HIS42810 French Colonial Identities

Academic Year 2022/2023

This module will examine aspects of the interaction between France and French culture, on the one hand, and the societies and cultures of her colonial empire. Covering the years between the seizure of Algiers in 1830 and the end of the Algerian war in 1962, it concentrates on the two key areas of North Africa and Indochina (Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos). The texts for weekly discussion (all in English translation) are a mixture of French intellectual and literary responses to empire and texts written by 'indigenous' intellectuals, mapping their often ambiguous responses to French civilisation.

1. Introducing French colonial history
2. The Liberal Genocide: Alexis de Tocqueville on Algeria
3. Mapping the colonial world: The invention of Laos
4. The Uses of the Precolonial Past: Angkor Wat and the Granary of Africa
5. The Rickshaw: A Global History
6. Education and the Transformation of Traditional Culture: Mouloud Ferraoun and Nguyen Khac Vien
7. On Becoming Modern: Vu Trong Phung and 1930s Hanoi
8. Colonial Encounters 1: Albert Camus and Pied Noir Identities in Algeria
9. Colonial Encounters 2: Albert Memmi and the colonisers and the colonised in Tunisia
10. Colonial Encounters 3: Marguerite Duras on race and gender in Indochina
11. Writing Violence: Frantz Fanon and Jean-Paul Sartre
12. The Battle of Algiers Remembered: Zohra Drif-Bitat and Gillo Pontecorvo

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of the module, students should be able to place the French colonial enterprise in international context, assessing the different ways in which the confrontation with the empire differed in France and Britain, for example. They should be able to trace the deep roots of the violence that accompanied decolonisation in France and grasp the intolerance implicit within the French Jacobin model, intolerance that negated both the purported 'civilising mission' and the French revolutionary championing of the Rights of Man.

Indicative Module Content:

See the outline of seminars above in "Purpose and Content'

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
Students will be furnished with the set texts in advance of the weekly seminars. Each two-hour session will begin with a short lecture (20-30 minutes). The rest of the class will be devoted to discussion of the texts themselves and their relation to the themes discussed in the lecture.

The approach used therefore combines independent research, active learning and class debate. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Continuous Assessment: Participation in class debates Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded Yes


Essay: One 4000 essay on a subject to be determined by the student after consultation with the module coordinator Week 12 n/a Graded Yes


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Summer No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, on an activity or draft prior to summative assessment
• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Feedback will be given orally on a weekly basis throughout the semester. Written feedback will be provided on the completed term paper.