Pied-noir: Wikis


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Louis Franchet D'Esperey · Alain Chabat · Albert Camus
Total population
Formerly one million (10% of population of French Algeria)
Regions with significant populations
Algiers, Oran, Constantine

French and Algerian Arabic; some speak Catalan (patuet dialect), Spanish, Italian, and Sicilian


Mainly Catholicism, minorities practicing Judaism, Protestantism or no religion

Notre Dame d'Afrique, a church built by the French Pieds-Noirs in Algeria

Pied-Noir ("Black-Foot"), plural Pieds-Noirs, pronounced [pje.nwaʁ], is a term used to refer to colonists of French Algeria until the Algerian independence in 1962. Specifically, Pieds-Noirs were French nationals, including those of European descent, Sephardic Jews, and settlers from other European countries such as Spain, Italy, and Malta, who were born in Algeria.[1][2] From the French invasion in 18 June 1830, until attaining independence, Algeria formed three départements (Algiers, Oran and Constantine) and was considered a part of France. By independence, the Pieds-Noirs accounted for 1,025,000 people, or roughly 10 percent of the total population.[3]

The Pieds-Noirs are known in reference to the Algerian War, which saw the deaths of 24,000 French Nationals and at least 153,000 Algerians, with estimates varying due to differing statistical analyses. The Algerian War was fought by nationalist groups such as the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN) against the colonial French government in response to political and economic inequalities as well as their perceived "alienation" from the French settlers. The conflict contributed to the fall of the French Fourth Republic and the mass migration of French Nationals to France.[2][4]

After Algeria became independent in 1962, more than one million Pied-Noir settlers of French nationality migrated to mainland France. Upon arriving, many felt ostracized by the public perception that they had caused the war and the political turmoil surrounding the collapse of the French Fourth Republic. Complicating the situation, the Pieds-Noirs felt that they could not return to Algeria because of the violence and resentment felt between the settlers and the native Algerians.[2] In popular culture, the community is often represented as feeling removed from French culture while longing for Algeria.[2][4] Thus, the recent history of the pieds-noirs has been imprinted with a theme of double alienation from both their native homeland and their adopted land.


Origin of the term

The origin of the term Pied-noir is debated. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it refers to "a person of European origin living in Algeria during the period of French rule, esp[ecially] a French person repatriated after Algeria was granted independence in 1962."[1] The Le Robert dictionary states that in 1901 the word indicated a sailor working barefoot in the coal room of a ship, who would find his feet dirtied by the soot. In the Mediterranean, this was often an Algerian native, thus the term was used pejoratively for Algerians until 1955 when it first began referring to "French born in Algeria."[5][6] This usage originated from mainland French as a negative nickname.[1] There is also a theory that the term comes from the black boots of French soldiers compared to the barefoot Algerians.[7]. Other theories focus on new settlers dirtying their clothing by working in swampy areas, or trampling grapes to make wine.[8]



French conquest and settlement

Bombardment of Algeria by Admiral Duperré's forces in 1830

European settlement began in the 1830s when France conquered Algeria. The invasion was instigated when the Dey of Algiers struck the French consul with a fly-swatter in 1827, although economic reasons are also cited. In 1830, the government of Charles X blockaded Algeria and an armada sailed to Algiers, followed by a land expedition. A complement of 34,000 soldiers landed on 18 June 1830, at Sidi Ferruch, 27 kilometres (17 mi) west of Algiers. Following a three-week campaign, the Dey Hussein capitulated on 5 July 1830, and was exiled.[9][10][11]

In the 1830s, the French controlled only the northern part of the country.[10] Entering the Oran region, they faced resistance from Emir Abd al-Kader, a leader of the Sufi Brotherhood.[12][13] In 1839, al-Kader began a seven-year war by declaring jihad against the French. The French signed two peace treaties with al-Kader, but they were broken because of miscommunication between the military and the Parisian government. In response to the breaking of the second treaty, al-Kader drove the French to the coast. In reply, a force of nearly 100,000 troops marched to the Algerian countryside and forced al-Kader's surrender in 1847.[12] In 1848, Algeria was divided into three départements of France, Alger, Oran, and Constantine, thus becoming part of the French state.[11][12]

The French modeled their colonial system on their predecessors, the Ottomans, by co-opting local tribes. In 1843, the colonists began supervising through Bureaux Arabes[9][14] operated by military officials with authority over particular domains.[14] This system lasted until the 1880s and the rise of the French Third Republic, when colonization intensified.[3] Large-scale expropriation of land began when land-speculation companies took advantage of government policy that required abandonment of native property. By the 20th century Europeans held "1,700,000 hectares and by 1940,  2,700,000 hectares, about 35 to 40 percent of the arable land of Algeria."[9] Settlers came from all over the western Mediterranean region, particularly Italy, France, Spain, and Malta.[2]

Relationship to mainland France and Muslim Algeria

The Pied-Noir relationship with France and Algeria was marked by alienation. The settlers considered themselves French,[15] but many of the Pieds-Noirs had a tenuous connection to mainland France, which 28 percent of them had never visited. The settlers encompassed a range of socioeconomic strata, ranging from peasants to large landowners, the latter of whom were referred to as grand colons.[15][16]

In Algeria, the Muslims were not considered French and did not share the same political or economic benefits.[15] For example, the indigenous population did not own most of the settlements, farms, or businesses, although they numbered nearly 9 million (versus roughly one million Pieds-Noirs) at independence. Politically, the Muslim Algerians had no representation in the Algerian National Assembly and wielded limited influence in local governance.[17] To obtain citizenship, they were required to renounce their Muslim identity. Since this would constitute apostasy, only about 2,500 Muslims acquired citizenship before 1930.[16][17] The settlers' politically and economically dominant position worsened relations between the two groups.

Sephardic Jew community

An Algerian Jew

Jews, specifically Sephardi Jews, were present in North Africa for centuries, many since the time when "Phoenicians and Hebrews, engaged in maritime commerce, founded Annaba, Tipasa, Caesarea, and Algiers."[18] Others arrived from Palestine after the First Jewish-Roman War (66–73 CE) and again following the Spanish Reconquista.[19] In 1870, Justice Minister Adolphe Crémieux wrote a proposal, décret Crémieux (French: The Crémieux decree), giving French citizenship to Algerian Jews. Thus, the Jews of Algeria came to be considered part of the Pied-Noir community.[19] This advancement was resisted by part of the larger Pieds-Noirs community. In 1897 a wave of anti-semitic riots rolled through Algeria, and during World War II the The Crémieux decree was abolished under the Vichy regime, and Jews were barred from professional jobs.[18] Citizenship was restored in 1943, but many Jews fled the country in 1962 with the Pieds-Noirs after the Algerian War.[20]

Algerian War and exodus

Algerian War

For more than a century France maintained colonial rule in Algerian territory. Discontent among the native Algerians grew after the World Wars, in which the Algerians sustained many casualties.[18] Algerian nationalists began efforts aimed at furthering equality by listing complaints in the Manifesto of the Algerian People, which requested equal representation under the state and access to citizenship. The French response was to grant citizenship to 60,000 "meritorious" Algerians.[10] During a reform effort in 1947, the French created a bicameral legislature with one house for the Pieds-Noirs and another for the Algerians but made a European's vote equal seven times a native's vote.[16] In response, paramilitary groups such as the Front de Libération nationale (FLN) appeared. This led to a war for independence, the Algerian War from 1954 until 1962, causing the relocation of roughly 900,000 Europeans and Jews.

At the onset of the war, the Pieds-noirs believed the French military would be able to overcome opposition. However, in May 1958 the situation intensified after General Massu seized power in Algeria. As head of a junta, he demanded that Charles de Gaulle be named president of the French Fourth Republic to prevent the "abandonment of Algeria". This eventually led to the fall of the Republic.[15] In response, the French Parliament voted 329 to 224 to place de Gaulle in power.[15] Once de Gaulle assumed leadership, he attempted peace by visiting Algeria within three days of his appointment and by organizing a referendum for Algerian self-determination that passed overwhelmingly.[15] Pieds-noirs viewed this as betrayal and formed the Organisation de l'armée secrète (OAS) and began attacking institutions representing the French state, Algerians, and de Gaulle himself.[15] The OAS was also accused of murders and bombings nullifying reconciliation opportunities between the communities.[21]

The bloodshed culminated in 1961 during an Algiers putsch of 1961, led by retired generals. After this failure, on 18 March 1962, de Gaulle and the FLN signed a cease-fire agreement, the Évian accords, and held a referendum. In July, the Algerians voted 5,975,581 to 16,534 to become independent of France.[16]


Minister of Justice Adolphe Crémieux's decrees of October 24 1870 granted automatic and massive French citizenship to French Algeria's Sephardic Jews. In contrast, Muslims and 3-year resident European foreigners had to be major (21) to apply.

The exodus began once it became clear that Algeria would become independent.[5] In Algiers, it was reported that by May 1961 the Pieds-Noirs'  morale had sunk because of violence and allegations that the entire community of French nationals had been responsible for "terrorism, torture, colonial racism, and ongoing violence in general" and because the group felt "rejected by the nation as Pieds-Noirs ".[5] These factors, the Oran Massacre, and the referendum for independence caused the Pied-Noir exodus to begin in earnest.[2][4][5]

The number of Pied-Noirs who fled Algeria totaled more than one million between 1962 and 1964.[21] Hurried, many Pieds-Noirs left only with what they could carry in a suitcase.[4][21] Adding to the confusion, the de Gaulle government ordered the French Navy not to help with transportation of French citizens.[16] By September 1962, cities like Oran, Bône, and Sidi-Bel-Abbès were half-empty. All administration, police, schools, justice, and commercial activities stopped within three months after many were told to choose either "la valise ou le cercueil" (the suitcase or the coffin).[18] Only 100,000 Pieds-Noirs chose to remain, but they gradually left through the following decade; by the 1980s only a few thousand Pieds-Noirs remained in Algeria.[15]

Flight to mainland France

The French government claimed that it had not anticipated that such a massive number would leave; it believed that perhaps 300,000 might choose to depart temporarily and that a large portion would return to Algeria.[5] The administration had set aside funds for absorption of those they called "repatriates" to partly reimburse them for property losses .[16] The administration avoided acknowledging the true numbers of refugees in order to avoid upsetting its Algeria policies.[16] Consequently, few plans were made for their return, and, psychologically at least, many of the Pieds-Noirs were alienated from both Algeria and France.[2][4]

Many Pieds-Noirs settled in France, while others migrated to New Caledonia, Italy, Spain, Australia, North America, Israel, and South America.[22] In France, many relocated to the south, which offered a climate similar to North Africa. The influx of new citizens affected the existing population by bolstering local economies; however, the newcomers also competed for jobs, which caused resentment.[4][16] In some ways, the Pieds-Noirs were able to integrate well into the French community, relative to their Maghrebin and Muslim counterparts.[23] Their resettlement was made easier by the economic boom of the 1960s. However, the ease of assimilation depended on socioeconomic class. Integration was easier for the upper classes, many of whom found the transformation less stressful than the lower classes, who were not prepared for reduced status. Many were surprised that they no longer were seen as superior; in fact, they were often treated as an "underclass or outsider-group". Also, many Pieds-Noirs contended that the money allocated by the government to assist in relocation and reimbursement was insufficient.[4][16]

Thus, the repatriated Pieds-Noirs frequently felt "disaffected" from French society. They also suffered from a sense of alienation stemming from the French government's changed position towards Algeria. Until independence, Algeria was legally a part of France; after independence many felt that they had been betrayed and were an "embarrassment" to their country or to blame for the war.[4][24] At times, the repatriates were stigmatized by assumptions that they had all been grands colons and were to blame for their misfortune. Conversely, the Pieds-Noirs felt unable to return to their birthplace, Algeria, because of the independence movement's violence.[2][4][25]

The Song of the Africans

The Pied-Noir community has adopted an unofficial anthem as a symbol of its identity, Captain Félix Boyer's 1943 version of Le Chant des Africains (lit. "The Song of the Africans")[26]. This is a 1915 Infanterie de Marine march song, originally titled C'est nous les Marocains (lit. "We are the Moroccans") and dedicated to the French Army Colonel Van Hecke, commander of the WWI cavalry 7e régiment de chasseurs d'Afrique ("7th Africa Chasers Regiment") which originated in the French North African Chantiers de la jeunesse française ("Youth Workshops") Boyer was in charge. It was adopted by General de Lattre's First Army (a.k.a. Armée d'Afrique, lit. "Africa army") who used it during WWII's European liberation campaigns. This song was later used by the Pied-Noir to demonstrate their allegiance to France. (listen to the Chant des Africains)

This official military song was banned at the end of the Algerian War in 1962 until August 1969, when French Minister of Veterans Affairs (Ministre des Anciens Combattants) under Georges Pompidou, Henri Duvillard, removed the prohibition[27].

Notable Pieds-Noirs

Originally, the term Pied-Noir only applied to European ancestries settlers of French Algeria but after the Algerian independence and its subsequent exodus the term applied, including in French medias[28], to a larger community comprised of all French North Africa settlers including Sephardic Jews.

French Algeria (1830-1962)

French Morocco (1912-1956)

French Tunisia (1881-1956)

See also


  1. ^ a b c "pied-noir". Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Edition. XI. Oxford, United Kingdom: Clarendon Press. 1989. pp.  799. ISBN 0198612230.  
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Naylor, Phillip Chiviges (2000). France and Algeria: A History of Decolonization and Transformation. University Press of Florida. pp. 9–23, 14. ISBN 081303096X. http://books.google.com/books?id=ZMUb8R3Cs-MC&pg=PA9&dq=pied+noir+alienation&lr=&sig=IdPdA7lCaKyGLGKu9c-gVnSHxks.  
  3. ^ a b Cook, Bernard A. (2001). Europe since 1945: an encyclopedia. New York: Garland. pp. 398. ISBN 0-8153-4057-5.  
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Smith, Andrea L. (2006). Colonial Memory And Postcolonial Europe: Maltese Settlers in Algeria And France. Indiana University Press. pp. 4–37, 180. ISBN 025321856X. http://books.google.com/books?id=CbaLktQqv7QC&pg=PA4&dq=largest+migration+pied+noir&ei=iFCiR6ucDpG0yQTzgLXfBg&sig=v4ooIAf8-8mMco4LIg-dTBcRu7s#PPA31,M1.  
  5. ^ a b c d e Shepard, Todd (2006). The Invention of Decolonization: The Algerian War And the Remaking of France. Cornell University Press. pp. 213–240. ISBN 0801443601. http://books.google.com/books?id=Lr3vcmMtaNoC&pg=PA213&dq=pied+noir+exodus&sig=MDgweIzWMQPM5Q0G1vFHytnre_k#PPA221,M1.  
  6. ^ "pied-noir". Dictionnaire Historique de la langue française. 2. Paris, France: Dictionnaires le Robert. March, 2000. pp.  2728-9. ISBN 2850365615.  
  7. ^ pieds-noirs (histoire)
  8. ^ Francparler.com. Origine de l'expression "pieds-noirs".
  9. ^ a b c Lapidus, Ira Marvin (2002). A History of Islamic Societies. Cambridge University Press. pp. 585–600. ISBN 0521779332. http://books.google.com/books?id=I3mVUEzm8xMC&pg=PA587&dq=french+colonization+of+algeria&sig=olbwUyyeWtum1HydVwdnwgHW4hk#PPA587,M1.  
  10. ^ a b c Country Studies Program, formerly the Army Handbook (2006). "Country Profile: Algeria" (PDF). Library of Congress, Federal Research Division. The Library of Congress. p. 3. http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/profiles/Algeria.pdf. Retrieved 2007-12-24.  
  11. ^ a b Milton-Edwards, Beverley (2006). Contemporary Politics in the Middle East. Polity. pp. 28. ISBN 0745635938. http://books.google.com/books?id=YHXBpzKjNCkC&pg=PA28&dq=french+colonization+of+algeria&lr=&sig=XEgw5LENQ7CJLGCq2PGd4GburhA.  
  12. ^ a b c Churchill, Charles Henry (1867). The Life of Abdel Kader, Ex-sultan of the Arabs of Algeria. Chapman and Hall. pp. 270. http://books.google.com/books?id=IANFAAAAIAAJ&dq=surrender+of+abdel+al+kader&source=gbs_summary_s&cad=0.  
  13. ^ Stone, Martin (1997). The Agony of Algeria. Columbia University Press. pp. 31–37. ISBN 0231109113. http://books.google.com/books?id=5mqlsUm193cC&pg=PA30&dq=french+invasion+of+algeria&lr=&ei=QLNpR-HDBIneiQG5gsl5&sig=V_OVFPba2K9j2CuPfiPugEv0ibY#PPA31,M1.  
  14. ^ a b Amselle, Jean-Loup (2003). Affirmative exclusion: cultural pluralism and the rule of custom in France. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press. pp. 65–100. ISBN 0-8014-8747-1.  
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h Grenville, J. A. S. (2005). A History of the World from the 20th to the 21st Century. Routledge. pp. 520–30. ISBN 0415289556.  
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i Kacowicz, Arie Marcelo; Pawel Lutomski (2007). Population Resettlement in International Conflicts: A Comparative Study. Lexington Books. pp. 30–70. ISBN 073911607X. http://books.google.com/books?id=ovck_g0xwX0C&pg=PA52&dq=pied+noir+relationship+to+france&lr=&sig=RI86MXr3V_lnibA4kkxQzru68a8#PPA49,M1A.  
  17. ^ a b Kantowicz, Edward R. (2000). Coming apart, coming together. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans. pp. 207. ISBN 0-8028-4456-1.  
  18. ^ a b c d Stora, Benjamin (2005). Algeria, 1830-2000: A Short History. Cornell University Press. pp. 12, 77. ISBN 0801489164. http://books.google.com/books?id=HW8P_SnsQpMC&pg=PA528&dq=french+settlers+to+algeria&lr=&sig=jPefJ2Xtggx5R-jcWwRIm70fzw8#PPA524,M1.  
  19. ^ a b Goodman, Martin; Cohen, Jeremy; Sorkin, David Jan (2005). The Oxford Handbook of Jewish Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 330–40. ISBN 0-19-928032-0. http://books.google.com/books?id=4me0TRqPOB4C&pg=RA1-PA334&dq=jews+in+algeria+at+french+invasion&ei=vn4DSPbpB4jYyAStpO3MBQ&sig=BdpalujWpX_cUmJJF2QP82Hold0#PRA1-PA335,M1.  
  20. ^ Grobman, Alex (1983). Genocide: Critical Issues of the Holocaust. Behrman House, Inc. pp. 132. ISBN 0940646382. http://books.google.com/books?id=uf1rdNyUwRQC&pg=PA132&dq=algeria+jews+vichy&sig=MYAAe-k-SHP4MT5h7M6ScRfT-Lw.  
  21. ^ a b c Meredith, Martin. The Fate of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence. PublicAffairs. pp. 74. ISBN 1-58648-398-6.  
  22. ^ "French migration to South Australia (1955-1971): What Alien Registration documents can tell us". Vol. 2, Issue 2, August 2005. Flinders University Languages. http://ehlt.flinders.edu.au/deptlang/fulgor/volume2i2/papers/fulgor_v2i2_bouvet.htm. Retrieved 2007-12-25.  
  23. ^ "Decolonization Immigrations and the Social Origins of the Second Generation: The Case of North Africans in France". International Migration Review (Blackwell Synergy) 36 (4): 1169–93. December 2002. http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1747-7379.2002.tb00122.x. Retrieved 2008-05-12.  
  24. ^ Dine, Philip (1994). Images of the Algerian War: French Fiction and Film, 1954-1992. Oxford University Press. pp. 189–99. ISBN 0198158750. http://books.google.com/books?id=JaSALPJH0SgC&pg=PA122&lpg=PA122&dq=experience+of+returned+pied+noirs+repatriate&source=web&ots=HYlTosOJY0&sig=SJWbGQuEqU-LL3-LC7tiqh8oxyI#PPA122,M1.  
  25. ^ "Grappling with ghosts:In its post-colonial era, France rethinks its identity.". Monday, 6 March 2006. In the Fray, Identity Magazine Group. http://www.inthefray.com/html/article.php?sid=1564. Retrieved 2007-12-25.  
  26. ^ "Les Africains" revient dans l'actualité. Mais d'où vient-il?
  27. ^ John Franklin (4th trimester 2005). ""Mémoire Vive"". Magazine du C.D.H.A. n°32. http://nice.algerianiste.free.fr/pages/les_africains/lesafricains.html#chant. Retrieved 2010.01.03.  
  28. ^ Grassin Sophie, Médioni Gilles (1997.05.01). "Le Sentier de la gloire". L'Express. http://www.lexpress.fr/informations/le-sentier-de-la-gloire_622064.html. Retrieved 2010.01.03.  


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