Background: French Algeria
Conquest of Algeria
Arrival of Marshal Randon
in Algiers in 1857
On the pretext of a slight to their consul, the French invaded Algeria in 1830.: Directed by Marshall Bugeaud, who became the first Governor-General of Algeria, the conquest was violent, marked by a "scorched earth" policy designed to reduce the power of the native rulers, the Dey, including massacres, mass rapes, and other atrocities. Between 500,000 and 1,000,000, from approximately 3 million Algerians, were killed within the first three decades of the conquest. French losses from 1830–51 were 3,336 killed in action and 92,329 dead in the hospital.
In 1834, Algeria became a French military colony and was subsequently declared by the constitution of 1848 to be an integral part of France and divided into three departments: Alger, Oran and Constantine. Many French and other Europeans (Spanish, Italians, Maltese, and others) later settled in Algeria.
Under the Second Empire (1852–1871), the Code de l'indigénat (Indigenous Code) was implemented by the Sénatus-consulte of 14 July 1865. It allowed Muslims to apply for full French citizenship, a measure that few took, since it involved renouncing the right to be governed by sharia law in personal matters and was considered a kind of apostasy. Its first article stipulated:
The indigenous Muslim is French; however, he will continue to be subjected to Muslim law. He may be admitted to serve in the army (armée de terre) and the navy (armée de mer). He may be called to functions and civil employment in Algeria. He may, on his demand, be admitted to enjoy the rights of a French citizen; in this case, he is subjected to the political and civil laws of France.
Prior to 1870, fewer than 200 demands were registered by Muslims and 152 by Jewish Algerians. The 1865 decree was then modified by the 1870 Crémieux decrees, which granted French nationality to Jews living in one of the three Algerian departments. In 1881, the Code de l'Indigénat made the discrimination official by creating specific penalties for indigènes and organizing the seizure or appropriation of their lands.
After World War II, equality of rights was proclaimed by the Ordonnance of 7 March 1944, and later confirmed by the Loi Lamine Guèye of 7 May 1946, which granted French citizenship to all the subjects of France's territories and overseas departments, and by the 1946 Constitution. The Law of 20 September 1947 granted French citizenship to all Algerian subjects, who were not required to renounce their Muslim personal status.
Algeria was unique to France because, unlike all other overseas possessions acquired by France during the 19th century, only Algeria was considered and legally classified an integral part of France.
1954 film about French Algeria
Both Muslim and European Algerians took part in World War II, fighting for France. Algerian Muslims served as tirailleurs (such regiments were created as early as 1842) and spahis; and French settlers as Zouaves or Chasseurs d'Afrique. With Wilson's 1918 proclamation of the Fourteen Points, the fifth reading: "A free, open-minded, and absolutely impartial adjustment of all colonial claims, based upon a strict observance of the principle that in determining all such questions of sovereignty the interests of the populations concerned must have equal weight with the equitable claims of the government whose title is to be determined", some Algerian intellectuals—dubbed oulémas—began to nurture the desire for independence or, at least, autonomy and self-rule.
Within this context, a grandsonAbd el-Kadir spearheaded the resistance against the French in the first half of the 20th century. He was a member of the directing committee of the French Communist Party (PCF). In 1926, he founded the Étoile Nord-Africaine (North African Star) party, to which Messali Hadj, also a member of the PCF and of its affiliated trade union, the Confédération générale du travail unitaire (CGTU), joined the following year.
The North African Star broke from the PCF in 1928, before being dissolved in 1929 at Paris's demand. Amid growing discontent from the Algerian population, the Third Republic (1871–1940) acknowledged some demands, and the Popular Front initiated the Blum-Viollette proposal in 1936 which was supposed to enlighten the Indigenous Code by giving French citizenship to a small number of Muslims. The pieds-noirs (Algerians of European origin) violently demonstrated against it and the North African Party opposed it, leading to the project's abandonment. The pro-independence party was dissolved in 1937, and its leaders were charged with the illegal reconstitution of a dissolved league, leading to Messali Hadj's 1937 founding of the Parti du peuple algérien (Algerian People's Party, PPA), which, at this time, no longer espoused full independence but only extensive autonomy. This new party was dissolved in 1939. Under Vichy, the French state attempted to abrogate the Crémieux decree in order to suppress the Jews' French citizenship, but the measure was never implemented.
On the other hand, nationalist leader Ferhat Abbas founded the
Algerian Popular Union (Union populaire algérienne) in 1938. In 1943 Abbas wrote the Algerian People's Manifesto (Manifeste du peuple algérien). Arrested after the Sétif massacre of May 8, 1945, during which the French Army and pieds-noirs mobs killed about 6,000 Algerians,:27 Abbas founded the Democratic Union of the Algerian Manifesto (UDMA) in 1946 and was elected as a deputy. Founded in 1954, the National Liberation Front (FLN) succeeded Messali Hadj's Algerian People's Party (PPA), while its leaders created an armed wing, the Armée de Libération Nationale (National Liberation Army) to engage in an armed struggle against French authority. France, which had just lost Indochina, was determined not to lose the next anti-colonial war, particularly not in its oldest and nearest major colony, which was regarded as an integral part of the republic.