French Resistance and the Algerian War

Martin Evans has tracked down and interviewed many of those who helped the Algerian FLN - and outlines here the links between the experience of resistance to the Nazis and the struggle against colonial rule.

During the 1950s the Algerian struggle against France and its white settlers for independence inflamed passions and hatreds in both countries - while a small number of Frenchmen and women helped the Algerian liberation movement in defiance of their government and the sentiments of the majority. What made them do it?

The French conquest of Algeria began in 1830. In 1848 Algeria was annexed as three French departments. During the nineteenth century there were two waves of French immigration: post 1848 and post 1881. At the same time Algerians were systematically pauperised. Traditional patterns of land ownership were dismantled and French settlers were allowed to buy or confiscate land. In 1954, French Algeria was a society rigidly polarised along racial lines, economically, politically and culturally. On the one side there were one million French settlers; on the other nine million Algerians. So from the outset the relationship between Algeria and France, French and Algerians, was a racist, colonial one, based on violence.

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