What do Kenyans think of black British

European national stories

Andreas Eckert

To person

Dr. phil, born 1964; Professor for the history of Africa at the Humboldt University of Berlin, Institute for Asian and African Studies, Unter den Linden 6, 10099 Berlin.
Email: [email protected]

The debates about the significance of the colonial past for the present are still largely conducted within the framework of national discourses. Colonialism, however, was a European project.


In the early 1990s, the French historian Benjamin Stora, a specialist in the history of the Algerian War, complained that the end of the French colonial empire, which in many places was linked to violence, was hardly present in the consciousness of the population of the hexagon, i.e. France. [1] Indeed, for a long time France's official policy of remembrance suppressed events in the colonies.

The Algerian war, for example, remained an "operation to maintain order" in the state's language, a war without a name. A few years ago, however, the Grande Nation was caught up with power by its colonial past in North Africa. In "Le Monde" at the beginning of 2000 a report by a former activist of the Algerian liberation movement appeared, who vividly described her three months of torture by the French army. A few months later, General Paul Aussaresses meticulously described the torture methods used by the military and triggered a huge public response. [2] Without remorse, he admitted to killing 24 prisoners with his own hands. Aussaresses and his publishers were fined for "justifying war crimes".

There has been no shortage of academic publications on the Algerian war since the 1960s. However, they hardly came into the field of view of a wider public. That also changed dramatically a few years ago. When Raphaƫlle Branche defended her doctoral thesis on torture and the army during the war at the Sorbonne in December 2000, this event was even worth a front page report in the daily newspaper "Le Monde". The study published shortly afterwards [3] carefully traced the practices of the French armed forces on the basis of archive documents and interviews. The historian emphatically denied the claim that the widespread use of torture was purely military. According to Branche, the violence was primarily part of a policy of targeted terror in order to break the nationalists. Only in the second place was it about squeezing information from the prisoners.