Author's announcement: new book: Occupying Syria under the French Mandate

by Mitch on September 13, 2012 1 Comment

Dear colleagues,

I'm pleased to announce the publication of my new book:

Daniel Neep, Occupying Syria under the French Mandate: Insurgency, Space, and State Formation (Cambridge University Press, 2012).


The publisher's description and table of contents are below. You can also read the introduction at [2]

Best wishes,


Occupying Syria under the French Mandate: Insurgency, Space, and State Formation

What role does military force play during a colonial occupation? The answer seems obvious: coercion crushes local resistance, quashes political dissent, and consolidates the dominance of the occupying power. However, as this discerning and theoretically rigorous study suggests, violence can have much more ambiguous consequences.

Set in Syria during the French Mandate from 1920 to 1946, the book explores a turbulent period in which conflict between armed Syrian insurgents ...

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Algeria: War of Independence, 1954-1962

by Mitch on August 30, 2012 0 Comments

Young Harki in uniform, summer 1961. The so-called Harkis, from the Algerian-Arabic dialect word harki (soldier), were the indigenous Muslim Algerians (as opposed to European-descended Catholics or indigenous Algerian Mizrachi Sephardi Jews) who fought as auxiliaries on the side of the French army


The Algerian War for Independence began on November 1, 1954, when the FLN (Front de Libération Nationale, or National Liberation Front), a group advocating social democracy with an Islamic framework, called upon all Algerians to rise up against French authority and fight for total independence for Algeria. The FLN had been created the same year by the Revolutionary Committee of Unity and Action (Comité Révolutionnaire d’Unité et d’Action, or CRUA), in an attempt to unite the various nationalist factions in Algeria and to formulate a plan of action for resistance to French rule. Resistance was to include two specific tactics. At home, the rebels were ...

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Overthrow of Colonialism: Northern Africa

by Mitch on June 7, 2012 1 Comment

French Harkis soldiers.

The overthrow of colonialism depended upon the development of nationalism, which marked a break with primary forms of resistance to colonialism in nineteenth-and early-twentieth-century northern Africa. Initial resistance was based on regional and Muslim solidarity, like the resistance of ‘Abd al-Qadir to the French in Algeria between 1830 and 1847. Meanwhile, in Tunisia and Egypt, there was a renewal of ideological leadership through the development of nationalist ideologies and the reform of Islamic thought. Nationalist and Islamist ideologies were formulated by those exposed to modern European thought and appealed to new social categories created by the modernizing programs of African state builders such as Tunisia’s Ahmed Bey and Egypt’s Muhammad ‘Ali. Educated in Western languages and political concepts, administrators, professionals, and entrepreneurs identified their interests within the nation-state. They provided the personnel of the colonial state system after the French occupation of Tunisia in 1881 ...

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Syria-Lebanon I

by Mitch on May 16, 2012 0 Comments

Captured MS.406 fighters of GC I/7, in July 1941.

On 13 May 1941, the fears of de Gaulle and Spears were realised when German aircraft landed in Syria in support of the Iraqi rebel Rashid Ali, who was opposed to the pro-British government. On 8 June, 30,000 troops (Indian Army, British, Australian, Free French and the Trans-Jordanian Frontier Force) invaded Lebanon and Syria in what was known as Operation Exporter. There was stiff resistance from the Vichy French and Spears commented bitterly on ‘that strange class of Frenchmen who had developed a vigour in defeat which had not been apparent when they were defending their country’


In 1941 Beirut added war between Vichy France and Britain to its stock of conflicts. The fall of France in June 1940 had shattered Lebanese Christians, many of whom had based their lives on French power and culture. Many Arabs, however ...

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The Mareth line

by Mitch on April 16, 2012 0 Comments

Remaining Bunkers in the Mareth Line

The Mareth line was built by the French between 1936 and 1940. It was aimed at protecting Tunisia (French protectorate) from a possible expressionist push of the Italians coming from Libya. It was 45 km long, between the sea and the small 700m height Dahar mountain.


It was composed by 8 artillery bunkers and 40 infantry bunkers.


In June 1940, an armistice is signed between France and Germany. France is considered as a non-fighting country, and thus, the Mareth line is demilitarized and disarmed.


On the 9th of November 1942, English-American troops invaded the French North Africa by surprise (operation Torch). The German-Italian troops reacted with the Tunisia invasion.


In November 1942, after his El Alamein defeat, Rommel retreated to Tunisia, 6000km away through the Libyan desert. He decided to rearm the Mareth line as a defence against the Allied prosecutors: German army posed ...

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Entente Cordiale (1904)

by Mitch on November 7, 2011 0 Comments

Contemporary illustration of Major Marchand's trek across Africa.

A “friendly understanding,” the Entente Cordiale was an agreement signed on April 8, 1904, between France and Britain resolving longstanding colonial grievances. The agreement initiated a policy of Anglo-French cooperation and served as the embryo for the Triple Entente between Britain, France, and Russia during World War I.


Before the entente, Britain focused on maintaining a policy of “splendid isolation” from continental European affairs, and France became increasingly preoccupied with the preservation of its security after its 1871 defeat by Prussia, which subsequently unified a German state. A temporary shift in German policy, emphasizing relations with Britain, prompted Russia to fear isolation. France, seeking an ally against Germany, sought an 1891 Russian entente and eventually signed a military pact in 1894 that became a cornerstone of foreign policy for both countries.


Recent developments in Egypt had strained France’s relations with ...

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by Mitch on October 31, 2011 0 Comments

The French Flag Hoisted at Timbuktu. Illustration from Le Petit Journal, 12 February 1902. The capture of the remote African trading town of Timbuktu by troops under the command of French Marechal Joseph Joffre in 1894 was deemed an important step in securing control of northern Africa. The figures in the foreground are Tuareg tribesmen, who had formerly controlled the area.


After the scramble for Africa had been formalized in the Berlin Conference, land between the 14th meridian and Miltou, Chad became French territory, bounded in the south by a line running from Say, Niger to Baroua. Although the Timbuktu region was now French in name, the principle of effectively required France to actually hold power in those areas assigned, e.g. by signing agreements with local chiefs, setting up a government and making use of the area economically, before the claim would be definitive. On 15 December 1893, the ...

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SYRIA – WWII Political

by Mitch on October 21, 2011 0 Comments

Australian troops just before they advance into French-mandated Syria in collaboration with Free French forces, 10 July 1941.

In 1936 French Premier Léon Blum promised Syria its independence, but his government fell before the decision could be carried out. After the defeat France in FALL GELB in May–June 1940, Syrian mandate authorities and the local Foreign Legion garrison sided with the Vichy governor, Henri Dentz, against the Free French. Syria became a battleground when Free French, British, Australian, and Indian Army forces—some shipped north from East Africa—invaded on June 8, 1941. After five weeks of fighting that required British reinforcement from North Africa, Dentz agreed to an armistice on July 4. Charles de Gaulle was enraged to learn the surrender of Syria and the Levant was made to the British rather than to his delegate. The dispute nearly led to a breach between “Fighting France” and Winston ...

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Suez Crisis

by Mitch on October 15, 2011 0 Comments

An Egyptian boy stands near a British tank amid the rubble of destroyed buildings in Port Said after the British and French assault on the city during the Suez Crisis, November 1956.

Start Date: July 26, 1956

End Date: March 6, 1957

Over the months that followed Egyptian nationalization of the Suez Canal, the community of interest among British, French, and Israeli leaders developed into secret planning for a joint military operation to topple Nasser. The U.S. government was not consulted and indeed opposed the use of force. The British and French governments either did not understand the American attitude or, if they did, believed that Washington would give approval after the fact to policies believed by its major allies to be absolutely necessary.


The British government first tried diplomacy. Two conferences in London attended by the representatives of 24 nations using the canal failed to produce agreement on ...

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French Air Force, 1946–1954 Vietnam

by Mitch on October 9, 2011 1 Comment

The French Air Force during the Indochina War was employed primarily as a ground-support force. The air force there was reconstituted in 1946 from personnel and aircraft already in Indochina. The latter were a mixture of captured Japanese aircraft as well as British Spitfire and American-made Bell P-63A Kingcobra fighters, German trimotor Junkers JU-52, and American Douglas C-47 Skytrain (“Gooneybird”) transports.


The French built up their air assets as quickly as resources were available. In 1947 additional C-47s and British Mosquito fighter-bombers arrived from Europe. The fragile plywood Mosquito proved unsuitable for Indochina’s climate, however, and was replaced with the American-made Douglas B-26 Invader light bomber, which the United States began to supply to the French in Vietnam. Later in the war Washington sent Grumman F6F Hellcat and F8F Bearcat fighters as well as Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcar transports. The French also purchased aircraft from a variety of sources ...

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