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The Demands of Glory: Tocqueville and Terror in Algeria

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 January 2018


It is now commonplace to acknowledge Alexis de Tocqueville's support for Algerian colonization. Less well understood, however, is why he also endorsed the French strategy of “total war” in the regency. How was Tocqueville's liberalism linked to the specific shape of violence in Algeria? By situating his Algerian writings in the intersecting intellectual contexts of the 1840s, this essay argues that Tocqueville endorsed total war in Africa because of his passion for glory. Far from an aristocratic anachronism, that passion was the product of contemporary scientific debates over voluntarism in France. It was also shaped by the lingering legacies of revolutionary republicanism and Bonapartism which defined glory in terms of national defense. By tethering modern liberty to this conception of glory, Tocqueville provided resources for rationalizing settlerism's exterminationist violence.

Research Article
Copyright © University of Notre Dame 2018 

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