The Historical Journal


V. The French ‘Colonial Party’: Its Composition, Aims And Influence, 1885–1914 *

C. M. Andrewa1 and A. S. Kanya-Forstnera2

a1 Corpus Christi College, Cambridge

a2 Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge

In all three great imperial powers of Western Europe, imperialism acquired a popular following only in the 1890s. This change in public attitudes was particularly striking in France. For most of the 1880s the French public had seemed at best indifferent, at worst violently hostile, to colonial expansion. The Tunisian expedition had helped to bring down Jules Ferry's first ministry in 1881; the proposed Egyptian expedition brought down Freycinet in 1882. Three years later Ferry was hounded not merely from office but virtually from public life after an insignificant military setback in Tonkin. At the elections of 1885 the Opposition reserved its most virulent invective for the attack on colonial expansion, and even the Moderate Republicans felt obliged to condemn the politique d'aventures which they had previously supported.2


* This essay is a preliminary statement of research on which we are currently engaged. We acknowledge our debt to Professor Henri Brunschwig's My thes et réalités de l'impérialisme colonial jrançais (Paris, 1961), the pioneer study of the parti colonial, on whose foundations we have tried to build.