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Imperial Rule and the Politics of Nationalism
Anti-Colonial Protest in the French Empire

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Part of Problems of International Politics

  • Date Published: September 2013
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107640757

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About the Authors
  • Why did colonial subjects mobilize for national independence from the French empire? This question has rarely been posed because the answer appears obvious: in the modern era, nationalism was bound to confront colonialism. This book argues against taking nationalist mobilization for granted. Contrary to conventional accounts, it shows that nationalism was not the only or even the primary form of anti-colonialism. Drawing on archival sources, comparative historical analysis, and case studies, Lawrence examines the movements for political equality that emerged in the French empire during the first half of the twentieth century. Within twenty years, they had been replaced by movements for national independence in the majority of French colonies, protectorates, and mandates. Lawrence shows that elites in the colonies shifted from demands for egalitarian reforms to calls for independent statehood only where the French refused to grant political rights to colonial subjects. Where rights were granted, colonial subjects opted for further integration and reform. Nationalist discourses became dominant as a consequence of the failure to reform. Mass protests then erupted in full force when French rule was disrupted by war or decolonization.  

    • The first comparative study of nationalist movements in the colonial world
    • Reconsiders the causes of nationalism in North Africa
    • Multi-methodological approach to nationalism that uses macro-comparisons and a sub-national study of colonial Morocco
    Read more


    • Co-Winner, 2015 J. David Greenstone Book Prize, Politics and History Section, American Political Science Association

    Reviews & endorsements

    "Political scientists interested in nationalism, imperialism, and contentious politics will find something in this book to inform their thinking. But Lawrence has something new to say to other audiences too. Historians who feel that political scientists enter the historical field only to fetch a few examples to prove their pet theories will find in Lawrence a political scientist who, when she delves into history, does so as a historian would and actively contributes to the historical understanding of nationalism in the Middle East."
    Nathan J. Brown, George Washington University

    "Adria Lawrence presents an important argument: the development of nationalism is not a natural, automatic response to subordination in an empire, but an interactive, contingent phenomenon. Her book is about actual politics – the give and take of claims and counterclaims, the opening and shutting of opportunities. She presents an analysis that students of nationalism, colonial situations, and political movements need to ponder."
    Frederick Cooper, New York University, author of Decolonization and African Society: The Labor Question in French and British Africa

    "Mainstream interpretations of how nationalist movements under French colonial rule emerged and mobilized for independence have long privileged the inherent link between colonialism and the impulse for national self-determination. In this innovative and deeply informed study, Lawrence highlights the contingent nature of the nationalist enterprise, in which the impulse for political equality and its subsequent denial by the colonial authorities serves to catalyze popular demand for independence framed in the language of nationalism. The author brings together an impressive array of original and secondary sources to substantiate her theoretical claims with particular focus on the Moroccan experience. Clearly written and devoid of jargon, Lawrence has produced a compelling reinterpretation of imperial rule and the politics of nationalism from which students and specialists alike will benefit."
    John P. Entelis, Fordham University

    "Some of the most rewarding books are those that expose a flaw in conventional wisdom. Adria Lawrence’s Imperial Rule and the Politics of Nationalism discredits the widely held view that nations naturally want to rule themselves. She shows that Moroccans might well have been satisfied by French rule had the French governed them more skillfully. This finding, which is based on impressive research, has huge policy implications concerning the world’s trouble spots."
    Timur Kuran, Duke University

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    Product details

    • Date Published: September 2013
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107640757
    • length: 298 pages
    • dimensions: 216 x 137 x 20 mm
    • weight: 0.35kg
    • contains: 1 b/w illus. 19 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction: the politics of nationalism in the French empire
    2. Indigènes into Frenchmen? Seeking political equality in Morocco and Algeria
    3. Political equality and nationalist opposition in the French empire
    4. Empire disrupted: nationalist opposition accelerates
    5. Nationalist mobilization in colonial Morocco
    6. Conclusion.

  • Author

    Adria K. Lawrence, Yale University, Connecticut
    Adria Lawrence is Assistant Professor at Yale University and a research fellow at the Yale's Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies. Her publications include Rethinking Violence: States and Non-State Actors in Conflict (coedited with Erica Chenoweth), and articles in International Security, American Politics Research, and the Journal of North African Studies. Her research interests lie in comparative politics and international relations; she studies conflict, collective action, nationalism, and the Middle East and North Africa. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.


    • Co-Winner, 2015 J. David Greenstone Book Prize, Politics and History Section, American Political Science Association
    • Winner, 2014 Robert L. Jervis and Paul W. Schroeder Best Book Award, International History and Politics Section, American Political Science Association
    • A 2013 Foreign Policy Best Book on the Middle East

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