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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