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Old May 17th, 2018, 04:33 PM   #1

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France withdraws to the coastal cities of Algeria in 1962


What if, instead of completely withdrawing from Algeria, France would have withdrawn to the coastal cities of Algeria (specifically the ones with a large pied-noir population)?

Could France have held out indefinitely there? Or would staying there have eventually become too costly for France?

Also, as a side note, would the Algerian FLN have been likely to accept a French offer to withdraw from all of these Algerian coastal areas in exchange for allowing the pied-noirs to stay there and to keep their property?

Any thoughts on this?
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Old May 17th, 2018, 04:47 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Futurist View Post
What if, instead of completely withdrawing from Algeria, France would have withdrawn to the coastal cities of Algeria (specifically the ones with a large pied-noir population)?

Could France have held out indefinitely there? Or would staying there have eventually become too costly for France?

Also, as a side note, would the Algerian FLN have been likely to accept a French offer to withdraw from all of these Algerian coastal areas in exchange for allowing the pied-noirs to stay there and to keep their property?

Any thoughts on this?
Such a plan was contemplated but ultimately rejected.

The general issue was lack of support at home..... Military and economically this was workable but the territory would have become something similar to israel with similar problems compounded by a much larger ratio of locals to "foreigners" i.e natives to french (it was about 8 to 1 at the time, and most of the population was in the coastal areas).... Also there was the problem that Algiers was smack in the middle... it could not be left to the natives (otherwise there would not be geographic continuity) and its hard to imagine that conflict would have stopped until they got it back..... A secondary problem is that Algeria's useful resources (oil and gas) are out in the desert and not in the coastal area....

Click the image to open in full size.
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Old May 17th, 2018, 04:56 PM   #3

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Quote:
Originally Posted by tomar View Post
Such a plan was contemplated but ultimately rejected.

The general issue was lack of support at home..... Military and economically this was workable but the territory would have become something similar to israel with similar problems compounded by a much larger ratio of locals to "foreigners" i.e natives to french (it was about 8 to 1 at the time, and most of the population was in the coastal areas).... Also there was the problem that Algiers was smack in the middle... it could not be left to the natives (otherwise there would not be geographic continuity) and its hard to imagine that conflict would have stopped until they got it back..... A secondary problem is that Algeria's useful resources (oil and gas) are out in the desert and not in the coastal area....

Click the image to open in full size.
For the record, I am thinking of France only keeping the black areas on this map:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pied-N...partements.png

This would have significantly reduced the Muslim-European* ratio in French Algeria and thus would have made these territories much more manageable.

*For the sake of simplicity, I am counting Algerian Jews as European since they were a part of the pied-noir community in Algeria.

There would have been no territorial contiguity, but the lack of territorial contiguity does not appear to bother Spain's Moroccan possessions too much:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plazas_de_soberanía

As for Algeria's useful resources, France would simply have to let go of them. After all, they are simply too far away from the heavily European areas of Algeria.

Also, I'd expect the FLN to continue fighting in such a scenario. However, could France hold out if it limited itself to the black areas on this map? :

Click the image to open in full size.

In addition to this, had France not been able to hold out indefinitely (only in the black areas, of course) in this scenario, would France have at least been able to get the Algerian FLN to accept, say, a Hong Kong-style solution for these black territories? Basically, I am thinking of having Algeria acquire these black territories but give them some autonomy for a certain time period or at the very least allow the pied-noir population there to stay indefinitely and to keep their property (if they will take an oath of loyalty to Algeria, accept Algerian citizenship, and follow Algerian laws, that is).
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Old May 17th, 2018, 05:07 PM   #4
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map of population density (1954 census) showing that the coastal areas are the ones where the density is highest (unsurprisingly)... Black is the highest followed by pink and blue

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Old May 17th, 2018, 05:09 PM   #5
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Map showin the highest density of europeans (3 areas in orange, 1954 census)... Somewhat different to your map above

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Old May 17th, 2018, 05:12 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Futurist View Post

In addition to this, had France not been able to hold out indefinitely (only in the black areas, of course) in this scenario, would France have at least been able to get the Algerian FLN to accept, say, a Hong Kong-style solution for these black territories? Basically, I am thinking of having Algeria acquire these black territories but give them some autonomy for a certain time period or at the very least allow the pied-noir population there to stay indefinitely and to keep their property (if they will take an oath of loyalty to Algeria, accept Algerian citizenship, and follow Algerian laws, that is).
This was in fact the intent of the peace plan.... but just days following the peace plan there was wholesale slaughter and de facto ethnic cleansing... so the french civilians had to flee .. . The expression then was "la valise ou le cercueil" (the suitcase or the coffin).... This ethnic cleansing is one of the forgotten ones of history....

Last edited by tomar; May 17th, 2018 at 05:17 PM.
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Old May 17th, 2018, 05:17 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Futurist View Post
For the record, I am thinking of France only keeping the black areas on this map:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pied-N...partements.png

This would have significantly reduced the Muslim-European* ratio in French Algeria and thus would have made these territories much more manageable.

*For the sake of simplicity, I am counting Algerian Jews as European since they were a part of the pied-noir community in Algeria.

There would have been no territorial contiguity, but the lack of territorial contiguity does not appear to bother Spain's Moroccan possessions too much:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plazas_de_soberanía

As for Algeria's useful resources, France would simply have to let go of them. After all, they are simply too far away from the heavily European areas of Algeria.

Also, I'd expect the FLN to continue fighting in such a scenario. However, could France hold out if it limited itself to the black areas on this map? :

Click the image to open in full size.
Spanish enclaves are tiny and in areas that are not very desirable.... keeping the capital of Algeria and some of the best agricultural land would be another story...

Militarily yes, France could hold them (though borders would need to be optimized)..... Also at the time some 200 000 algerians served in the french military.... Politically not so sure.... There was significant opposition with some french even joining the algerian communist party and de facto being traitors... the whole french left was against french Algeria...
Also the financial burden would be high....
Finally both the US and the USSR were eager for France to get out
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Old May 17th, 2018, 05:21 PM   #8

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Very interesting maps!

Quote:
Originally Posted by tomar View Post
This was in fact the intent of the peace plan.... but just days following the peace plan there was wholesale slaughter and de facto ethnic cleansing... so the french civilians had to flee .. . The expression then was "la valise ou le cercueil" (the suitcase or the coffin).... This ethnic cleansing is one of the forgotten ones of history....
Out of curiosity--this ethnic cleansing was not centrally coordinated, was it?

In other words, the FLN didn't order it--rather, it was done by Muslim mobs who were out of the FLN's control, correct?

Basically, I want to see if the situation for Europeans in Algeria in 1962 was comparable to the situation for Hindus in West Pakistan in 1947-1948.
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Old May 17th, 2018, 05:28 PM   #9

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Originally Posted by tomar View Post
Spanish enclaves are tiny and in areas that are not very desirable.... keeping the capital of Algeria and some of the best agricultural land would be another story...
Was there any part of Algeria which had a lot of pieds-noirs and which the Algerians would not have objected too much had the French kept it?

Also, Yes, the viability argument appears to have been a strong one for the Algerians. After all, in 1919, the victorious Allies awarded the German-majority Sudetenland to Czechoslovakia due to the fact that it was vital for Czechoslovakia's existence and due to the fact that Czechs were a majority in Bohemia overall. Thus, a precedent for this has already been established.

Quote:
Militarily yes, France could hold them (though borders would need to be optimized)..... Also at the time some 200 000 algerians served in the french military.... Politically not so sure.... There was significant opposition with some french even joining the algerian communist party and de facto being traitors... the whole french left was against french Algeria...
Also the financial burden would be high....
Finally both the US and the USSR were eager for France to get out
By French people joining the Algerian Communist Party, do you mean French people in France or French people in Algeria?

Also, didn't the French Left initially support France in the Algerian War before changing its mind?

In the grand scheme of things, though, I agree with you that politically and economically, it would have been a challenge for France to continue to hold on to these areas. Also, you are very much correct that the superpowers would have continuously pushed France to get out of Algeria--something which would have hurt France's position in Algeria.

Ultimately, I think that France did the right thing in getting out of Algeria. Still, I think that the Algerians should have at least allowed the pieds-noirs to sell their property before they left.

Also, as a side note, do you think that France would have permanently held on to at least a part of Algeria in a scenario where there is either no World War II at all or where France doesn't fall in World War II and thus World War II ends much sooner?
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