Algeria Under French Control

How did the autonomously reigning country of more than 300 years, Algeria succumb to the French forces?  It’s naval fleet ruled the Mediterranean defeating powerhouses such as the Americans, English and the Dutch, at least until the French came into the picture. In 1830 they captured the port city of Algiers and by 1834 Algeria was annexed a French colony (History of Algerian Independence.)

Chronological map on French Algeria's evoultuion
Chronological map on French Algeria’s evolution

During the conquest, French troops were known to loot, rape, and massacre entire villages while they were destroying mosques, royal buildings, and cemeteries. These unsound actions led to an early hatred for the forceful intruders that will greatly increase as time goes on.

Under the French government the Algerian citizens were treated as second class and had limited privileges. They were not allowed to hold public meetings, carry firearms or even leave their house without permission. The only way that Algerians would even be considered for citizenship would be to give up their religion and convert to Christianity. Only French citizens were able to work as skilled laborers which means that the Algerians had limited work opportunities such as servants, unskilled laborers, or peasants. The low qualifying jobs meant low wages and poor living.

France encouraged the growth of the community forcing Algerians out of the fertile plains into the mountains; inviting all Europeans to inhabit the land. This made the relationship between the two cohabitants a racist and colonial one based on violence (Pike).

Poverty and exile

There was much resistance against the French especially in the Muslim

Abd al-Qadir
Abd al-Qadir

community. Abd al-Qadir led a movement that claimed all Algerian territory not directly controlled by French forces. At first his guerrilla tactics worked destroying French-European farms and outposts but retaliation from them resulted in destruction of villages of the native population. Al-Qadir surrendered and was forced into exile; nevertheless, he unknowingly became the first hero of Algeria’s independence movement (DiPiazza).

There was one benefit with French colonialism: the economy. Algeria became a producer of cash crops exporting goods such as vines, tobacco, soft wheat, olives, citrus fruits, vegetables and especially wine. Although it never reached industrialization at this time, the mineral resources (iron ore, phosphates and oil) were still being exploited.

Socially, the Algerians developed an inferiority complex as a result of the continued oppression by the French. The settlers had more power and higher incomes while the Algerian majority suffered loss of status, subservience and poverty. Much of their traditional and religious education was eliminated and replaced by Christian French education. The overall dissatisfaction about the way the Algerians were being treated put into motion their movement for independence (Gordon).

-Mariah Stoppie

Read more about the struggle for independence

Works Cited

DiPiazza, Francesca. “French Occupation.” Algeria in pictures. Minneapolis, MN: Twenty-First Century Books, 2008. 27-28. Print.

Gordon, David C. The Passing of French Algeria. New York: Oxford University Press, 1966. Print.

“History of Algerian Independence.” History of the Algerian Workers. Web.28 Oct. 2013. <

Pike, John. “Military.” Algerian National Liberation (1954-1962).  7 Nov. 2011. Web. 24 Oct. 2013. <


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