Book Review: A Desert Named Peace: The Violence of France's Empire in the Algerian Sahara, 1844-1902


by Benjamin C Brower

London: Columbia University Press, 201o1. Pp. xviii, 418. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $28.00 paper. ISBN: 0231154933

A Desert Named Peace takes a look behind the benign façade of France’s “mission civilisatrice” and finds it wanting. 

After a brief look at the initial French invasion and occupation of northern Algeria, undertaken partially to help suppress piracy but mostly to garner martial glory for the restored Bourbon regime, Prof. Brower (University of Texas) examines the French invasion and conquest of the desert areas further inland.  A series of case studies follow.  There is a look at the difference faces of French imperialism, from “pénétration pacifique” to the often  extreme violence of military action against local peoples and their often equally brutal responses.  The nature of nature of slavery in the region is examined, and also that of French adaptations of the institution.  The book  concludes with a discussion of the ways in which a veil of romanticism helped make palatable what was clearly a gross violation of the France’s own national principles. 

A volume in the Columbia series “History and Society of the Modern Middle East,” A Desert Named Peace is a well written revisionist look at the dark side of colonialism which still influences international relations.



Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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