By Smail Goumeziane


   “The scandal is not to hide the truth, but not to say it entirely. “




A few days ago, Emmanuel Macron, one of the candidates for the French presidential election in 2017, has just thrown a pavement into the pond by saying, in particular and from the start, from Algiers, “that colonization was a crime against Humanity “. It took no more than to raise an outcry on the right and extreme right. For all that, as we shall recall, Emmanuel Macron confirmed in a few words only what the objective history of colonization has taught us. 



To understand it well, let us start with the year 1930. Indeed, 1930 is a very symbolic year to approach such a subject.In that year, a whole “intelligentsia” of the metropolis and the colony was mobilized to celebrate the centenary of the “French presence” in Algeria [1] . For the colonial power, no doubt: it was “their Algeria” that they were about to celebrate.

Through numerous events (conferences, meetings, festivals, …), in Algeria and throughout the world, fed with postage stamps, medals, books, brochures, films … “nothing is saved to impress the colonized, Perhaps the colonizer himself. “[2] This is an opportunity to highlight the methods and results of colonization. In all this propaganda, it seemed useful to recall how the colonial novels of the time presented the situation.


It is a beautiful novel …


While emphasizing the “brilliant achievements” of great military figures of the conquest, including Marshal Bourmont[3] , marshals and other generals, colonial novels exalt best colon, symbol of this new breed that was Implanted in Algeria, bringing this new blood necessary for the regeneration of a country peopled until then of “waste of humanity, of degenerates, stupefied by centuries of servitude, laziness, carelessness, stupidity, beings Degraded, refractory to all civilization, which have never been, and will never be civilized. [4]


The economic success of the colony, which is celebrated, results from the obstinate work of the colonists on a particularly ungrateful land. As soon as they arrived in Algeria, “undermined by fever but supported by iron will, the colonists had learned to struggle to the end; They knew how to die standing up like soldiers under fire, seeking for the last support the handle of the spade or the plow. [5]  The myth is there: the martyred colonist, a genuine “laborer soldier,” holding the gun in one hand and plowing the other in the evening to join the booths of boards which serve him as lodgings when They are not military tents.


It was in this universe of “brutality, violence, and struggle” that the colonists realized their “creative work”.


Boufarik, a small town on the Mitidja in the Algiers region, symbolizes this success. In this plain, which the official propaganda describes as a desert of stagnant and nauseating waters, the village of Boufarik, presented as the most deadly place, becomes an inspiration for colonial literature. For these writers to the orders, “it was only a water point in front of the site of a weekly market indigenous, …, Boufarik the great victim of (the tribe) Hadjoute, fever, Fire, looting and grasshoppers. [6]  ”


All the themes dear to colonial propaganda are there and will remain for a long time: swamps infested with mosquitoes and grasshoppers carrying malaria and other epidemics; Bloody tribes plundering and burning … Several decades later, Algeria, “the work of the colonists who watered it with their sweat” will always be magnified in this way. “Cereal fields to own land and regular harvests, vineyards … with their rows aligned with a line, rigorous grids of vast orchards and vegetable crops checkered draw a geometric landscape in formerly marshy plains …  [7]

All this is so “obvious” that during the celebration of the centenary, “not a discordant voice has arisen, especially (from the natives), who always and everywhere have testified eloquently to their ardent loyalty and Unfailing. [8]  In other words, the country is now pacified and some of them are on the road to civilization. Better, thanks to the education which colonization has given them, certain natives have forgotten the legendary fanaticism and the primitive barbarism of their race, and attain the status of “individuals with morals and civilized ideals.” For, we are told, “In Algeria, our colonists root France in the soil, but our mistresses root it in our hearts. [9]  To the point, according to the most optimistic, That “the spirit of the Berber race is transformed. Today, a single French family was born. [10] “An enthusiasm that however temper the most radical, worried about this evolution of the natives. “Having made but an insufficient apprenticeship of liberty, they generally have elites only appearances, and of our civilization, when they strive to copy it, than a varnish, often inconsistent. [11]  ” When they strive to copy it, that a varnish often inconsistent. [11]When they strive to copy it, that a varnish often inconsistent. [11]


It is thus in a sort of general euphoria that the centennial festivities celebrate “the work accomplished in a century on the land of Africa by colonizing France, …, with the aim of perpetuating it in the memory of contemporaries and Of those who will follow. [12]


That’s a beautiful story…


On the eve of independence, official historiography (represented here by the work of L. Mouilleseaux [13] ) continuesto follow suit. With analyzes and figures, she takes on the task of presenting, in a more concrete and less fictional manner, the alleged benefits of colonization. It presents Algeria as a country open to all.

It was, it is true, far from the unexpected disembarkation in 1832 of 400 Rhine “settlers” on the pavement of the Casbah of Algiers.

The opening of colonization to the French of the Metropole really began with Bugeaud and his ideal of “soldier laborers” to whom he offered small concessions of 4 to 10 hectares, devoted to the monoculture of cereals, and grouped in villages easy to defend.


In 1848, arrived these 12,000 Parisian workers, unemployed and slingers, conquerors of Louis Philippe, and that the Second Republic sent to Algeria. Then, the Second Empire sent the deportees of 2 December to finally stick to the large concessions granted to the agrarian and land capitalists.


By the eve of 1870, there had hardly been more than 37 villages. The Third Republic resumed Bugeaud’s initiative. The Alsatians / Lorrainers, who refused German nationality, were installed on the lands sequestrated following the insurrection of El Mokrani.


From 1871 to 1901, 428 villages were founded, populated by 55,000 metropolitans. Then, following the phylloxera, the metropolitan viticultural crisis helped new families of confirmed farmers, originating from the Midi, massively strengthened agricultural colonization and opened it to new productions, in particular wine-growing. To accelerate the movement, agricultural colonization was also open to foreigners. The Spaniards, accustomed to the climate, created market gardening villages as early as 1850 on the Algiers coastline, then in the Oran region.


However, despite the importance accorded in official propaganda and literature to this agricultural presence, historians believe that the non-agricultural presence was the most important and also the most significant in terms of economic effects. In this context, the share of foreigners is even sharper. The modern districts built in Algiers are, for the most part, the fruit of the work of the Piedmont masons. The roads were opened by the Valencians. Fishing activity owed much to the know-how of the Sicilians. There were also Rhenish, Swiss, and Maltese.


However, this multitude of ethnic groups, which represented 40% of the colonial population, began to pose a problem because it threatened the French character of colonization . Also, a law of 1889 automatically naturalized the sons of foreigners born on “national territory” by majority, unless otherwise stated. And in order to “prevent the traditional values of France from being overwhelmed by those of the newly naturalized,” the development of the school took the responsibility of Frenchizing them. After all, had we not succeeded, in 1871, with the decree Cremieux franciser to the Israelites, yet Aboriginal, speaking Arabic and very numerous (130 000 people) [14]  ?


Thanks to these policies of settlement and naturalization, the demographic structure of Algeria changes radically. The growth of the European population was exclusively fueled by immigration until 1851. Then, the births in Algeria are the main growth. To the point that in 1960, 87% of the 1,200,000 French of Algeria were born on the land of Africa and that some families are in their fifth generation. Finally, the share of the rural population on urban dwellers declined steadily: 40% in 1856, 28% in 1926 and 17% in 1954.


At the same time, the Muslim population, which, according to the dominant historiography, consisted of some 3 million individuals in 1830, “hardly progressed until 1870” (a mild euphemism!) Because “famines, epidemics, Struggles between tribes effectively blocked the increase in the number of inhabitants. After 1870, according to the same historiography, “Muslim demography was to grow under the beneficial effect of health and medical action”, so that in 1954 there were nearly 9 million Muslims, a multiplication by 3 Compared with 1830. In addition, more than 90% of them in the countryside in 1830, who were “unable to feed themselves with the old traditional economy”, went to the areas of agricultural and then urban colonization. So,


Under these demographic conditions, Algeria, according to this historiography, then realizes a “prodigious metamorphosis”. The country first knows “an extraordinary urban development”. In 1960, the Algerian agglomeration is strong with 700,000 inhabitants, Oran with 360,000 inhabitants, Constantine with 200,000 inhabitants, Bone with 140,000 inhabitants. In addition, “Algeria of 1830 did not possess a kilometer of road, with all the transport on camel or camel back. mule. Nowadays (in 1960), It offers a road network of nearly 60,000 kilometers … This is doubled by a rail network of 4,500 kilometers … “The communications network also has several aerodromes and the port traffic ensures flows exceeding annually 15 million tons Of goods and a million and a half travelers. Finally, “after the towns, the villages benefited little by little from the electrification. ”


Thanks to this, continues this historiography, the economic development of the country was exceptional. For example, in 1960, the agricultural sector produced some 22 million quintals of cereals, 15 million hectoliters of wine, 4 million quintals of citrus fruits and 7 million quintals of vegetable crops. “Only the livestock appears to be in decline compared to 1830.” Industry is not left behind. “After taking a long time to set up business, it has enjoyed a remarkable growth since 1944. And since 1956, further growth is expected from the implementation of the Constantine Plan. Especially since the discovery, a few months ago, of the Saharan oil and gas has upset the data of the problem, and that raw materials, in particular mineral, are not lacking. Thanks to that, Algeria is performing in terms of foreign trade. “In 1954, the country exported 140 billion francs, 114 of which went to the metropolis, and imports 218 billion francs, of which 180 from metropolitan France … Algeria is then the first customer of France. It ranks well before Germany. ”


In 1954, more than 400,000 Muslims and their families, nearly two million people, enjoyed a standard of living similar to that of the Muslims. Workers, employees and officials of the Metropolis. In addition, “while Algeria’s sanitary equipment was nil in 1830, … and that a few doctors applied recipes dating back to the Middle Ages, interwoven with magical practices, … the multiplication of hospitals, which the Muslim population attended as soon as In the early years, was translated in 1960 into 145 hospitals, 32 anti-tuberculosis clinics and about 100 ophthalmological centers, of which 90 per cent were Muslims. Finally, how can we forget the cultural effort carried out through education? In 1944, a plan of schooling, spread over 20 years, had been launched. “In 1959, 724,000 children were enrolled, of which 586,000 were Muslims. The number of teachers was 19,000 … In 1848, a high school was created in Algiers. In 1960, there are 23, that doubles 24 colleges. Muslims provide a quarter of the 70,000 students … The University of Algiers has 5,000 students … The proportion of Muslims is 13%.  ” Muslims provide a quarter of the 70,000 students … The University of Algiers has 5,000 students … The proportion of Muslims is 13%. Muslims provide a quarter of the 70,000 students … The University of Algiers has 5,000 students … The proportion of Muslims is 13%.


Henceforth, the dominant historiography, joining the literary prose of the centenary, concludes in these terms. “While Algeria of 1830 lived totally apart from the great currents of human thought, modern Algeria, although solicited by more urgent problems (Algeria’s war?), Made it possible to hear His voice … His writers, finally, have made a place of choice, and the most illustrious of them, Albert Camus, received the Nobel Prize. ”


Rejected by reality …


The problem with “this beautiful novel and this beautiful story” is that they were very early denied by reality . A reality which the young Albert Camus did not fail to discover  , and which he recounts in his ”  scandalous reportage in Kabylie  “, published for several days in the Journal ”  Alger Républicain  ” in June 1939, is Less than ten years after the euphoria of the centenary.


His testimony is overwhelming , for what is valid for Kabylie applies to all of Algeria.

“I do not attack anyone here. I went to Kabylie with the deliberate intention of talking about what was good. But I did not see anything. This misery immediately stopped me. I saw her everywhere.She followed me everywhere. It is important that it should be emphasized, highlighted in large strokes so that it jumps in the eyes of all and triumphs over laziness and indifference. “It is not,” he adds, “a spectacle more despairing than this misery in the midst of one of the most beautiful countries in the world. What have we done to make this country resume its true face? In the villages he passed through, Albert Camus saw, spoke and lived only with Kabyles. Now, he tells us, “All of them, without exception, have known only one thing, and it is misery … (Also), it is from this misery that I will speak. Everything comes, and everything returns to it … For, if we believe Bernanos, scandal is not to hide the truth, but not to say it entirely.  “


The Kabylie, an arboreal and overpopulated region, does not have the means to meet the needs of its population.According to Camus, “the Kabyle who consumes corn, pays the tribute of hunger to his magnificent and ungrateful land … (For), this wheat that must be bought at a high price, the Kabyle peasant can not acquire it with The production which is taken away from him at a low price … (All the more so) that he has also been deprived of his labor and that he remains defenseless against hunger. “An official report estimates that 40% of Kabyle families currently live on less than 1,000 francs a year, that is to say (that one thinks of it well), less Of 100 francs a month. Under these conditions, he said, ” I think I can say that at least 50% of the population feeds on grass and roots [15] and, for the rest, they expect administrative charity in the form of grain distributions. “ A distribution of grains Camus points out the absurdity:” Distribute 12 liters of grain every two or three months to families of 4 to 5 children is exactly spit in the water to make circles.  Especially since this distribution is most often left to the arbitrariness of the caïds or the municipal councilors. Worse still, “he said,” in the early morning I saw Tizi-Ouzou, children in rags, discussing the contents of a garbage can with Kabylian dogs.  ” A distribution of grains of which Camus emphasizes the absurdity: “To distribute 12 liters of grain every two or three months to families of 4 to 5 children, it is very precisely to spit in the water to make rounds. Especially since this distribution is most often left to the arbitrariness of the caïds or the municipal councilors. Worse still, “he said,” in the early morning I saw Tizi-Ouzou, children in rags, discussing the contents of a garbage can with Kabylian dogs. ” A distribution of grains of which Camus emphasizes the absurdity: “To  distribute 12 liters of grain every two or three months to families of 4 to 5 children, it is very precisely to spit in the water to make rounds. Especially since this distribution is most often left to the arbitrariness of the caïds or the municipal councilors. Worse still, “he said,” in the early morning I saw Tizi-Ouzou, children in rags, discussing the contents of a garbage can with Kabylian dogs. ” Especially since this distribution is most often left to the arbitrariness of the caïds or the municipal councilors. Worse still, “he said,” in the early morning I saw Tizi-Ouzou, children in rags, discussing the contents of a garbage can with Kabylian dogs. ” Especially since this distribution is most often left to the arbitrariness of the caïds or the municipal councilors. Worse still, “he said,”  in the early morning I saw Tizi-Ouzou, children in rags, discussing the contents of a garbage can with Kabylian dogs.


Thus, beset by hunger, the population also does not have the means to heat. Camus explains the reason for this situation. “The Forest Code prevents the unfortunate from taking the wood in which it is found, and it is not uncommon for them to be seized by their only wealth, the crusty and scrawny donkey used to transport the fagots.Finally, “deprived of water and communication, locked up in their hovels, the Kabyles demand all that they lack. For, if ever a people had the taste of the healthy and airy lodging, it is that one. ”


Of course, recognizes Camus, a tiny part of the Kabyle works, but under what conditions? “I am forced to say,” he says, “that the labor regime in Kabylia is a slave regime. For I do not know what other name to call a system where the worker works from 10 to 12 hours for an average salary of 6 to 10 francs (whereas the official estimate of the daily wage is 17 francs). The worker in question works 25 days a month, he would earn 150 francs with which he would have to feed a family of several children for 30 days. Even worse, “for the same duration (daily), women are paid three francs fifty. ”


To justify these wage differentials, the employers invoke the inferiority of the indigenous labor force. What Camus contends that this situation “finds its reason in the general contempt in which the colonist holds the unfortunate people of this country … It is true, on the other hand, that one can see on workcamps workers who are staggering and incapable of rising Their pick. But, they did not eat. And we are faced with an abject logic that a man should be without living forces because he has nothing to eat and that he is paid less because he is without strength. ”


How, in such conditions, can the population combat all kinds of diseases and other epidemics? By using the means of public health set up by colonization? However, the health situation is not much better. Camus says that “Kabylie has an average doctor of 60,000. A ridiculous figure. Thus, Tizi-Ouzou has a communal doctor for 45,000 inhabitants, but she has no nurse / visitor. “It is easier to understand why the proportion of deaths in relation to births is 50%.


Finally, with regard to education, Camus also brings a sharp denial to the official discourse. The problem is simple: “This country lacks schools … So today only one tenth of Kabylian children of school age can benefit from education. “Not only are budgets allocated insufficient, but they are very poorly used. As a result, “classes (existing) already have overcrowded numbers of 60 to 80 students.Camus concludes that “80 per cent of the children in the region are being educated. What I am going to say is that almost 10,000 children in this area alone are delivered to the sewer mud. “


As can be seen, Albert Camus’s inquiry in Kabylie sounded the death knell of the idyllic vision propagated by the Centenary. Moreover, the view of the economists over the period largely confirms Albert Camus’s statement across the country. Overall, Algeria in the 1950s is marked by deep inequalities and social injustices in all areas. Among them, income inequality. Thus, in 1955, when the Muslim population represented 90% of the total population, it had only 53% of the income. Conversely, the 10% representing the European population receive 47% of the income.


In cities, the structure of the Muslim population is symptomatic of these glaring inequalities: 33% are unemployed, 33% of workers, 13% of employees, 20% of craftsmen and 1% of managers. In comparison, the European population breaks down as follows: 36% of small business leaders, 29% of workers, 26% of employees, 9% of senior managers and business leaders. In terms of incomes, this translates into the fact that the Muslim urban population, 690,000 people, receives 106 billion francs, while the European urban population of 305,000 receives 286 billion francs. In other words, the average income of a Muslim, 230,000 francs, is four times lower than that of a European.


However, it should not be assumed that these inequalities and injustices affected only the Muslim population. Even among the European population, who hardly know unemployment, the “economic benefits” of colonization have not benefited everyone. Far from it.  By 1955, there were only 20,000 French farmers in Algeria, including 6,400 owners of more than 100 hectares but with 87% of the land of the colonization! In cities, inequalities are also visible.European workers and employees, who account for more than half of the population, receive only 28% of the income, whereas the rich European classes, ie 9% of the population, receive the same amount of income. In addition, A statistic of the General Government of Algeria in 1954 recognizes that the average standard of living of the Algerian Europeans was 20% lower than the average standard of living of the French population in the metropolis. And yet this is where he averages [16] .


Finally, how can one believe in such misery that the country is pacified? As if suddenly, since the surrender in 1847 of the Emir Abdelkader, the arrest of Lalla Fadhma N’Soumer in 1857, and the deportation of El Mokrani in 1871, all resistance had disappeared. In reality, it was just the opposite.Revolts were recurring throughout the country, as was the repression of indigenous peoples. How could it also be said that at the very moment when the centenary was about to be celebrated, the Algerian national movement was politically structured to demand ever more radical reforms, and that any response was intensified repression. It reached its peak in May 1945 and caused some 45,000 deaths in the ranks of the demonstrators. Since then,


Far from the whole truth [17]


But was such an outcome a surprise? Probably yes, for those who in 1954 and today still believe, despite all these denials, in the benefits of colonization and in the possibility that there would have been to correct the inequalities and injustices noted until then. These are either people who are still being hidden from the truth, or people who refuse to look at colonization in its entire truth, as suggested by Bernanos.


Indeed, in order to understand the brutality of the break between 1954 and 1962, we must go beyond inequalities and injustices and return to the extraordinary cruelty that presided over the colonial process in a country Permanently distorted the image before the invasion of July 1830.


It is true that it was then under Turkish rule. But, for many years, the “land of the Barbarians” had put an end to its acts of piracy in the Mediterranean. It was no longer a “nest of pirates and slave-owners”. In fact, when the expedition (premeditated since 1827) took the sea for Algiers, the Algerian raïs had for years, moored their chebeks. “As for the Christian slaves, there were only a hundred prisoners of war, mostly the Greeks of the Morea war, in the convents of Algiers. ”


Already, since 1785, it was known from Poiret’s travel stories that most of the Christian slaves in Algiers were Spanish soldiers who deserted from Oran at the risk of their lives, Slavery among the Moors of Algiers to freedom among their own (it is true that they were decapitated). He also pointed out that there were more Muslim slaves among the Christians. “In Malta,” he added, “Bonaparte freed nearly 3,000 galleys from the only prison in Valletta. At the same time, the convicts of Algeria numbered only 750 Christians, of whom 64 were French. “   Finally, in economic terms, the country produced enough to feed itself and even export. It is also a French establishment, La Maison Française, 


Yet myths have a hard life.


On the southern shore of the Mediterranean, Algeria was a country whose land was rich and well cultivated, far from the Epinal image of the marshes of the Mitidja plain. From the moment of the landing, the testimonies multiplied to boast of these “lands of admirable fertility, well wooded and well watered, with vast gardens and superb orchards of orange trees. In July 1830, at Blida, General Bartillat asserted that “the plantations make this territory an earthly paradise. To such a degree that the newspapers of the day marveled at it: “This reminds one of the most fertile and cultivated regions of Europe. “Said the  National . The report of General Valazé confirms: “The country seems rich, cultivated, covered with cattle, houses and gardens. Alexis de Tocqueville himself admired “this country of admirable fertility.” As early as 1833, in the Chamber, Piscatory, the secretary of the parliamentary committee, said that “the rich and fertile province of Oran is inhabited by a numerous and much more civilized population than is believed. In his turn, Marshal de Saint Arnaud, speaking of Kabylie, observed that “the country is superb, one of the richest (he has ever seen). ”

Foreigners also appreciated the country’s value. As an example, this German prince and this Belgian explorer who, in 1835, made a tour of the Mitidja and then presented a report to the military authorities. Here are a few excerpts: “A valley whose beauty surpasses all that we have seen Extends from the Atlas to the sea. A brilliant vegetation covers the ground everywhere, on which are seen numerous flocks. The same is true of cities. Thus, according to Amédée de Bourmont, “Algiers resembles a true city of France, with its cafes, restaurants, hospitals, post office and even printing.”


But then, what happened? Why did the colonists of 1848 find in Algeria only marshes and deserts?Again, the testimonies are overwhelming. “It was not yet forty-eight hours that the army was encamped in one of the most beautiful countries in the world, and the country was already devastated. [18]  “ In fact, in November 1830, the first mass murder was ordered by Clauzel in these terms:  ” I have ordered the battalions to destroy and burn everything in their path.  Then follow other massacres. In 1833, at Bougie, the inhabitants who had not been able to flee were slaughtered in their houses until the last. With Clauzel, at the only level of the Mitidja, in less than five years, everything will be shaved. And of that plain where there was still, in 1832, According to a report by Rovigo to the Minister of Defense, 23 tribes and 12,000 horsemen, Tocqueville said in 1840: ” A plain like Alsace, not a house, not a man, not a tree. ”  A year later, General Duvivier noted sadly:  ” For eleven years, it has destroyed everything, burned, massacred men, women and children with increasing fury.  ”  


And it lasted more than 40 years.


But the country was so rich that its total destruction surpassed the forces of the army. Bugeaud himself, who was a strong supporter of American eradication against the Indians, recognizes this: ”  We can not cut all the trees. Twenty thousand men, armed with good axes, would not cut the olive-trees and fig-trees of this beautiful country in six months.  However, the fury continues and focuses on the villages. In a few weeks, according to General Camou, ”  more than 300 villages with their mosques, schools and zaouias were destroyed. In the Algerian South, the same terrifying strategy is followed. In 1832, even in “submissive” territories, one native out of 320 was in council of war, and among the accused, one in five was executed. A report on the columns of 1841 indicates that “the number of burnt douars and crops destroyed is incredible. “ The looting of Constantine, infamous delights Marshal Saint Arnaud who does not hide that” the richest share goes to the chiefs and the General Staff. ”

When the indigenous peoples were not massacred, they were scattered and abandoned in wandering “into an abyss of misery. One could go even further into horror. It would suffice to read the letters and reports of many French officers themselves to understand the enormous extent of this descent into hell: “the Kabyles were thrown into the ravines …”; “… heads cut and impaled above the flags or at the end of the bayonets”; “… smoking excessively like foxes”; “… larding with the bayonet (as in the Ouled Saad, where 2,300 women and children suffered this fate) all that comes to hand”; “… to wall 1500 Arabs with women and children”. 


Obviously, this was a strategy of extermination of the Algerian population, with a dual objective.


First , and this was the first ground landing in 1830, it was necessary to hand over the Dey of Algiers Treasury [19]estimated at some 750 million francs in 1830, slightly less than 6 billion euros. This corresponded to 70% of the Gross Domestic Product of France of 1830! General Bourmont manages the operation and transferred the Treasury, not the Treasury French audience, but Louis Philippe [20] , which in usa, especially for corrupt and liquidate his political enemies and to win the favor of his supporters . Algeria will thus be the receptacle of all the “dissenters” of the metropolitan power.


Secondly , by massacring and destroying all human, vegetable and animal life, it was a matter of freeing land (land and real estate) to systematize settlement. Thus, of the 5,000 houses of Algiers, 3,000 were confiscated and 900 demolished. “General de Bourmont allowed these bazaars to be destroyed, where weaving, embroidery, and silk workshops, which made the renown of Algiers, and the resources of a small people of craftsmen and merchants. As early as September 8, 1830, a decree sequestrated the  habous
(religious foundations) property and those of the State estates, that is to say the majority of urban properties, a large part of the Mitidja and the coastal plains .


And this was only just beginning, for the whole land history of colonial Algeria was only a series of collective or individual confiscations, sequestra of “rebellious, punished or fugitive” tribes. Thus a law was passed in 1840 on forced expropriation (“iniquitous and scandalous”, Tocqueville said), then decrees of cantonments, and then the laws of 1863 and 1887 separating collective or family lands undivided so that Allowing an unbridled European speculation against an increasingly miserable indigenous population, distraught with hunger and exhaustion . Henceforth, the more or less forced purchase of the land, resold five or ten times more expensive, was the chief resource of many colonists. In 1954, the result we know: 


On a cultural level, it was the same. In 1865, an official investigation found that of the 132 mosques that existed in Algiers in 1830, only 12 remained for Muslim worship. The others had either been destroyed or transformed into hospitals, barracks, stables, public baths, closed houses, or consecrated churches or convents. In Oran it was worse, leaving only one mosque for the natives . Finally, in many places, the bones of the cemeteries were thrown into the wind or sold to make animal black, and Marshal Clauzel personally seized tombstones to be built … three mills.


Moreover, in the field of education, the testimonies are formal. In 1830, all Algerians knew how to read, write, and count, “and most of the victors,” says the commission of inquiry of 1833, “had less instruction than the vanquished. ”  With the arrival of the French, there were over a hundred primary schools in Algiers, Constantine 86, 50 in Tlemcen. Algiers and Constantine each had 6 to 7 secondary schools and Algeria was endowed with 10 Zaouia (Universities). Each village or group of hamlets had its own school. All this was systematically destroyed and by 1880 there were only 13 schools, now French-Arabs for all of Algeria .

At the end of the day, all this fury resulted in a double human tragedy. On the one hand, the indigenous population was decimated, pushed out of the lands and towns, into the mountains and into the desert until 1872, before being recruited for the army (Crimea, Mexico , In Europe …), emerging colonial agriculture, or the metropolitan economy (emigration) until 1954.


On the other hand, the colonial population was unequally “rewarded” and soon found itself confronted with the reality of agrarian, mining and financial capitalism, with its cohort of workers, employees and small craftsmen, A minority caste, the true owner of colonial Algeria.


The reality of the massacres by the figures


We could stop there. He is eloquent. But since we have made our concern to tell the whole truth, let us return for a moment to a fundamental question: Since there were all these massacres for at least 40 years (from 1830 to 1872) and the remaining indigenous population Was then enumerated at 2.1 million souls, how many Algerians were massacred?


Since the 1950s, it seems that a certain  “soft consensus” has been established around the figure of 900 000 people, since the Algerian population on the eve of the conquest would be 3 million people. It is in any case the figure retained by Yacono in the  Revue Africaine , then published in Algiers, and which still serves as a reference today, whereas during the colonial period the most radical retained only 2 million inhabitants.


Yet behind this “official” figure, as we shall see, during the entire colonial period there was a real statistical war triggered by the figure of 10 million Algerians in 1830 presented by Hamdan Khodja in a book entitled Le Miroir, Published in Paris in 1933. This book, available again [21] , is the only Algerian reference document on the state of the Regency on the eve and the beginning of the French occupation. But who is this individual who allowed himself to give such a figure? Is Hamdan Khodja trustworthy? How did he find that number? Do other sources confirm this?

As soon as the landing of 1830 took place, Hamdan Khodja [22] had participated in negotiations with the French authorities, which then recognized his competence and honesty. He was on good terms with most civilian and military officials until the Mirror was published  . He was, it should be recalled, the son of the First Secretary of State of the Regency in charge of accounting and diplomatic correspondence. He was also the nephew of the Director of the Mint.He was a professor of law at the Zaouia (University) of Algiers and spoke Turkish, French and English. He was the counselor and confidant of Dey Hussein, the counselor and friend of the Beys of Oran and Constantine. A great traveler and attentive observer, he had traveled the country up and down, and had gone to the East,


Is that enough to accept his figure a priori? Probably not, although he has clearly indicated his method of inquiry, we have tried to confront him with other sources who spoke about the Muslim population in Algeria between 1830 and 1872. The exercise was worth candle. Judge it.


For the year 1830, there are several sources or methods which corroborate, more or less, the figure of Hamdan.


First , Clauzel himself will agree that the country already included (in 1830) some 10 million inhabitants, just as Bugeaud spoke of 8 million. But it was then declared that it was pure boasting on their part.


Second , if one is based on the geographical information, that the Muslim population of the province of Oran represents 1/6 th of Algerian total, that of Constantine ½ and southern 1/10 th , we can approach The total population at different dates. Thus, in 1831, the Bey of Constantine advanced the figure of 5 million for his province, a total of 10 million for Algeria. In 1841 Lamoricière’s work estimated the minimum density of Oran from 12 to 13 per square kilometer, covering an area of 116,000 km2, that is to say an Oranan population of 1.4 million and a total for Algeria of 8.4 million . In 1844, the scientific commission quoted the figure of 700,000 inhabitants for the South, a total for Algeria of 7 million. Otherwise, The census of 1856 gives 700,000 Muslims for Oran, a total of about 4.5 million for Algeria. All these figures trace a line that leads, to a greater or lesser degree, to the figure of Hamdan.


Third, the human and animal constants approach also allows us to reconstruct the figures. Thus there was a constant relationship between the number of tribes and the number of horses possessed. In 1869 there were 659 tribes, and the Maghreb tribe was, on average, between 15 and 20,000 souls. In a “normal” situation, the total population would therefore be around 9.5 million. Moreover, Bugeaud himself acknowledges that in Algeria there is a horse for 25 to 30 inhabitants. In 1841, Lamoricière counted 80,000 horses for Oran, which gives 400,000 horses for the three provinces and at least 10 million inhabitants in “normal” situation.


Quarto , in 1860, Emile Girardin acknowledges that the Algerian population in 1831 was 5 to 7 million and that in 1847, after sixteen years of occupation it fell to 2.5 million.

Cinto , in 1840, for comparison, the French authorities recognize that the population of neighboring Morocco is 8 million inhabitants. The country is less extensive than Algeria, and its “useful” surface is one third less than that of the Regency.


Sexto , In 1845, several military and ecclesiastical figures give similar figures for the Muslim population on that date.General Bellonet and the Minister of War speak of 7 million inhabitants. The Bishop of Algiers speaks of 6 million inhabitants.


At the end of the day, when you put all these numbers in a chart and on a graph, you can see that most of these points are along a straight line through the 10 million inhabitants in 1830 and the 2.1 Million in 1872. On the other hand, the figures of 3 millions given by Yacono, 5 and 7 millions given by Girardin for 1830, are clearly outside this line. All this, in the absence of a census at that time and scientifically elaborate figures, is very troubling. However, these were only approximations. There were still no scientifically developed figures.


It was not until 1982 that some of the methodological elements of Yacono were challenged by Djillali Sari, an Algerian scholar, specialist in the matter. Correcting the underestimation of certain parameters by Yacono, Sari concludes that”  a population of 4.5 million people in 1830 constitutes a probable minimum.  Kamel Kateb, on the other hand, based on a reassessment of Boyer’s work in 1954, estimates that ”  the population in 1830 was approaching the 3,850,000 inhabitants, to which should be added the numerous Kabyles who peddled their horses Overcrowded region … to Tunisia … The population in 1830 would have been close to 4 million inhabitants.  Before concluding  “Three, Four or five million inhabitants?  It is obvious that we shall never know what the real population of Algeria was in 1830. ” 23In so doing, he put an end to this war of figures which began with the destruction of the archives of the Regency During the capture of Algiers.


The result, however approximate, is however striking of horror. Indeed, whatever the figures retained, in 42 years, from 1830 to 1872, the colonial army, helped by epidemics, droughts and earthquakes, will have eliminated one to two thirds of the Algerian population. Henceforth, how can we describe such a misdeed in the eyes of history? Would the term genocide be exaggerated?Should we hesitate to speak of crimes against humanity? Was it the fear of the judgment of history that triggered this true war of figures that followed the publication of the Mirror? Or, more simply, to see the French and international population refuse the pursuit of this tragic and dirty colonial adventure?


For Michel Habart, no doubt, “the reasons for this deliberate disguise of Algerian demography are easy to understand. Never would an enlightened French opinion have accepted the inhuman undertaking which consisted in colonizing such a populous territory, to repress or exterminate such a large population . The fury of the maniacs of French Algeria before  the Mirror , the crushing of its author, and the persistence of 130 years in maintaining this figure of three millions. ”


Faced with such a tragedy, how can we not see the true face of colonization there? A brutal and hideous face which obviously shows that it is at the very least indecent, as some have tried to do in France through the law in 2005, to speak of the “positive effects of the French presence in Algeria “. From then on, how surprising and offensive that such a subject reappears, after all these years of denial, on the occasion of the debates for the 2017 presidential election in France.  

[1] The centenary budget was 60 million francs at the time. The organizers had asked 130 million.

[2] A. MEMMI, Portrait of the colonized preceded by the portrait of the colonizer. Editions Pauvert, Paris 1966

[3] Rehabilitated by Louis Bertrand in “The novel of the conquest”, written especially for the centenary

[4] L.BERTRAND, Before Islam, Editions Plon, 1926

[5] F. DUCHÊNE, Mouna, cachir and couscouss, editions Albin Michel, 1930

[6] F. DUCHÊNE,  Mouna, cachir and couscouss

[7] J. DESPOIS , North Africa , Editions PUF, 1964

[8] G. MERCIER, The centennial of Algeria , Soubiron editions, 1931

[9] J. LEJEUNE, The Algerian miracle , Berger Levreault, 1930

[10] M.BUJEGA, Heart of Kabyle , International Editions of Tangier, 1939

[11] O. DEPONT, Algeria of the centenary , editions Cadocet, 1928

[12] The Golden Book of French Algeria , a book financed by the General Commissariat of the Centenary, prefaced by the Governor General Pierre BORDES

[13] L. MOUILLESEAUX, History of Algeria , Editions Productions de Paris, 1st
quarter 1962

[14] Few people recall that the Senatus-Consulate of 1865 already granted French nationality to any Jew who applied for it as an individual, on condition of renouncing his personal status (religious law). It was a failure  : on the eve of the Crémieux decree, only 228 requests were expressed and answered, less than one per cent of the Jewish population. Faced with this, the Cremieux decree automatically made the naturalization of almost all Algerian Jews (with the exception of those in the southern territories) in a single administrative process.

[15] It is not uncommon for children to die for eating poisonous roots.

[16] Algeria was the chosen field of large agrarian capitalism, where mining and financial coexisted wealthy Borgeaud Blachette De Wendel, Rothschild and Mirabaud Pechiney within large banks (of Indochina, of Paris, the Paris Union, etc.).

[17] These paragraphs owe much to Michel HABART,  History of perjury , ANEP editions, 2002. Michel Habart Algiers, Human free letters, was a journalist for La Croix. He published his book, shot in 17 copies, in 1961. This one triggered the anger of the ultras who burned the premises of his printer … in Marseille.

[18] Testimony of Rozey, quoted by G. Esquer,  The taking of Algiers , editions of Latin Africa, 1930

[19] See P. PEAN, Low Hand on Algiers , editions Chihab, Algiers 2005

[20] The Pietri report made Louis Philippe the main beneficiary of the diversions: “The Treasures of the dey of Algiers have benefited France only for a small part … The biggest part has served to magnify the fortune of the branch Fallen and some personal fortunes. For more details, see Pierre Pean, Low Hand on Algiers.

[21] Hamdan KHODJA, The Mirror , editions Actes Sud, 1999

[22] From the beginning of the conquest, everyone recognized him as a sincere friend of France. He decided the Dey to treat with Bourmont, and then, at the risk of his life, directed the negotiations with the Bey of Constantine on Rovigo’s proposal.Although Clauzel hated him, Hamdan Khodja was very much appreciated by his other French partners. General Pelissier recognized in him “a man of intelligence more enlightened than the Moors.” General d’Armandy agreed that “his ideas were very reasonable.” The Duke of Rovigo himself, in a report to the ministry, said: “He is the most intelligent man in this country, the most skilful and the most justly venerated. And it is fundamentally honest, which is very rare. Baron Pichon, the first civil governor, added: “It is the most notable of these able Moors … who are the aristocracy and moral strength of the Algerian nation, and who have extensive and thorough knowledge of this country. Finally, even after the publication of the Mirror , in 1834, in a message to the Parliament, Dr. Barachin, Prefect of Oran, declared: “I must draw your attention to all Sidi Hamdan’s account of his country He knows better than anyone. In his relations with the French, and in his writings, Hamdan Khodja always distinguished between the exactions of the colonial army and the principles of the France of Liberties. Even after the publication of the Mirror in 1834, in a message to the Parliament, Dr. Barachin, Prefect of Oran, declared: “I must bring to your attention all that Sidi Hamdan says in his work on this country he knows Better than anyone. In his relations with the French, and in his writings, Hamdan Khodja always distinguished between the exactions of the colonial army and the principles of the France of Liberties. Even after the publication of the Mirror in 1834, in a message to the Parliament, Dr. Barachin, Prefect of Oran, declared: “I must bring to your attention all that Sidi Hamdan says in his work on this country he knows Better than anyone. In his relations with the French, and in his writings, Hamdan Khodja always distinguished between the exactions of the colonial army and the principles of the France of Liberties.

However, from the publication of the  Mirror , Hamdan Khodja was the focus of the proponents of extermination. He was summoned to the African Commission in January 1834, to which he submitted a report confirming his earlier writings.Faced with the colonial machine, Hamdan Khodja did not hold out for long. Ruined, threatened, his family persecuted, his nephew disappeared in Bone in some “chore wood”, he eventually took refuge in Turkey in May 1836. He died in exile.

[23] Kamel Kateb, Europeans, “Indigenous” and Jews in Algeria (1830-1962) , Paris, Ined / PUF,



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