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The French Army and Its African Soldiers: The Years of Decolonization, by Ruth Ginio

Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2017. Pp. xxviii, 252. Illus., maps, tables, notes, biblio., index. $60.00. ISBN: 0803253397.

France’s African Army and the Politics of Postcolonial Africa

Dr. Ginio (Ben Gurion University) examines French efforts in the post-World War II era to maintain their imperial status and West African colonial empire through the development a strong, loyal, regionally recruited Army, with its influences into the post-colonial era.

Ginio opens with a short, but adequate overview of the early history of service of West Africans in the French Army, which was particularly important during the world wars. She then discusses the increasingly widespread unrest across the French empire following World War II, in which veterans often played a role, a trend also experienced by the British Empire. Ginio examines the role of active duty West African troops in preserving the status quo, and the changing character of the colonial forces in the period. She follows this with chapters on the role of West African troops in Indochina (1946-1954) and Algeria (1954-1962).

Ginio then looks at the protracted French efforts to retain direct control of West Africa. This failed, of course, and by the end of the 1960s France’s vast African empire was gone. But France continued to maintain surprisingly close ties with, and considerable influence in, virtually all of the newly independent countries, despite occasional coups, due in large measure to the ties between their military forces.

While Ginio offers some attention to military operations in the period, her primary purpose is to examine the origins of France’s ongoing strong influence on its former colonies in West Africa, at which she is quite successful, making The French Army and Its African Soldiers, a volume in the Nebraska series “France Overseas: Studies in Empire and Decolonization”, an important read for anyone interested in contemporary Africa, an essential one for diplomatic and military personnel working in the region.

Note: The French Army and Its African Soldiers is also available in several e-editions

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Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   


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