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Book Chapter


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Specific languages, 6. HUMANITIES

Publication Details

Chapter in The Shadow of Colonialism on Europe’s Modern Past, ed. Róisín Healy and Enrico Dal Lago (Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), 142–155.


The Algerian War, 1954– 1962, was arguably the most traumatic war of decolonisation fought by Western colonial powers. The French had occupied Algeria since 1830 and the territory had formed three administrative départements of France since 1848. Thus, when conflict arose in 1954, the French administration could not conceive of a situation in which France was at war with itself and this ‘war without a name’ was referred to as ‘the events’ or ‘operations to maintain order’. Indeed, the war was only officially recognised in France in 1999. The war was particularly violent as Algeria was a settler colony in which approximately one million European settlers or Français d’Algérie (French of Algeria) lived alongside approximately nine million Algerians. It has been noted that decolonisation of settler colonies tends to be more violent due to the three- sided conflict that develops between the settlers, the colonial power and the indigenous population.1 This was the case in Algeria, despite frequent depictions of the war as a ‘ two- way battle’ between the French and the Algerians,2 as some Français d’Algérie became involved in the Organisation de l’Armée Secrète (Secret Army Organisation), a terrorist group which opposed Algerian independence. As violence worsened on both sides at the close of the war, it became apparent that the Français d’Algérie, now known as the pieds- noirs, would not be able to continue living in the territory and the vast majority fled to France. However, this migration has remained ‘invisible’ to a certain extent and the pieds- noirs have been an especially neglected aspect of the war.