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Free French Africa in World War II
The African Resistance


  • Date Published: September 2015
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107048485

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About the Authors
  • Only in recent years have historians rediscovered the critical role that French colonial troops played in the twentieth century's two world wars. What is perhaps still deeply under-appreciated is how much General de Gaulle's Free France drew its strength from 1940 to the middle of 1943 from fighting men, resources, and operations in French Equatorial Africa rather than London. Territorially, Free France spanned from the Libyan border with Chad down to the Congo River, and to the scattered tiny French territories of the South Pacific and India. Eric T. Jennings tells the story of an improbable French military and institutional rebirth through Central Africa and gives a unique, deep look at the key role Free French Africa played during World War II to help the Allied cause.

    • Demonstrates Africa's many contributions to the Gaullist cause and traces the impact of the war on Africans
    • Creates a new arc with which to read the Liberation, an arc that runs from South to North
    • Provides a corrective to the idea that Free France operated entirely out of London, re-centering the French Resistance in Africa
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'A salutary work that sheds new light on France's relationship with its former colonies at a time when the French army is intervening in the Central African Republic, once part of Free French Africa.' Julie Clarini, Le Monde

    'This is an important book by a first-rate historian on a subject that will certainly interest all modern French historians, scholars of colonialism in Africa, and World War II specialists. There is no competing work on the subject, which is saying something given the number of books on every other aspect of the war. Eric Jennings writes fluently and has a wonderful eye for visuals - a trademark of all his previous books - and the research is broad ranging and top notch. Free French Africa in World War II is an example of transnational history at its best.' Alice L. Conklin, Ohio State University

    'In demonstrating the importance of French Equatorial Africa to the cause of the Free French Eric Jennings provides a compelling alternative to celebrations of resistance in the metropole. He tells in vivid detail just what mobilization for that cause entailed for Africans - forced labor as well as military service - and makes clear that this was a formative moment in the intertwined histories of France and Africa.' Frederick Cooper, author of Citizenship between Empire and Nation: Remaking France and French Africa, 1945–1960

    'This lucid and original model of the historian's craft compels us to rethink a foundational episode in the making of France and of Africa, thereby re-casting their relationships not only to each other but to the world at large.' Gregory Mann, Columbia University, New York

    'Everyone knows the famous picture of Free French General Charles de Gaulle at the BBC microphone in London in 1940. But few know that until 1943 the real base of de Gaulle's power and legitimacy lay in French Africa. In this innovative book, Eric Jennings shows how the Free French exploited the manpower and resources of sub-Saharan French colonies, sometimes in ways that seem contrary to de Gaulle's mission of liberating France from dictatorship.' Robert O. Paxton, Mellon Professor Emeritus of Social Sciences, Columbia University

    'Drawing upon archival research conducted in Cameroon, Congo, Senegal, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States, Jennings successfully recovers the African perspective and re-centers the history of Free France in Central Africa. Hopefully other historians of World War II will follow suit.' Dana Bronson, African Studies Quarterly

    'Free French Africa in World War II provides a clear path to understanding both the voluntary and coerced contributions of Africans in the successful resistance of the Free French against Vichy France and its Italian and German mentors.' Myron Echenberg, Canadian Journal of History

    'In his masterful work, Free French Africa in World War II, Eric Jennings presents a fascinating account of French Equatorial Africa (FEA) during the Second World War. … [The book] tackles one of the lesser-known aspects of war while engaging with the myths surrounding de Gaulle and the Free French. Readers come away with a greater understanding of the global and international context of the Second World War, and crucially of the minutiae essential to the men, both African and French, tasked with keeping French Equatorial Africa for the Free French.' Sarah Ann Frank, War in History

    'Eric Jennings' Free French Africa in World War II is the first monograph to historicize the immense role of Africa during the Second World War, particularly the French colonies of Cameroon, Chad, Ubangi-Chari, Gabon, and Congo-Brazzaville. … From testimonies and life stories, a rich African-centered experience of the war emerges, along with a better understanding of how local conflicts shaped the political negotiations of the after-war. As such, Free French Africa in World War II provides a solid background to the social and political history of Equatorial Africa in the 1950s, and to the era of independence.' Florence Bernault, Journal of African History

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    Product details

    • Date Published: September 2015
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107048485
    • length: 318 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 157 x 20 mm
    • weight: 0.57kg
    • contains: 17 b/w illus. 2 maps
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. Free France's African Gambit: Introduction to Part I
    1. Colonies without motherlands
    2. Africa as legitimacy
    3. Dysfunction in Gaullist Africa
    Part II. The War: Introduction to Part II
    4. The empire strikes back
    5. Free French Africa in arms
    Part III. Resource Extraction, Wartime Abuses, and African Experiences: Introduction to Part III
    6. Rubber, gold, and the battle for resources
    7. Colonial practices and wartime imperatives

  • Author

    Eric T. Jennings, University of Toronto
    Eric T. Jennings is Professor of History at the University of Toronto. His books include Vichy in the Tropics, Curing the Colonizers, and Imperial Heights, as well as an edited volume with Jacques Cantier entitled L'Empire colonial sous Vichy. His books have all been translated into French. Jennings has received a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) awards, the Alf Andrew Heggoy, Jean-François Coste, and Fetkann book prizes, as well as the Palmes académiques.

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