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Hélène de Gobineau’s Noblesse d’Afrique

Prof Margaret Majumdar, Professor of Francophone Studies, University of Portsmouth December 2014’s edition of Le Monde diplomatique discusses the newly republished edition of Hélène de Gobineau’s Noblesse d’Afrique by Présence africaine (Paris, 2014), along with other works relating to the role of African colonial troops in the two world wars. Originally published in Paris in 1946 by Fasquelle éditeurs, this book relates the experiences and stories of African soldiers during the Second World War. These were told to Hélène de Gobineau during her time as a volunteer in prisoner-of-war camps and hospitals where she came into contact with captured African soldiers, many of whom would die of disease, especially tuberculosis. They are remarkable for the stories of individual courage in the fight to preserve a basic human dignity, while not devoid of humour and everyday concerns. Hélène de Gobineau (1903-1958) studied ethnology at the Musée de l’Homme in Paris and was married to the grandson of Arthur de Gobineau, author of Essai sur l’inégalité des races humaines. She clearly did not share the latter’s views on racial inequality and praised the strength and humanity of the African soldiers who took part in the Second World War, as well as their desire […]

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Mapping the casualties of the French army outside of France since 1945

In this post, Dr. Vincent Hiribarren (Lecturer in World History, King’s College London) describes how he made a map of the casualties of the French army outside of France since the end of the Second World War, as well as the aims of his project. Why count French dead soldiers between 1945 and today? This map displays the number of French soldiers who died outside metropolitan France between 1945 and the end of 2013. It is directly based on a similar map created for the United Kingdom and published in The Independent. The present map includes soldiers dead during the colonial period (Madagascar, Indochina, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Cameroon) and losses in other wars such as Korea or conflicts that took place after 1962. The purpose of this map is to show the importance of colonial conflicts since the end of World War II. Of course, the Cold War or the war against terrorism are not to be neglected either. In addition, this map shows that France is involved in numerous conflicts on behalf of the United Nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the European Union or to honour bilateral agreements signed with former colonies. Strikingly, Africa is at the heart of […]

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