The Civilizing Sea: The Ideological Origins of the French Mediterranean Empire, 1789-1870
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CitationDzanic, Dzavid. 2016. The Civilizing Sea: The Ideological Origins of the French Mediterranean Empire, 1789-1870. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation examines the religious, diplomatic, legal, and intellectual history of French imperialism in Italy, Egypt, and Algeria between the 1789 French Revolution and the beginning of the French Third Republic in 1870. In examining the wider logic of French imperial expansion around the Mediterranean, this dissertation bridges the Revolutionary, Napoleonic, Restoration (1815-30), July Monarchy (1830-48), Second Republic (1848-52), and Second Empire (1852-70) periods. Moreover, this study represents the first comprehensive study of interactions between imperial officers and local actors around the Mediterranean. I argue that local responses to invasions and threats of invasion—rooted in new interpretations of Islam, Catholicism, and regional political traditions—framed the emergence and durability of the French Mediterranean Empire.
This dissertation also bridges the often-bifurcated northern and southern shores of the Mediterranean and it shows that a struggle over new ideas of legitimacy accompanied the building of the French Mediterranean Empire. More specifically, I trace the ways in which French officers and diplomats used the Roman imperial legacy in the Mediterranean in order to claim that they had embarked on a “civilizing mission” in the basin. Moreover, I examine the religious ideas used by local populations who reacted to French empire building. This dissertation demonstrates that local religious opposition to French imperialism played a large role in undermining the spread of French rule in Italy, Egypt, and Algeria before 1830. However, this study also shows that the rise of a large group of Algerian notables who justified French rule through Islamic texts in the decades that followed the French invasion of Algiers in 1830 facilitated the nesting of French empire building along the southern shores of the Mediterranean. The partial overcoming of the religious obstacle to French rule in turn facilitated a number of archeological missions and the exploration of oases deep in the Algerian Sahara between the 1850s and 1870s. I argue that these exploratory missions transformed the French imperial ideology, first by making the Roman imperial legacy its main hallmark after the 1840s, and then by changing it into a more universal ideology of cultural and commercial transformation once French explorers crossed the frontier marked by Roman ruins in the Algerian desert. Overall, therefore, this dissertation demonstrates that a Mediterranean strategy emerged between 1789 and 1870 and that it both centered French empire building around the basin and reframed France’s global ambitions.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:33840734
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