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New Political Economies of the French Empire 19th-20th Centuries

General Programming

dateFebruary 28, 2020 timeFriday, 9:00am EST location Buell Hall, Maison Française, Columbia University
  • Free and open to the public
  • Registration required. See details.
  • First come, first seated

To RSVP, please click here.

While the cultural, political, legal and social aspects of French colonialism have received much attention over the past 30 years, the political economy of the French colonial empire has been largely neglected. This conference will bring together a new generation of historians and economists whose work engages with the nature and workings of French colonial capitalism, the reorientation of capital and labor from Haitian independence to the colonization of Algeria, economic life in France’s informal empire, the circulation, production, and consumption of commodities, colonial public finance and inequality, the intersection of racial ideologies with the political economy of late colonialism, and the economic and financial dimensions of decolonization. The conference will delineate the contours of a new political economy of French colonialism in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Co-sponsored by ISERP (Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy), the Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities, the Maison Française, the Department of History and the Beyond France University Seminar

Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Please arrive ahead of time to secure a spot.


9:00-9:15am: Welcome coffee

9:15-9:30am: Opening remarks: Towards a New Political Economy of the French Empire? (Madeline Woker)

9:30-10:30am: Recasting labor and empire

Mary D. Lewis, Harvard University (History): “Transplanting Empire: France and the World after the Haitian Revolution”

Elizabeth Heath, Baruch College-CUNY (History), History: “Guinée Cloth, Wage Slavery, and Colonial Commodities”

Discussant: Thomas Dodman (Columbia)

10:30-10:45am: Coffee break

10:45-11:45am: Economic lives

David Todd, King’s College London (History): “French imperial lives in nineteenth-century Egypt”

Simon Jackson, University of Birmingham (History): “The Intimacies of Purchase: Global Fordism, French Colonial Empire and Triangular Friendship, 1921-1928”

Discussant: Aaron Jakes (New School)

11:45 – 1:00pm: Lunch Break

1:00-2:00pm: New quantitative histories of French colonialism

Denis Cogneau, Paris School of Economics: “Towards a New Political Economy of French Colonialism”

Marlous Van Waijenburg, University of Michigan (Economics): “Financing the African Colonial State: Fiscal Capacity and Forced Labor”

Discussant: Frederick Cooper (NYU)

2:00- 2:15pm: Coffee break

2:15-3:15pm: Imperial commodities

Diana Kim, Georgetown University (Political Science): “Disastrous abundance in French Indochina, 1920s-1940s: The Strange Life of the Opium Monopoly"

Owen White, University of Delaware (History): “Thinking Imperially, Acting Colonially: The Economic Rationality of Algerian Wine”

Discussant: Emmanuelle Saada (Columbia)

3:15-3:30pm: Coffee break

3:30-4:30pm: Economic and financial decolonization

Samir Saul, Université de Montréal (History), “French economic interests and decolonization: from North Africa to Sub- Saharan Africa and Indochina”

Vanessa Ogle, University of California, Berkeley (History), “'Funk Money:’ The End of Empires, the Expansion of Tax Havens, and Decolonization as an Economic and Financial Event"

Discussant: Gregory Mann (Columbia)

4:30-4:45pm: break

4:45-5:45pm: Wrap-up panel