The French Empire
The French Empire
This chapter explores France’s role in the First World War by keeping “La plus grande France” (or “Greater France,” as the combined entity of the nation and its overseas possessions was known) in focus. n keeping with the volume’s aim to widen the story of the war beyond the Western Front and Europe, the essay examines both the ways the war affected France’s colonies, reaching into the lives and spaces of empire in profound ways, and the contributions of the colonies to the war effort, providing men and other resources to help France prosecute the war on the Western Front and beyond. The participation of more than 500,000 non-European colonial subjects as soldiers, and another 200,000 as workers, in the war effort in Europe is an important and vivid part of this story, but this chapter will also detail the economic and financial contributions of the colonies. These were significant, and had important effects on the war, metropolitan France, and the colonies themselves. Greater France’s war story is critical to an understanding of the Great War as a whole not only because the decisive fighting on the Western Front occurred on French soil, but also because the huge extent of the French colonial empire at the time—then the world’s second largest and stretching from North and West Africa, to Madagascar, Indochina, the Pacific, and the Caribbean — helped ensure that the war was truly global.
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