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Race and War in France

, 400 pages

10 halftones, 2 maps

July 2008



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Race and War in France

Colonial Subjects in the French Army, 1914–1918

Winner, 2009 Best First Book Prize, Phi Alpha Theta

During the First World War, the French army deployed more than 500,000 colonial subjects to European battlefields. The struggle against a common enemy associated these soldiers with the French nation, but racial and cultural differences left them on the outside. This study investigates French conceptions of race and national identity at the time as reflected in the attitudes and policies directed toward these soldiers.

How far did French egalitarianism extend in welcoming and disciplining nonwhite troops? Using the experiences of African and Asian colonial soldiers, Richard S. Fogarty examines how tensions between racial prejudices and strong traditions of republican universalism and egalitarianism resulted in often contradictory and paradoxical policies. Employing a socially and culturally integrated approach to the history of warfare that connects military and political policies with the society and culture in which they developed, Fogarty presents a fresh picture of how the French came to deal with race relations, religious differences, and French identity itself.

Richard S. Fogarty is an associate professor of history at the University at Albany, State University of New York.

"Fogarty's study forms a nice addition to the study of modern European imperialism, and it should also be of interest to students of modern French military history."

"This subtle and extraordinarily informative book explores the interaction of republican ideology and race... This is an elegant and well-argued study that deserves wide circulation, in the classroom and beyond."

"The author presents a fresh picture of how France dealt with these tensions while fighting and winning a total war."

"Fogarty's success in illustrating the 'curious blend of tolerance and intolerance, the tension between republicanism and racism, that marked France's approach to colonial subjects in its army' ensures that readers interested in France and in the history of colonial relations will appreciate this excellent book."

"Fogarty provides readers with a solid review of the challenges of war, human rights, and colonialism in a very readable and well-documented book."

"Through his meticulous research, the breadth of his study's scope, and his valuable comparative perspective, Fogarty has made an ambitious and enduring contribution to the literature about the French use of colonial peoples during the First World War."

"Fogarty... contributes greatly to our understanding of the Great War, colonial policies and French beliefs about the indigenous other."

"In his clearly written and well-researched book, Richard Fogarty explains French notions of race and nation by examining French policies toward the half million African and Asian men deployed as troops in Europe during World War I."

"A well-written, carefully argued study that advances in significant ways our understanding of the important place of empire in the Great War... It is a sad but important tale that needed to be told, and Richard Fogarty has told it well."

"An impressive achievement, one that both supports and advances the historiography of colonial and postcolonial France."

"Fogarty's principal strength lies in pointing out that, while racism frequently prevailed, the assimilationist ideal always played a role, and that French officers would always have to respond to it. Showing this basic ambivalence in French culture helps correct a picture, in which racism is often too easily regarded as the only criterion to define relations between Non-Europeans and Europeans in the French Empire."

"A welcome and significant contribution to the history of these contradictions and their legacies in modern France by examining how French attempts to integrate colonial troops into the French Army during World War I deployed ideas about racial difference and in the process exposed the contradictions of the republican model."

"This is a book about both the promise and the shortcomings of French republican ideals... A vivid portrait of the questions raised by the use of colonial troops in the war."

"Fogarty pays particular attention to the experience and opinions of the soldiers themselves. This is, in itself, a significant achievement."

"Everyone who wishes to know more about France's complex relations with its colonial subjects and their influence on current French reality should read War and Race in France."

"Well written, intelligently conceptualized, and exhaustively researched. Fogarty provides a nicely nuanced portrait of French racial thinking. The fact that he combines both metropolitan and colonial perspectives gives him an especially powerful vantage point on the role played by racial difference in French life. An impressive and valuable example of historical scholarship."

"Richard Fogarty builds on a considerable body of scholarship and adds creative research of his own in Race and War in France: Colonial Subjects in the French Army, 1914–1918."

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