Thursday, December 6, 2012

French Colonialism - The War of Algeria's Independence

Setif Massacre
The strong movement for Algeria's Independence started after Algerian soldiers fought in World War I. In Woodrow Wilson's 14 point speech, he made note to the self rule of colonies and following the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, 1917, communist movements began popping up in France. The communist party of France supported Algerian independence and the North African Star party was established in Algeria, 1926; however it was met with French opposition and disbanded in 1929. At this time, Algerians were not able to obtain French citizenship and France decided to allow some to obtain it; this move was opposed by many Algerians. The French were not ready to give up the colony. The newest party, Party of the Algerian People was founded in 1937 and disbanded shortly thereafter. Following the Allied victory in World War II, a parade in Algeria led to a riot killing some French. This was met by retaliation from the French Army, where approximately 40, 000 were killed. Algerian anti colonialists determined that an armed resistance would be necessary to achieve independence and thus the Special Organisation was established in 1947. In 1954, it was the National Liberation Front that formed and the war began. That same year, a UN debate voted in favour of Algeria's independence. The French used tactics including psychological warfare and torture to death during the war, which led the public opinion of France to decline and this war was no longer supported. In 1960, the French leader Henry De Gaulle voiced his support for Algerian independence and a referendum in France in 1962, voted in favour of Algerian independence.

Ahmed, Nazeer, PhD. “The War of Algeria's Independence 1954-62, ” accessed December 6, 2012.’s-independence-1954-62/

Parienté, Jonathan & Pouchard, Alexandre. "Vél d'Hiv, Sétif, essais nucléaires : les repentances de l'Etat," accessed December 8, 2012,  


Jean Prouvé was commissioned to produce three prototype homes that could be mass produced for the French colonies of West and Central Africa to address the shortage of infrastructure in 1949. The hope was that these buildings could be applied to both residential and civic buildings.  Photos of Maison Tropicale in Brazzaville in 1951 and in its present state today show the increase in infrastructure in the region.  This house was also created to sell aluminum for Aluminum Français.  Jean Prouvé sold part of his shop, Atelier de Jean Prouvé to Aluminum Français in order to get government projects.  However, in contracts, Prouvé was required to increase the use of aluminum in his design.  As well, the design of these houses capitalized on France's ability to produce aluminum following the end of World War II.  
Brazzaville, 1950s

Brazzaville, now

Any such political move is done with underlying motives.  The underlying motivation can be seen as way to appease  and assimilate African colonies, which were moving towards independence and anti colonialism at the time. The French government attempted to improve the rights of French colonies, without actually providing autonomy. The need to appease and assimilate the French colonies of West and Central Africa was necessary for France to be able to stay in these colonies and operate them. These colonies have some of the greatest amount of bauxite resources available, and France required this bauxite to ship home to produce aluminum. As well, the loss of these colonies, would result in a loss of markets for French goods, which would follow the impending loss of the Vietnamese and Algerian markets. The situation in Africa needed to be approached with tentativeness as situations in Vietnam and Algeria were worsening, and France's violent resistance led to failure. France's approach to dealing with stalemate in Vietnam was to open fire, killing 6, 000 (1946). The approach to retaliating a riot by a mob in Algeria led to death of approximately 40, 000 in a killing spree by the French Army (Setif Massacre, 1945). Both approaches sparked independence wars: the First Indochina War (1946) and the War of Algerian Independence (1954). Maison Tropicale can be seen as a non violent political tool employed by the French government in order to retain control of the flow of resources and goods between the colonies and France.  

O'Day, Kathleen. “Tropical or Colonial? A Reception History of Jean Prouvé's Prefabricated Houses For Africa.” (Thesis, Louisiana State University and Art College, 2009.)

"The Architect," accessed November 10, 2012,

"Ruins of the 20th Century," accessed December 9, 2012,

French Colonialism - First (French) Indochina War

Ho Chi Minh
During French Colonial rule in the 1930's, the Vietnamese were becoming anti colonial, opposing French rule, especially considering that factories were all French run. The most prominent example being Ho Chi Minh communism in favour of colonialism proposition. In 1930 he created the Indochina Communist Party and was met with opposition by the French government, who had him condemned to death. After the fall of France to Germany in 1940, he was able to take advantage of this situation and shortly thereafter, he and his lieutenants entered Vietnam in 1941. Then he established the League for the Independence of Vietnam (Viet Minh), which replaced the former Indochina Communist Party. In 1945, he declared Vietnam independent, meeting greater resistance from the French government. Charles de Gaulle was the leader of France at the time and opposed Minh's take over of Vietnam and therefore sent in French troops, which reclaimed control of South Vietnam. Negotiations occurred between the two parties, but led nowhere. The stalemate was broken, when the French opened fire on Vietnamese, killing 6, 000 and starting the First (or French) Indochina War (1946 - 1954). Through guerrilla tactics, Minh's army was able to defeat the French, ending the war in a landslide for the Viet Minh at the battle of Dien Bien Phu. France had built up an developed Vietnam as colony to supply the entire empire with rubber. With the loss of this colony in 1954, it was no longer self sufficient. As well, the loss of the colony, meant that the French Empire lost a market for the empire's goods, as Vietnam could no longer have French goods forced upon them.
Dien Bien Phu
Dien Bien Phu Map

Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s. v. "Indochina wars," accessed December 05, 2012,

Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s. v. "Ho Chi Minh," accessed December 05, 2012,

Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s. v. "Battle of Dien Bien Phu," accessed December 05, 2012,

"Dien Bien Phu,"  accessed December 8, 2012,

"A Day That Shook ...," accessed December 8, 2012,