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A research visit to Benin

In this post, Prof Tony Chafer reports on his recent research trip in Benin and some of the challenges and opportunities available there for scholars working on French West Africa. Having worked on decolonisation in former French West Africa for many years, Alex Keese and I wondered why no one, in the many studies we have read, has used the Benin archives. We knew of academics who had used the Senegal national archives, those of Mali, Mauritania and – to a lesser extent – Côte d’Ivoire, but no one, it seemed, had used the Benin archives. Yet Dahomey (modern Benin) had once been described as the Latin quarter of Africa, because of the number of French-educated Africans trained there, and graduates from its schools were to be found working for the colonial administration throughout French West Africa. The territory’s importance for any study of decolonisation in West Africa was thus beyond doubt. Initial prospects for the visit did not look good. There was no sign of the national archives on the internet and it was only when I stumbled across a local press article on the web, reporting on the events that had been organised that week to mark the […]

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New book announcement – We are no longer in France: Communists in colonial Algeria by Allison Drew

This new book by Professor Allison Drew (University of York) recovers the lost history of colonial Algeria’s communist movement. Meticulously researched – and the only English-language book on the Parti Communiste Algérien – it explores communism’s complex relationship with Algerian nationalism. During international crises, such as the Popular Front and Second World War years, the PCA remained close to its French counterpart, but as the national liberation struggle intensified, the PCA’s concern with political and social justice attracted growing numbers of Muslims. When the Front de Libération Nationale launched armed struggle in November 1954, the PCA maintained its organisational autonomy – despite FLN pressure. They participated fully in the national liberation war, facing the French state’s wrath. Independence saw two conflicting socialist visions, with the PCA’s incorporated political pluralism and class struggle on the one hand, and the FLN demand for a one-party socialist state on the other. The PCA’s pluralist vision was shattered when it was banned by the one-party state in November 1962. This book is of particular interest to students and scholars of Algerian history, French colonial history and communist history. For more information and details on how to purchase this book, please visit the Manchester University Press website.

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