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v2.1 Reference

Race and War in France

Colonial Subjects in the French Army, 1914–1918

During the First World War, the French army deployed more than 500,000 colonial subjects to European battlefields. The struggle against a common enemy associated these soldiers with the French nation, but racial and cultural differences left them on the outside. This study investigates French conceptions of race and national identity at the time as reflected in the attitudes and policies directed toward these soldiers.

How far did French egalitarianism extend in welcoming and disciplining nonwhite troops? Using the experiences of African and Asian colonial soldiers, Richard S. Fogarty examines how tensions between racial prejudices and strong traditions of republican universalism and egalitarianism resulted in often contradictory and paradoxical policies. Employing a socially and culturally integrated approach to the history of warfare that connects military and political policies with the society and culture in which they developed, Fogarty presents a fresh picture of how the French came to deal with race relations, religious differences, and French identity itself.

About the Author

Richard S. Fogarty is an associate professor of history at the University at Albany, State University of New York.


Fogarty's study forms a nice addition to the study of modern European imperialism, and it should also be of interest to students of modern French military history.

- Choice

This subtle and extraordinarily informative book explores the interaction of republican ideology and race... This is an elegant and well-argued study that deserves wide circulation, in the classroom and beyond.

- Leonard V. Smith - American Historical Review

The author presents a fresh picture of how France dealt with these tensions while fighting and winning a total war.

- Len Shurtleff - Western Front Association

Fogarty's success in illustrating the 'curious blend of tolerance and intolerance, the tension between republicanism and racism, that marked France's approach to colonial subjects in its army' ensures that readers interested in France and in the history of colonial relations will appreciate this excellent book.

- Kelly Duke Bryant - Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History

Fogarty provides readers with a solid review of the challenges of war, human rights, and colonialism in a very readable and well-documented book.

- David C. Bennett - Parameters

Through his meticulous research, the breadth of his study's scope, and his valuable comparative perspective, Fogarty has made an ambitious and enduring contribution to the literature about the French use of colonial peoples during the First World War.

- Joe Lunn - War in History

Fogarty... contributes greatly to our understanding of the Great War, colonial policies and French beliefs about the indigenous other.

- Brett A. Berliner - Journal of Intercultural Studies

In his clearly written and well-researched book, Richard Fogarty explains French notions of race and nation by examining French policies toward the half million African and Asian men deployed as troops in Europe during World War I.

- Lorelle D. Semley - Journal of World History

A well-written, carefully argued study that advances in significant ways our understanding of the important place of empire in the Great War... It is a sad but important tale that needed to be told, and Richard Fogarty has told it well.

- Martha Hanna - French Politics, Culture & Society

An impressive achievement, one that both supports and advances the historiography of colonial and postcolonial France.

- H-France

Fogarty's principal strength lies in pointing out that, while racism frequently prevailed, the assimilationist ideal always played a role, and that French officers would always have to respond to it. Showing this basic ambivalence in French culture helps correct a picture, in which racism is often too easily regarded as the only criterion to define relations between Non-Europeans and Europeans in the French Empire.

- Alexander Keese - Journal of Military History

A welcome and significant contribution to the history of these contradictions and their legacies in modern France by examining how French attempts to integrate colonial troops into the French Army during World War I deployed ideas about racial difference and in the process exposed the contradictions of the republican model.

- Laura Levine Frader - Journal of Interdisciplinary History

This is a book about both the promise and the shortcomings of French republican ideals... A vivid portrait of the questions raised by the use of colonial troops in the war.

- Mary Dewhurst Lewis - French History

Fogarty pays particular attention to the experience and opinions of the soldiers themselves. This is, in itself, a significant achievement.

- Journal of Modern History

Everyone who wishes to know more about France's complex relations with its colonial subjects and their influence on current French reality should read War and Race in France.

- Ruth Ginio - First World War Studies


Well written, intelligently conceptualized, and exhaustively researched. Fogarty provides a nicely nuanced portrait of French racial thinking. The fact that he combines both metropolitan and colonial perspectives gives him an especially powerful vantage point on the role played by racial difference in French life. An impressive and valuable example of historical scholarship.

- Tyler Stovall, University of California, Berkeley

Richard Fogarty builds on a considerable body of scholarship and adds creative research of his own in Race and War in France: Colonial Subjects in the French Army, 1914–1918.

- Clifford Rosenberg
Johns Hopkins University Press
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