Monday, July 5, 2010

start and stop

One hundred and eighty years ago today, on July 5th 1830, France invaded Algeria. Forty eight years ago today, on July 5th 1962, Algeria would gain its independence from France. After one hundred and thirty two years of French rule the country that received its independence was more European than any other African country.

The occupation began with an incredible population decline. Disease, starvation, and strange (sometimes occult) insurgencies killed over a third of the population. Algeria had been hit hard by plague in the 15th and early 16th centuries, now it was hit even harder. The population plummeted despite a rapid influx of European settlers. Tens of thousands of settlers came to Algeria.

Infrastructure was built. Roads, sewers, farms, irrigation, libraries, and schools were built. The gorilla warfare meant as a resistance to the sometimes brutal French targeted, more often, the infrastructure that would assist the native peoples. Literacy, once among the highest in Africa, dropped precipitously. Disease and malnutrition became commonplace among the non-Europeans. Generations would pass before the non-European population could claim ownership of what they had not destroyed in the getting.

By 1962 one could travel to Algeria in almost the same amount of time it took to get from one end of mainland France to the other. Instead of being a part of France Algeria remained African. Instead of being full of French citizens French Algeria was crowded with people who were treated as a sub-human indigenous blight.

No comments: