From Paul Johnson’s “Modern Times”:
“There were as many (5,000) French officials in Indo-China as in the whole of British India, with fifteen times the population, and they were closely with the French colon planters.”
Alternatively, this could reflect the docility of Indians relative to Indo-Chinese or the supervisory requirements of different forms of resource extraction. But shortly afterward he notes that there were 15,000 French officials in Morocco.
I’ve neglected giving samples earlier, but on reading there seem to be a lot worth blogging in a short space.
Another quote: “Two years [after the ‘Four Communes’ of West Africa sent a black deputy to the Chambre in 1919] Rene Maran’s Batoula, giving the black man’s view of colonialism, won the Prix Goncourt. But the book was banned in all France’s African territories. Clever blacks learned to write superb French; but once they got to Paris they tended to stay there. In the 1930s, Leopold Senghor, later President of Senegal, felt so at home in right-wing Catholic circles he became a monarchist.”
“As a matter of fact, the rise of the Japanese Empire […] came closest to the model of a deliberately willed development by an all-powerful ruling establishment. But the Japanese model was scarcely ever considered by the European theorists. And in any case Japanese expansion was often dictated by assertive military commanders on the spot, who exceeded or even disobeyed the orders of the ruling group. That was the French pattern too. Algeria was acquired as a result of army insubordination; Indo-China had been entered by overweening naval commanders; it was the marines who got France involved in West Africa. In one sense the French Empire could be looked upon as a gigantic system of outdoor relief for army officers.”
When reading the above, keep in mind the problem of “rogue” traders.
Johnson almost seems to contradict himself with the following: “But forced labour in some forms continued right up to the late 1940s. It’s scale was small, however. Indeed, until comparatively recently the vast majority of Africans remained quite outside the wage economy.” The French/Portugese unpaid corvee as opposed to the British taxation system is precisely what we’d expect from a pre-cash economy.
This bit sounds like James Scott: “Seen from maps, colonialism appeared to have changed the world. Seen on the ground, it appeared a more meretricious phenomenon, which could and did change little.”
Earlier he had contrasted the fates of the relatively free trading British, Dutch and Belgian colonies with the protectionist ones of France, Spain, Italy, Portugal and America as evidence for the merits of each policy. But later he says “Britain could be just to her colonial subjects so long as she was a comparatively wealthy nation. A rich power could run a prosperous and well-conducted empire. Poor nations, like Spain and Portugal, could not afford justice or forgo exploitation.” So there seems an obvious problem in determining causation.
More on old rich countries vs poor ones: “Losses from the United Kingdom [in the Great War] were not so enormous: 702,410 dead. They were comparable with Italy’s, which bounded with vitality in the 1920s. But of course Italy’s population was still rising fast.” Johnson blames the “numerous” and “high quality” war poets for an obsession “with death, futility and waste” and their “unheroic” if not defeatist literature for giving rise to a “myth of the ‘lost generation'”. Instead many of the casualties are suggested to be “misfits or failures”.