Imperial Rule and the Politics of Nationalism: Anti-Colonial Protest in the French Empire

Why did colonial subjects mobilize for national independence from the French empire? This question has rarely been posed because the answer appears obvious: in the modern era, nationalism was bound to confront colonialism. This book argues against taking nationalist mobilization for granted. Contrary to conventional accounts, it shows that nationalism was not the only or even the primary form of anti-colonialism. Drawing on archival sources, comparative historical analysis, and case studies, Lawrence examines the movements for political equality that emerged in the French empire during the first half of the twentieth century. Within twenty years, they had been replaced by movements for national independence in the majority of French colonies, protectorates, and mandates. Lawrence shows that elites in the colonies shifted from demands for egalitarian reforms to calls for independent statehood only where the French refused to grant political rights to colonial subjects. Where rights were granted, colonial subjects opted for further integration and reform. Nationalist discourses became dominant as a consequence of the failure to reform. Mass protests then erupted in full force when French rule was disrupted by war or decolonization.