Race and War in France: Colonial Subjects in the French Army, 1914-1918

By Richard S. Fogarty
Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008

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.