Update 2: From Paris to Aix-en-Provence to Williamsburg

I have done a lot of traveling since the last time I updated this blog. Let’s start with my second and last week in France – more specifically in a town called Aix-en-Provence.

Aix-en-Provence is a small, yet beautiful, city in the south of France. Surprisingly, this small city includes the Archives nationales d’outre-mer, a library that includes almost all documents from France’s former African, Asian, and island colonies. While this library is not as impressively large as the Bibliothèque nationale in Paris, it was invigorating for me to search through the online – and, arguably less organized, paper – catalogs to find all I could on women and immigration in Algeria.

After my research in Paris, I knew I wanted to search for more raw data in the Aix-en-Provence archives. While I had found numerous secondary sources and a few primary sources in Paris, I decided to take advantage of the colonial archives by ordering censuses and demographic studies completed by the colonial government in Algeria. I hoped to find data regarding the number of girls enrolled in primary schooling across Algeria, which was divided into four “départements,” or provinces, by the French. The most helpful censuses that I ordered were from the years 1948 and 1954, which were actually the only two censuses completed by the French in Algeria post-World War II. The Algerian War for independence occurred from 1954 to 1962, so these censuses were, in fact, the last of the colonial era. This time period fits perfectly into the focus of my research paper, and while female education data was somewhat absent in these censuses, they included great data on the proportion of French to native population in Algeria across time. This proportion will play a key role in my connection between immigration and education policy of both the colonial and post-independence governments.

In addition to the censuses, my other major find in Aix-en-Provence was a monthly publication called Documents nord-africains, which was similar to the newspaper called Documents algériens that I discussed in my first blog update. However, this new source included monthly data of the migration between France and Algeria across its various issues. I was blown away by the fact that this data was included in what seemed like a magazine for any politically aware French citizen. The Documents nord-africains also discussed extensively the issues of immigration from Algeria to France, thus revealing the hypocrisy of their colonial relationship with Algeria. Although Algerians were de jure (by law) French citizens, the French political and social institutions still viewed Algerians as second-class citizens who threatened the French way of life. Unfortunately, the legacy of this discrimination plays a heavy role today in today’s treatment of all Arab populations in France – over 50 years after decolonization. I witnessed this discrimination during my time studying abroad in Montpellier, France last fall 2016.

The legacy of colonization, especially this discriminatory relationship between what the French call La Métropole and Les Colonies, is at the heart of my project this summer. By looking at female education rates and immigration, I am attempting to quantify this legacy in terms of the colonial administration’s promotion or oppression of Algerian women.

I arrived in Williamsburg this week, where I will continue to read and organize all the sources I found abroad. The most exciting part of my research has come to an end, but I look forward to put everything together over the next month!


  1. ekamato says:

    Rebecca, this is fascinating!
    It’s incredible that the migration data was published so accessibly–have you found any evidence that would say how widely read that data would have been?

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