By William Gallois
Utilizing newly-discovered documentation from the French army information, A background of Violence within the Early Algerian Colony deals a finished examine of the sorts of violence followed by way of the French military in Africa. Its assurance levels from particular case experiences of massacres to the query of no matter if a genocide came about in Algeria.
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104 Such moral exemplars were of narrative value above and beyond their own actions, as was made plain in a letter Bugeaud written in July 1842: The Army and our Citizens will long remember the heroic actions of the 22 brave men commanded by Sergeant Blandan who, on 11 April between Mered and Bouffarick, preferred to die [in battle] rather than to capitulate before a multitude of Arabs.
One thing both contemporary sources and later historians such as Ageron and Julien are agreed upon is that the early colony was a confusing place. Algeria had been attacked and acquired in a state of some uncertainty and the ﬁrst decade of French rule was marked by both intellectual and bureaucratic turmoil as competing interest groups fought to deﬁne what the colony was for (and indeed against the plural voices in France which advocated a swift end to the Algerian experiment). ’103 Metropolitan audiences demanded meaning from new imperial possessions, which in many senses provided a tremendous opportunity for groups such as soldiers and doctors to generate easily comprehended explanatory models which explained how a colony had come into being, how it should be made and what it would contribute to France.
No longer will we ﬁnd ourselves 24 A History of Violence in the Early Algerian Colony locked in the rugged country: no more woods, ravines or mountains. Instead, our work will take place on the immense plain, on terrain which will favour marching and the deployment of the cavalry. The nature of the war will change too, for no longer will we need to seize and occupy redoubts, for we will be chasing an enemy ﬂeeing great distances with his herds and his riches, and we will rely on speed above all to capture him.