directing an army of 12,000 men, Abd El-Kader first organized the blockade of Oran.

Algerian refugees were welcomed by the Moroccan population, while the Sultan recommended that the authorities of Tetuan assist them, by providing jobs in the administration or the military forces. The inhabitants of Tlemcen, close to the Moroccan border, asked that they be placed under the Sultan's authority in order to escape the invaders. Abderrahmane thus named his nephew, Prince Moulay Ali, as Caliph of Tlemcen, charged with the protection of the city. In retaliation France executed two Moroccans: Mohamed Beliano and Benkirane as spies, while their goods were seized by the military governor of Oran, General Boyer.

Hardly had the news of the capture of Algiers reached Paris than Charles X was deposed during the Three Glorious Days of July 1830, and his cousin Louis-Philippe, the "citizen king", was named to preside over a constitutional monarchy. The new government, composed of liberal opponents of the Algiers expedition, was reluctant to pursue the conquest begun by the old regime, but withdrawing from Algeria proved more difficult than conquering it.[citation needed]

Characterization as genocide

Some governments and scholars have called France's conquest of Algeria a genocide for example,

Ben Kiernan an Australian expert on the Cambodian genocide[10] wrote in Blood and Soil: A World History of Genocide and Extermination from Sparta to Darfur on the French conquest of Algeria:[11]

By 1875, the French conquest was complete. The war had killed approximately 825,000 indigenous Algerians since 1830. A long shadow of genocidal hatred persisted, provoking a French author to protest in 1882 that in Algeria, "we hear it repeated every day that we must expel the native and if necessary destroy him." As a French statistical journal urged five years late, "the system of extermination must give way to a policy of penetration."
-Ben Kiernan, Blood and Soil

In response to France's recognition of Armenian Genocide Turkey accused France of committing genocide against 15% of Algeria's population.[12][13]

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