The French Empire & colonial exhibition of 1931


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A group presentation which was made by me and three others (Lily Hendy, Shamaine Murray and Diana Anichitoaei) for our France's civil wars unit at University of Portsmouth.

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The French Empire & colonial exhibition of 1931

  1. 1.  Overseas territories under French rule  2nd largest empire in size by 1914
  2. 2.  “La mission civilisatrice”  National prestige/power  Trade/raw materials  Source of soldiers  All powers in Europe had imperial aims
  3. 3.  Sense of achievement  ‘La grandeur’  Global presence  Sense of duty  Extension of France « A côté de nos vieilles colonies, ces bijoux de famille égrenés dans l’Atlantique et dans l’océan Indien, c’est la France africaine, grande comme l’Europe. » Besides our old colonies, those family jewels spread across the Atlantic and Indian oceans, we have French Africa, as big as Europe. (Extract from Paul Reynaud’s speech, from Discours inaugural de l’Exposition coloniale, 6 mai 1931.)
  4. 4.  “Un passé qui ne passe pas” (Rousso, 1987)  Decolonisation  Discours de Dakar 2007 & 2012  Intervention in Mali « La colonisation n’est pas responsable de toutes les difficultés actuelles de l’Afrique. Elle n’est pas responsable des guerres sanglantes que se font les Africains entre eux. Elle n’est pas responsable des génocides. Elle n’est pas responsable des dictateurs. Elle n’est pas responsable du fanatisme. Elle n’est pas responsable de la corruption, de la prévarication. Elle n’est pas responsable des gaspillages et de la pollution. » (Sarkozy, 2007)
  5. 5.  Maintaining links with former empire is a way for France to maintain their global presence. E.g. la francaphonie/francafrique  There is still immigration from former colonies  Unhealed wounds - Algerian War, Pied-Noir and Harkis resentment  Persistence of racism, problems with integration and identity - la fracture coloniale
  6. 6. France Rest of World Stable – 3rd year of economic growth (Evans & Godin) Wall Street Crash hugely affected US and Germany Dominant power until 1932 Struggle for economic stability Largest army Germany still under restrictions from Treaty of Versailles 1919 Opening of colonial exhibition in Paris 1931 Britain previously show cased empire exhibition 1924
  7. 7. -A six-month exhibition held in Paris, France in 1931 that attempted to display the diverse cultures and immense resources of France's colonial possessions. - 6 May 1931 in the Bois de Vincennes on the eastern outskirts of Paris - "the most spectacular colonial extravaganza ever staged in the West.“ (Elisabeth Prophet) -Other nations participated in the event, including the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Japan, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the United States. -”Human zoo”
  8. 8.  France’s status as a global power  French vision of colonial life  Mission civilisatrice  Unity/ Power/ Partnership  Comparison of their empire to the whole of Europe.  Oriental states depicted as static, despotic and unorganized Paul Reynard(France`s minister of colonies) explained that the aim of the Exhibition was to make imperialism an integral part of French consciousness “Cultural fantasies which underpinned the determination after ww2 to hang on to colonies long after the concept of empire was discredited.” (Kedward, p.139)
  9. 9.  “In the late 1920s and 1930s, the French state devoted Increasing attention to propagandizing the imperial mission of France.”  “Sought to portray the empire as loyal & valuable”  Colonial subjects = obedient & hard-working  Media coverage meant that most French citizens came to know the French state’s version of events.  Idealised view.
  10. 10.  54tkAKLy_pg  Communist party opposition  Surrealists  Portrayal of women  This propaganda did not discourage people from believing the state’s version of events.  PCF propaganda posters represent colonialism as a force in which France is imprisoning its subjects –opposite representation of the state's view.
  11. 11.  In your own opinion would you agree that France exploited their colonies?  Would you describe the Paris Exhibition of 1931 a “human zoo” or as a means of sharing different cultures?  How was Marianne used to symbolise France during the colonial empire?
  12. 12.  Evans, M. and Godin, E. (2004). France 1815 to 2003. London: Edward Arnold  Kedward, H.R. (2005). La Vie en Bleu. London: Allen Lane.  Rousso, H. (1987). Le syndrome de Vichy. Paris: Seuil  Vann, M. G. (n.d.). []. The colonial exhibition of may 1931., Retrieved from interviews/filetodownload,18533,en.pdf  Evans, M. (2004).Empire and culture: the French experience, 1830-1940. Palgrave: Macmillan