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The French RepublicHistory, Values, Debates$
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Edward Ducler Berenson, Vincent Duclert, and Christophe Prochasson

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780801449017

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801449017.001.0001

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The Civilizing Mission

The Civilizing Mission

(p.173) 19 The Civilizing Mission
The French Republic

Alice L. Conklin

Cornell University Press

This chapter examines how the idea of a special republican mission to civilize the “primitive” people of the earth provided the ideological framework for France's colonial empire in the modern era. While its antecedents stretched back to the Enlightenment and Revolution, this claim reached its apogee under the secular Third Republic, as it embarked upon its greatest attempt ever to sell the idea of the mission civilisatrice to the larger French public. In the aftermath of Vichy's humiliating collaboration with Germany, the Fourth Republic reinvented the terms of imperial governance, and with it the notion of France's imperial mission to civilize. As for de Gaulle's Fifth Republic, it remains an open question whether or not the “civilizing mission” has survived the formal end of the French empire.

Keywords:   civilizing mission, Third Republic, Fourth Republic, Fifth Republic, French empire, mission civilisatrice, colonial difference, imperial governance, barbarism

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