Behind the Imperial Curtain: International Humanitarian Efforts and the Critique of French Colonialism in the Interwar Years
“Behind the Imperial Curtain: International Humanitarian Efforts and the Critique of French Colonialism in the Interwar Years,” Special Issue: Toward a French History of Universal Values: Charity, Human Rights, and Humanitarianism, French Historical Studies 34:3 (Summer 2011): 503-528.
This article examines the work of French critics of empire in the context of an international effort to minimize violence and suffering in Europe's colonies during the interwar years. Rather than highlight individual political motivations, the article considers the important similarities of these critics' works. Often writing in the style of documentary reportage and concerned with how policies caused suffering among non-European populations, authors as varied as Albert Londres, Félicien Challaye, and Paul Monet produced articles and books that critiqued colonial practices at their most fundamental level. They shared an interest in the impact of colonial rule with other European, American, and non-European individuals and institutions informally linked by the networks of the League of Nations and the International Labor Organization. The existence of these new networks removed key debates about colonialism from the national stage and opened them to the scrutiny of more international and, at times, anticolonial perspectives.