THE SOCIAL PROBLEMS SURFACED BY
fiery riots across France are partially rooted in that country's colonial past in North Africa. The French-Algerian War lasted almost eight years, took an estimated million lives, pitted Frenchmen against Frenchmen, and brought Charles DeGaulle back to power in France. TIME covered that struggle in graphic, often gory detail:
After 1946, when the people of Algeria were granted full French citizenship, they began pouring into France at the rate of 30,000 a year. Arriving in Paris on the slow trains from the Midi, they drift with their bundles into the old, revolutionary districts of Belleville and Ménilmontant, where whole blocks now have the sound and smell of Algerian medinas. Only one in five of the Algerians in Paris has regular employment; the others live in the tradition of the Paris demimonde, vociferously free, but desperately poor.
From Bastille Day Riot
Jul. 27, 1953
The French say they will not negotiate the Algerian question—that revolt on the soil of Algeria is treason. 'The only negotiation,' said Interior Minister Francois Mitterrand, 'is war.' The Algerian nationalists have an answer: 'La valise ou le cercueil'—meaning, if you don't take a traveling bag, you will get a coffin.
From Suitcase or Coffin?
Nov. 15, 1954
Algeria is composed of French departments, in many ways assimilated into those of continental France. For a long time there was a school of French opinion which favored assimilation pure and simple. One scarcely thinks this to be possible today. The Islamic religion is too big a barrier between Algerians and Frenchmen, the standard of living is too unequal on either side of the Mediterranean, the cost of investments which would be needed to raise Algeria to the level of the home country is too much beyond the means of France.
From The "French Presence" in North Africa
By Raymond Aron
Jul. 4, 1955
Pouring down from the hills, thousands of Berber horsemen from the Ouled Aissim tribe smashed their way into the prosperous little town of Oued Zem, 80 miles southeast of Casablanca. With screaming women at their side, some of them riding bicycles, they swept through the European quarter, setting fire to every house, killing every white man in sight, in the most savage massacre of Europeans in modern Moroccan history....
While the French army had its hands full beating back the Moroccans, other fanatical Arabs saw their chance in Algeria, North Africa's richest province and legally a part of France. ...All told, La Date Fatidique claimed the lives of some 650 Arabs and 200 Frenchmen. French North Africa was in flames, and at week's end there was still no knowing how far the flames would spread, or how they would be put out.
From Revolt of the Arabs
Aug. 29, 1955
The killers call themselves fellagha (outlaws). They are nationalists-turned-terrorists, who are fast transforming France's most prized colony (technically a part of metropolitan France) into its greatest colonial hazard.... At 1 a.m. on Nov. 1, 1954, the fellagha revolt began. At that moment, across Algeria, some 30 fellagha bands fell on the nearest French settlements and slit the colons' throats. The French sent armored columns to smash the fellagha, and the revolt seemed to fizzle out.
From Revolt of the Fellagha
Dec. 26, 1955
The French stake in North Africa is prodigious. With its empire in Asia gone, the loss of its African colonies could seal the doom of French claims to being a major power. France has invested tens of billions of dollars in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. Its businessmen depend heavily on them for markets, raw materials and labor; its army taps their manpower. 'Without North Africa,' French imperialists say, 'France would have no history in the 21st century. We should be 40 million Frenchmen facing twice that number of Germans. Another Portugal.'
From Revolt & Revenge
Sep. 5, 1955
One of the first Frenchmen to come to Morocco officially was the ambassador of King Louis XIV. He found a mighty feudal empire under Ismail the Bloodthirsty. Ismail, who had at least 549 wives, asked for—and was refused—Louis XIV's daughter as No. 550. When Ismail died, order in Morocco disappeared in the struggle for power among Ismail's 800 sons (most of his daughters were strangled at birth).
From Revolt & Revenge
Sep. 5, 1955
Three times the size of Texas, Algeria takes in a swatch of the Sahara, two broad seams of the Atlas Mountains, and a 100-mile-wide ribbon of fertile Mediterranean littoral where most of its largely Moslem population lives. Pacified, colonized, civilized through 125 years, Northern Algeria is officially a part of metropolitan France, and sends its Deputies to the Paris Parliament.
From France's Troubled North Africa
Sep. 5, 1955
The U.S. stands solidly behind France in her search for a liberal and equitable solution of the problems in Algeria . . . The French Republic, in its search for liberal solutions that will insure the continuance of the French presence in North Africa, has the wholehearted support of the U.S. Government.
From Clarification on North Africa
Apr. 2, 1956
From Hassi Messaoud and neighboring Algerian fields recently opened, there was now the promise of an assured yield of 60 million bbl. of oil a year.
From "Miracle of the Sahara"
Aug. 5, 1957
Despite the fact that he draws much of his loudest support from the chauvinists who shout 'Algeria is French,' most of the men closest to De Gaulle are convinced that he would give independence to Algeria in one form or another.
From "I Am Ready"
May 26, 1958
For the 9,000,000 Moslems in Algeria, nine-tenths of the population, the cry that 'Algeria is France' has proved a cruel delusion. The very achievements of French rule have served to increase the misery of the Moslem masses. Many of the highly efficient farms operated by French colons—often on land expropriated from Moslems in the 19th century—are not devoted to producing the food that Algeria so desperately needs; instead, they produce wine —which Moslems do not drink.
From The Reluctant Rebel
Oct. 13, 1958
Ferhat Abbas, 58, is Premier of the self-proclaimed Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic—an organization which in the name of Algerian nationalism wages merciless war on France. Dirty and cruel, the Algerian rebellion is a war of torture and treachery, of ambush and sabotage. In the four years since it began, it has claimed the lives of an estimated 100,000 Moslem civilians, and for the past two years French army dead have been running about 900 a month.
From The Reluctant Rebel
Oct. 13, 1958
Without the wealth of the Sahara—and the power it could furnish Algeria—the Constantine Plan would be an intolerable financial burden on France, and an unredeemable promise. Says Jacques Soustelle: 'It is here in this desert region that the destiny of the French Republic will be settled.'
From The Visionary
Aug. 17, 1959
Barely 20 months after it destroyed one French republic, the unrelenting Algerian revolt last week threatened the life of another. Across the wide boulevards of Algiers crackled the sound all France had so long feared to hear—the sound of Frenchmen shooting at Frenchmen.
From The Test for De Gaulle
Feb. 1, 1960
Thanks to Reporter White's enterprise, the coverage TIME got of the fateful events in Algiers was uncommonly early and informed.
From A Letter From The Publisher
Feb. 8, 1960
The hotheads, toughs and ultras held the heart of the city of Algiers. Their barricades of paving blocks sealed off street after street around the university. Students cradling Tommy guns sat on the roofs, dangling their legs. Members of the Front National Français poured in from the nearby slums to stand guard under their black Celtic crosses or to drill in the makeshift uniforms of the territorial army, a sort of Algerian home guard.
From To the Barricades
Feb. 8, 1960
Twice before in the last three years, uprisings in Algeria, tacitly encouraged by French army officers, have brought France to the edge of chaos and prevented any peace settlement in Algeria. The first revolt brought down the Fourth Republic and boosted Charles de Gaulle to power. The second, when barricades went up in the streets of Algiers 15 months ago, was designed to stop De Gaulle from negotiating for an independent Algeria. But last week's was no civilian uprising aided and abetted by soldiers. It was a mutiny in the army itself.
From The Third Revolt
Apr. 28, 1961
The mutiny in Algeria was the last gasp of empire, staged by the men who had fought for and gradually surrendered that empire around the world. Their cause and battle cry, Algérie Française, was dead, and the last obstacle had been cleared for peace talks with the Moslem rebel F.L.N.
From Era Ending
May 5, 1961
The riots afforded disconcerting proof of the F.L.N.'s hold over France's Algerian population. Since 1947, when they were allowed to enter France freely as full citizens, they have flooded into the country in what French sociologists call 'the immigration of hunger.' Now 350,000 strong (200,000 in Paris alone), they are a vital segment of the labor force, do most of France's back-breaking labor from road building to stevedoring. They live in slums but earn union-scale wages—dazzling by Arab standards. As a result, they not only support one-fifth of all Algerian families, but bankroll the F.L.N. itself.
From To the Jugular
Oct. 27, 1961
The Algerian cities last week were ravaged by death and disfiguration. The immediate cause, ironically enough, was the prospect that the grim, seven-year war in Algeria might end in a cease-fire now being negotiated between the French government and the Moslem F.L.N. rebels. According to Paris reports, an agreement is scheduled to be signed within a month—or possibly sooner. To most of Algeria's 1,000,000 Europeans, the prospect of an agreement meant only one thing: that Charles de Gaulle is handing over Algeria to its 9,000,000 infuriated Moslems, that the Europeans' homes, their livelihoods, perhaps their lives will be in the hands of the Moslems they have lorded it over for so long. To prevent this at all cost is the avowed aim of an ugly, desperate new force on the Algerian scene: the Secret Army Organization (Organisation de l'Armée Secrète), an underground band of Europeans using the F.L.N.'s own terrorist methods. Leader of the S.A.O. is not a European of Algeria but a Frenchman born in France —ex-General Raoul Salan, 62, white-haired veteran of a dozen of France's wars, now under sentence of death for treason to the Republic.
From The Not So Secret Army
Jan. 26, 1962
The tasks of peace may be harder than the sacrifices of war. ... Algeria's 10 million people are too many for its backward rural economy, and too few and unskilled for a prosperous industrialized nation. Algeria is advanced compared to other Arab countries—about 1,000,000 Moslems have something like Western standards of living. Two million more live on about the level of the masses in South America. The rest are in wretched poverty. Since 1954 the countryside has been decimated: 2,000,000 peasants have been uprooted by the French and crowded into regroupment centers, another 500,000 have fled to bidonvilles (shantytowns) on the outskirts of the big cities.
From The Brothers
Mar. 16, 1962
According to Algerian figures, as many as 1 million Muslims died during and after the war. French casualties, military and civilian, are estimated at 27,000 killed and some 65,000 injured. When the end came, a terrible exodus began. Forced to choose between 'the suitcase or the coffin,' nearly 1 million white pied noir settlers tearfully abandoned their homeland. For more than a century it had been considered as much a part of France as Brittany or Provence.
From Epic Terror
By John T. Elson
May 22, 1978