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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:When the Fires Are Lit: The French Navy's Recruitment and Training of Senegalese Mechanics and Stokers, 1864-1887
Author:Thompson, J. Malcolm
Periodical:Canadian Journal of African Studies
Geographic terms:Senegal
technical education
History and Exploration
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/485873
Abstract:The Navy was an important instrument in France's conquest of West Africa and its inhabitants. Its successful operation, however, required assistance from some of the very African groups it subjugated and displaced. This article is about Africans who manned the gunboats and staffed the workshops in the Senegal River Valley during the period 1864-1887. Besides high wages, food, and pensions, the Navy provided technical training. To train Africans for a military career, the Navy created the 'Compagnie des mécaniciens et d'ouvriers chauffeurs sénégalais' (CMOCS) in 1864. Skills acquired during several years in the Navy enabled African sailors to secure high paying positions aboard commercial steamers that traded in the interior, or travelled between France and its colonies. The French Navy enticed these recruits from precolonial patterns of labour by offering opportunities for upward mobility. In so doing, the Navy created a reservoir of skilled workers who depended upon either the State or European merchant houses for their means of survival. In this sense, the Navy was an instrument in the formation of a nascent working class in the region. The very success of the CMOCS led to its disbandment in 1887 when more qualified mechanics and stokers applied for berths aboard vessels than the Navy could place. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. in French.