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France’s Lost Jewel

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  1. Introduction
  2. The use of torture by French paratroopers and soldiers
  3. The movies lack of support for Mathieu's hypothesis
  4. Conclusion

Unlike Great Britain, France's colonial wars tended to involve a great deal of violence on the part of the colonizers. Britain generally extricated itself from its colonies with relatively little immediate violence involving British soldiers. The differing ways in which the two countries disentangled themselves from their colonial empires are based on the views France and Britain held toward their colonies. The English saw the colonial people as inferior, and the colonies as resources to exploit. France, on the other hand, had a very difficult time letting go because France viewed its colonies as an extension of itself; the French (at least in principle) taught that ?the civic and cultural attributes of Frenchness were open to all? (Postwar, p. 282). Thus, when the Algerian people began to resist French authority, the French wanted to avoid another defeat, like the one they faced at Dien Bien Phu in Vietnam. While the film The Battle of Algiers does not depict the entire eight-year colonial war that France fought against its ?imperial crown jewel?, it illustrates the lengths the French were willing to go to retain Algeria, while also portraying the force of Algeria's desire for self-determination.

[...] France's Lost Jewel Unlike Great Britain, France's colonial wars tended to involve a great deal of violence on the part of the colonizers. Britain generally extricated itself from its colonies with relatively little immediate violence involving British soldiers. The differing ways in which the two countries disentangled themselves from their colonial empires are based on the views France and Britain held toward their colonies. The English saw the colonial people as inferior, and the colonies as resources to exploit. France, on the other hand, had a very difficult time letting go because France viewed its colonies as an extension of itself; the French (at least in principle) taught that civic and cultural attributes of Frenchness were open to (Postwar, p. [...]


[...] France's reputation was particularly damaged after the Battle of Algiers because of the methods used to defeat the insurgents. In the film, Mathieu defends his interrogation methods, which include torture, by putting the blame on the French government. In response to a reporter, who demands a more explicit account of the methods used in Algiers, Mathieu says that if France wants to maintain control of Algeria, then it must accept the consequences. However, this response is inadequate because while Mathieu is not responsible for the war, in general, he is responsible for his and his troops' conduct. [...]

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