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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Slaves and soldiers in the Western Soudan and French West Africa
Author:Klein, Martin A.ISNI
Periodical:Canadian Journal of African Studies (ISSN 0008-3968)
Geographic terms:West Africa
Subjects:black soldiers
colonial forces
External link:https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00083968.2011.10541068
Abstract:In his prize-winning monograph on the tirailleurs sénégalais (1991), Myron Echenberg points out that most soldiers in the French colonial army were of slave origin. This article examines the role of slaves in precolonial African armies and the problem that the French had in keeping their soldiers alive within a hostile disease environment. The response of Governor Louis Faidherbe was to create a professional unit of African soldiers, the 'tirailleurs'. Recruited overwhelmingly from slaves, the 'tirailleurs' became the basis of the French army that conquered much of West Africa. Even after slavery had ended, about three quarters of Africans in the French army during World War I were of slave origin. The article also examines the role of veterans after the war and the French success in converting them into one of the pillars of the colonial social order. The article concludes with a consideration of the role of memory in both France and Africa. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. in English and French. [Journal abstract]