Monday Lectures

29 March 2021

Algeria Decolonised: The Algerian War (1954-1962), Causes and Consequences

Scene from the "The Battle of Algiers" (1966), Italian-Algerian historical war film co-written and directed by Gillo Pontecorvo

In 1962, after 132 years, the ‘Natives’ of Algeria finally seceded from mainland France. This war of secession or war of independence left behind it a bloody trail. It is hard to say when it precisely started, but it is easier to trace the blunders that allowed this tragedy to take place.

 

We shall start with World War One, because participation in this war produced, in the words of Benjamin Stora, a ‘loss of innocence’. Algerian Muslims fought bravely for France and received little compensation. Attempts at reform in the inter-war years were also doomed to failure as the gap between the Paris governments and the colonists of Algeria rapidly grew.

 

The inter-war years witnessed the birth of a national consciousness amongst native Algerians and a desire for independence. World War Two once again saw the active participation of Algerian French Natives in the liberation of occupied France: From that experience, they brought back a lesson that would soon be applied to their homeland, Algeria.

 

November 1st is celebrated in Algeria as ‘Independence Day’. It was indeed on that day in 1954 that open hostilities started. The war lasted eight years. It took a number of twists and turns. It ended with enormous numbers of casualties and an open wound on both sides of the Mediterranean Sea.

 

This talk aims to analyze the causes and consequences of the Algerian war and look at ways that are currently being proposed to address its painful memories.

Exile: Algerian Europeans (Pieds noirs) with their meager luggage at the Maison Blanche airport waiting for their flight to France on 23 May 1962.