From firstname.lastname@example.org Sat Oct 29 07:31:23 2005
Date: Tue, 25 Oct 2005 13:30:53 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: Re-Writing History is Official Policy in France
To: undisclosed-recipients: ;
PARIS (AP)—France, grappling for decades with its colonial past,
has passed a law to put an upbeat spin on a painful era, making it
mandatory to enshrine in textbooks the country's
role in its far-flung colonies.
But the law is stirring anger among historians and passions in places
like Algeria, which gained independence in a brutal conflict. Critics
accuse France of trying to gild an inglorious colonial past with an
At issue is language in the law stipulating that
recognize in particular the positive character of the French overseas
presence, notably in North Africa.
Deputies of the conservative governing party passed the law in February, but it has only recently come under public scrutiny after being denounced at an annual meeting of historians and in a history professors' petition.
An embarrassed President Jacques Chirac has called the law a
screw-up, newspapers quoted aides as saying. Education Minister
Gilles de Robien said this week that textbooks would not be changed.
But the law's detractors want it stricken from the
books—something the minister says only parliament can do.
The measure is one article in a law recognizing the
contribution of French citizens who lived in the colonies before
independence. It is aimed, above all, at recognizing the French who
lived in Algeria and were forced to flee, and Algerians who fought on
the side of France.
Unlike other colonies, Algeria, the most prized conquest, was considered an integral part of France—just like Normandy. It was only after a brutal eight-year independence war that the French department in North Africa became a nation in 1962, after 132 years of occupation.
Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has equated the law with
mental blindness and said it smacks of revisionism. The
Algerian Parliament has called it a
The friction comes as France and Algeria work to put years of rocky ties behind them with a friendship treaty to be signed this year.
Morally, the law is shameful, said University of Paris history
professor Claude Liauzu, who was behind the petition,
discredits France overseas.
France was once a vast empire, including large holdings in Indo-China and Africa. It unraveled in the 1950s and 1960s, mostly calmly.
However, France suffered ignominious defeats in Indo-China and
Algeria. Paris only called the Algerian conflict a
war in 1999.
Throughout the fighting, and for decades thereafter, France had
referred only to operations there to
In colonial times, French textbooks typically depicted the French presence in the colonies as that of benevolent enlightenment, with a clear mission to civilize.
The newspaper Liberation this week published drawings from
Overseas, an illustrated colonial Atlas of 1931 that showed
after drawings, one a sketch of Africans
cooking and eating another human being, the second a school house on a
well-manicured street with a French flag flying overhead.
The Association of History and Geography Professors has asked that
end the practice of manipulating history and
abrogate the law.
The separate petition by history professors gathered 1,000 signatures in three weeks, said Liauzu.
We're in a rather crazy situation, he said.
They say the
law won't be applied but it's up to lawmakers to cancel
Beyond the real concerns over the political manipulation of historic events, there is another danger of falsely misrepresenting French colonization, Liauzu said.
France is a country profoundly marked by immigration with the
majority of French from immigrant stock, Liauzu said. By failing to
tell the truth, children of today's immigrants
are deprived of