IN THE present condition of the world one would obtain a false, or at any rate a very incomplete, notion of the power of any of the great European nations if one considered only its European territory, population and resources. If the United States constitutes a single territorial unit (and this, strictly speaking, is no longer true since the acquisition of Alaska, the annexation of Hawaii, and the events of the Spanish War), if pre-war Russia had in place of colonies vast territories that happened to be contiguous to the original domain of the Czars, the British Isles, on the other hand, are not in themselves a world power--it is the British Empire which is a world power.

The same is true of France. An American, accustomed to a conception of space and numbers very different from that of the European miscrocosm, might well be surprised at the place in the world which a nation possessing a territory of only 550,000 square kilometers and with a population which barely reaches 40,000,000, continues to hold. No matter how great the prestige of French civilization or the moral and intellectual value of the French individual, the material basis on which French power is constructed would be singularly meagre if it included only France in Europe. In the face of such giants as the United States, the British Commonwealth of Nations, the reorganized Russia of tomorrow, European France would count for little.


But there is a greater France. To obtain an exact idea of the place which France occupies on this planet, an effort must be made to see as one unit all the territories which are French. With the old France these territories form what our forebears called--and the word for them had not the sinister connotation which has since been given it--the French Empire.[i]

The lack of complete geodetic data makes it difficult to state the exact size of the French Empire. It may be said, however, that it covers between 10 and 12 million square kilometers, that is to say a greater area than that of the United States. France, the historical cradle of the French Empire, does not constitute a twentieth part of this whole.

Of course, all these vast territories are not of equal value. Some contain deserts or great semi-arid plains, as for instance the Sahara, which is thrust in between Algeria and French West Africa. There are equatorial lands where forests and thick undergrowths offer even greater obstacles to the free movement of men than do the dunes and stony plateaus of the deserts. But aside from the privileged lands of France in Europe, where human beings during thousands of years have labored to perfect the handiwork of nature, Greater France also includes Berber Africa, where in the past have flourished the brilliant civilizations of Carthage, Rome, and Arabia. And it includes the Indo-Chinese delta, a land admirably suited to the task of sustaining great masses of human beings and in which the cultural movements of China and India have met.

The various segments of Greater France, like those of the British Empire, are scattered throughout the world. This is a cause of much inconvenience. Between Marseilles and Saïgon or Tamatave, for example, communications are slow and sometimes even precarious. They are even more so between various other parts of the Empire. Only Northern Africa constitutes a group of territories easily accessible to the homeland, being reached within 24 to 28 hours by sea from France's Mediterranean ports.

But this dispersion of territories also has its advantages. The various parts of Greater France have every range of climate. From Guinea to Tonkin, from St. Pierre and Miquelon near the mouth of the St. Lawrence to New Caledonia between Australia and New Zealand, every form of climate is encountered. One leaves the country of wheat for that of millet and rice, the country of flax for that of cotton.

The United States is proud that within her confines sugar beet and sugar cane can both be cultivated; the same is true of the plains of Picardy and of the Antilles and Réunion. In these days of economic struggle between producing peoples, such variety is a source of strength. Some greater empire of which all the component parts were situated in the same latitude would, while maintaining a cultural uniformity, possess less economic strength.

One can distinguish three great groups of French territories: First, there is the European-Mediterranean group, composed of the homeland and Northern Africa. In spite of the sea which separates the two portions of this group, they are intimately allied in character. If the dikes of Dunkerque seem separated by a whole world from the palm groves of Biskra, there is but a nuance between Provence and the Algerian littoral. There one finds the same clear sky over the same brown and green plains. With Gaul itself must be considered another Gaul of 700,000 square kilometers lying just across the Mediterranean.

Secondly, there is the territorial group of Western and Equatorial Africa, containing in all 8,000,000 square kilometers of plain and forest, a land of intense heat and heavy rains, of mighty rivers.

Thirdly, there is Indo-China, covering 700,000 square kilometers (about equal to Northern Africa), including little explored or exploited regions in the interior. This is a country of monsoons, of deltic low-lands of extraordinary fertility. It is through the possession of Indo-China that France has become one of the great powers of the Pacific.[ii]

In addition to these three main groups, mention must be made of various subsidiary territories, among them the Island of Madagascar, which is greater than France itself (592,000 square kilometers) and which by reason of its position close to South Africa has a rich future. Then there are all the little colonies, the islands and islets sown across the Indian Ocean and in the Pacific on the route from Sydney to Panama, besides one of the Guianas in America and certain of the Antilles.


What of the population which all these territories support?

It is difficult to reply to this question precisely. Though the censuses are taken in France with due regard for the standards of modern statistical methods, though the same standards are reasonably well adhered to in the case of Algeria, and perhaps even of Tunis, they cannot be said to apply to the statistics collected in French Morocco, certain sections of which are not completely pacified while others are governed through native chiefs who have not the slightest interest in census taking. In Indo-China the census does not consider the individual but the taxpayer, i.e., the family unit; only by empirical calculation can one arrive at a figure of population. In the case of tropical Africa, the statistics available are based on hypothetical estimates, which are arrived at by striking a mean between the exaggerated reports of enthusiastic travelers who have visited over-crowded villages and who are inclined to argue from the part to the whole, and those of pessimists who have chanced upon districts ravaged by former wars and present epidemics.

No longer are all the great French cities in France. To the fifteen cities of France proper which have over 100,000 inhabitants there must now be added Algiers, Oran, Tunis, Marrakech, Casablanca, Hanoi, and the Chinese suburbs of Saïgon.

There would be small error in adding to the forty million French of Europe over fifty million other people who live under the French flag. Let us set down, then, that Greater France consists of twelve million square kilometers of territory and contains about a hundred million inhabitants. Let us remember that Greater France, with an area considerably exceeding that of the American Union, has a somewhat smaller population. Numerically, however, the two are comparable.

But what of the differences existing between the different groups of these hundred million people?

I do not need to dwell on the 40,000,000 who live in Europe, and who, unfortunately, propagate their race very slowly.[iii]

Turning to the rest, it is first necessary to classify separately the million Europeans who have settled in Northern Africa. They are not all French. There are important contingents of Spaniards and Italians among them. Even among those classified as French are included persons who have been naturalized and their children. But these different Mediterranean elements, if we except, perhaps, the Italians of Tunis, soon become French through the influence of the schools and the processes of civic life. Thus, less than one hundred years after the landing of the French at Algiers (July 4, 1830), we see the formation of a North African people of European origin but of French culture, just as the people of the United States, in spite of its mixed origin, bears the Anglo-Saxon imprint.

Side by side in Northern Africa with this population which bears the French stamp there lives a non-European white population. Of the ten million Mussulman natives of Northern Africa, the great majority are white and of Berber and Arab origin. The former practice of keeping domestic slaves, who were recruited in the Sudan, introduced black elements and caused cross-breeding. But on the whole this is a group whose civilization, although perhaps inferior to ours, nevertheless has attained a very fair development. The Islamic civilization of Northern Africa was one of the most brilliant of the Middle Ages--as the buildings of Kairouan and Tlemcem and of the Moroccan cities prove.

Indo-China, with a population totaling somewhat under 20,000,000, is peopled chiefly by Annamites, who in the delta lands attain a density of from two to three thousand per square kilometer. Like all of the yellow peoples, the Annamites possess a civilization which, although it differs radically from ours, is highly developed and boasts great refinement, and which it is our task to help develop further without there being any question of destroying or brutally assimilating it. In Cambodia, we find among the Khmers an outpost of the civilization of India. Madagascar, with 3,000,000 inhabitants, is still almost a deserted world, principally peopled by Malays. Further, there must be included a very few Creoles, Metis, and French negroes settled in the older colonies.

To complete our enumeration we must mention the twenty million negroes in Western and Equatorial Africa, who are of widely varying race, culture and capacity for progress. Those of the Sudanese desert and plain are converts to Islam, but to a deformed Islam, adapted to primitive mentalities and very different from the Islam of North Africa.[iv] This mass of twenty million people whom it is necessary to protect from the ravages of internecine warfare, of slavery, of famine, of alcoholism, and of dangerous plagues, are to be considered as chiefly fitted for husbandry, and as a reserve of military manpower which should be tapped only with discretion.


If Greater France, isolated suddenly from the rest of the world, were obliged to live on its own resources, could it do so?

Let us first consider foodstuffs.


European France before the war was essentially a wheat growing country, coming after the United States and Russia but almost ranking with India. Her production of wheat in some years was close to one hundred million metric quintals. The invasion of 1914, affecting as it did the regions in which the highest yield per hectare was obtained, caused a marked falling off in production. But the situation has so improved since 1918 that wheat production this year was well over 75,000,000 quintals. To this production must be added the steadily increasing output of Northern Africa. Even before the war, Algiero-Tunisian wheat furnished 30 per cent of all French imports of this product. In 1923, the Algierian crop is estimated as having been ten million quintals (of which five will go to France), while the crops of Morocco and Tunisia together equaled another ten millions.

French and North African Wheat Production, 1923
France 78,000,000
Algeria 10,000,000
French Morocco 7,100,000
Tunisia 2,500,000
Total 97,600,000
North African Barley Production, 1923
Algeria 7,500,000
French Morocco 7,100,000
Tunisia 1,700,000
Total 16,300,000

With this help from North Africa and the added potentialities of Annam, Greater France is in course of again becoming one of the leading producers of wheat, and it is even possible to foresee the time when she will be an exporter of this product. Already, in so far as barley is concerned (particularly brewery barley), Northern Africa meets all French requirements.[v]

At present an importer of maize, France will in increasing degree add to her insufficient production the excess arising from her colonies. The total French requirements of this cereal are in the neighborhood of 2,000,000 tons.

Production of Maize
Metric Tons
French production 300,000
Forecast of Indo-Chinese production 960,000
" Madagascar production 112,000
" West African production 250,000
" North African production 130,000
Total 1,752,000

French Indo-China is becoming more and more important as one of the great world producers of rice, ranking in this respect immediately after British India. In spite of an enormous local consumption, Indo-China possesses large quantities of rice for export. Saïgon is, after Rangoon, the greatest rice exporting center in the world.

Indo-Chinese Rice
Area of Fields, Hectares
Cochin China 3,000,000
Annam 1,300,000
Tonkin and Cambodia 700,000
Total 5,000,000

The average production of these fields is 5,000,000 metric tons. Exports in 1921 were 1,720,000 tons; in 1922 they were 1,260,000 tons. But Indo-China is not the only rice producer. Madagascar and Western Africa are also cultivators of this product.[vi]


The question of a meat supply is one which the war put before France in entirely new terms. French herds have considerably decreased, the while consumption has increased. The import of frozen meats, which it was planned should permit the reconstitution of the French herds on a pre-war basis, was quickly stopped by the fall in value of the franc. As for deliveries from Germany, they have been insufficient both in quantity and quality. Nevertheless, thanks to the activity of the French breeders, the herds, particularly insofar as cattle are concerned, are gradually approaching pre-war levels.[vii]

French Herds
Millions of Heads
Cattle Sheep Swine
1913 15. 16.5 7.5
1916 12.7 12. 4.5
1923 13.5  8.7 5.

But it is particularly the colonies which have seen their herds increase. Indo-China possesses at least one million and a half head of oxen, and as many buffaloes. In Madagascar, the oxen number not less than eight million (compared with four million in 1904), and there are more than five million head in Western Africa in spite of an epidemic which destroyed fifty per cent of the herds. Northern Africa has sufficient for her needs and in addition (chiefly through Morocco's one and a half million head of cattle) is able to export a surplus. In respect to sheep, both Northern Africa (with at least 15,000,000 head) and Indo-China are excellently situated. Swine are especially abundant in Indo-China (more than 2,600,000 head), and in Madagascar (more than a million head).

These resources in live stock, which are capable of considerable development, are the origin of a whole series of problems. There are the problems, for example, of furnishing supplies to France, of organizing a general export trade (from Madagascar to the southeast coast of Africa, for instance, or from Indo-China to Hongkong, Singapore, and the Philippines), and of constructing and developing refrigerating plants in Madagascar, Western Africa, Morocco, and even in Indo-China, so as to be able to supply the French market from regions where the exchange question plays an unimportant part.


French beet sugar production totaled before the war 780,000 metric tons per annum. Despite the reconstruction of the destroyed factories of the Pas de Calais, the present figure does not exceed 500,000 tons per annum, to which colonial cane sugar production adds somewhat over a hundred thousand tons. Of total sugar imports of close to 6,000,000 quintals, France receives only 575,000 quintals from her colonies.


In examining these three products we must give special consideration to wines. The wine production of France which totaled eighty million hectolitres in 1875, fell to about 30,000,000 after the plague of phylloxera. It has now risen to an average of between fifty and sixty million hectolitres, including Alsace-Lorraine. The exceptionally fine grape crop of 1922 produced 70,000,000 hectolitres. Outside of Europe, in Algeria and Tunisia,[viii] large-scale growers of wine have established themselves, the annual production being between ten and eleven million hectolitres; and Morocco will perhaps before long join these. With this annual production of seventy or eighty million hectolitres the French wine group is by far the most important (even considering only the quantity produced) in the world. Italy produces some fifty million hectolitres. And the whole production of the world is only about a hundred and fifty million hectolitres.

France produces tea in Indo-China. It is estimated that the teas from Indo-China will soon supply all French and North African requirements, which are in the neighborhood of 25,000 tons a year. With respect to coffee, the dominant factor is the practical control of the market by Brazil. The length of time which is required for capital invested in the coffee industry to pay any return (between six and seven years) has hindered the development of the naturally favorable soils for this product which exist in Indo-China, New Caledonia, Equatorial Africa, Madagascar, and Guadeloupe. Cocoa, on the contrary, coming principally from the Antilles and now also from the Ivory Coast, Dahomey, and Gaboon--without mentioning the mandated territories of Togo and Cameroon--is to be had in sufficient quantities to make the French chocolate industry practically independent of foreign importations.


As much cannot be said of the French textile industry. Not only is the French production of wool small (35,000,000 tons in 1913), but, as in all countries of old civilization, the flocks of sheep are decreasing, the decrease in the instance of France having been further aggravated by the war. If in the future the southern portion of Madagascar, the plateau lands of Indo-China, and the Sudan give promise of becoming important as sheep raising centers, for the present the only colonies on which France can draw are those of Northern Africa. And their wool production, between three and four thousand tons, is after all small.

France's most important textile problem involves her supply of cotton, of which she consumes close to two hundred thousand tons per annum. At present, she receives only 10 per cent of this total from her colonies. Nevertheless, two colonial zones are particularly suited to cotton growing--the one Cambodia in Indo-China, where initial efforts in this direction met with instant success, and where since 1921 increasingly important results have been obtained--the other the irrigable basin of the Niger, which is favorable to the cultivation of the Egyptian varieties of cotton. When the development of these two centers is completed, and when to their production is added that of certain other parts of Western Africa and of some plantations in Northern Africa, we can see French territories furnishing sufficient cotton to meet French needs, without mentioning the possibilities of an Indo-Chinese cotton export trade with Japan. This may well occur within ten years. The rise in exchange and the increasing absorption of American cotton by American industries will act as stimulants to production in France's colonies just as the American Civil War acted sixty years ago in India and Egypt.

Today this same factor of exchanges, by interfering with the supply of Far Eastern silks for the silk houses of Lyons has caused France to push the development of French sources of supply. No serious increase can be hoped for in the quantities of raw silk furnished by France proper (the principal source of which are the Cévennes).[ix] But Indo-China, which has already planted 8,000 hectares in mulberry trees and which annually produces 4,000,000 kilograms of fresh cocoons and 150,000 kilograms of raw silk, proposes to extend the area planted to 36,000 hectares and to raise its production of silk to 1,000,000 kilograms. Arrangements arrived at between the Governor-General of the colony and the Lyons silk houses have further enabled the planting of certain sections of Cochinchina and Cambodia in mulberry trees.

Flax, which in the past France principally imported from Russia, is now cultivated in ample quantities in Tunis and Morocco.


The forests of France proper, reduced in the course of centuries, furnished in 1912 only 6,700,000 cubic meters of wood. They suffered enormous damage during the war, through the savage devastation of the enemy as well as by stupid and unsystematic cutting by the Allied armies.[x] But fortunately the colonial reserves are huge. The area of French forest land, which furnishes both common wood and fine woods, may be estimated at 90,000,000 hectares. Our private railway companies and the state railway administration have formed a consortium to obtain their necessary wood supplies from Western Africa.

In considering vegetable oils, we will set aside the olive groves which produce such excellent results in Provence, Lower Languedoc, and the three provinces of Northern Africa. Far more important are the sources of other vegetable oils--ground nuts, palm and copra. The present exports may be estimated at more than 3,000,000 quintals of ground nuts, at 600,000 quintals of almond oil, at 250,000 quintals of palm oil, and at 20,000 tons of copra. These figures are for exports only. But this is only a start. European France was required to import 66 per cent of her vegetable oils from abroad in 1913, but in 1919 only 50 per cent, and in 1922 only 42 per cent. All that is necessary in order practically to eliminate French purchases of such products from abroad is the adoption of scientific methods of production and the development of better transportation facilities.


The rubber resources of the French colonies are considerable. The plantations of Indo-China, together with those of Equatorial and Western Africa and Madagascar, which now produce about 5,000 tons a year, could be made to yield 12,000 tons. But the fall in prices (combined in the case of Indo-China with the rise in value of the piastre), has delayed an increase in production.[xi]


If we examine the mineral resources of the French Empire, the first fact we are faced with, of course, is that France herself lacks coal. Even before the war, with production pushed to its utmost limits by engineers and miners, the total output had only reached 40,000,000 tons. German devastation was so successful that, in spite of the efforts made to reconstruct the mines of the Nord and the Pas de Calais, production in 1922 only totaled 33,500,000 tons (not including the Saar output). But Indo-China now has a production which, from 300,000 tons in 1907, has risen to nearly 1,000,000 tons in 1922. It will continue to increase rapidly, since to the surface anthracite deposits at the seaboard must be added further deposits of soft coal which will permit the manufacture of briquettes in Indo-China without the necessity of importing Japanese coal. Indeed, Indo-China has become the chief coal depot for most of the marine commerce of the southwestern Pacific. The Twentieth Mineralogical Congress estimated the Indo-Chinese reserves at 20,000 million tons (a greater reserve than that of France, and two and a half times as great as that of Japan), before the discovery of the soft coal beds. Furthermore, several sections of the colony have not yet been prospected. The abundance of coal in Indo-China is fortunate, as there seems little reason to place great hopes on the other colonies. Madagascar, however, produces graphite, which is used in the construction of electrical furnaces.

We now come to fuel oils. Although the output of the Alsatian wells at Pechelbronn has been raised from 50,000 to 70,000 tons per annum, this is really a very small figure in comparison with the annual consumption. The scattered indications of oil or of schist oil found in France, the total product of the Algerian wells, the expectations founded on Morocco, Madagascar, and Indo-China--all these seem of little importance. It is chiefly outside of her own territories that France must obtain her supplies of crude oil and gasoline.[xii] The iron situation is entirely different. Before the war, the application of the process invented by Thomas Gilchrist to the Lorraine ores made the section of Lorraine which remained French after 1871 (the region of Briey) one of the greatest iron producing centers of Europe. The reconstitution of the Lorraine unit by the re-incorporation in it of the region of Thionville gives it a possible yearly production of 40,000,000 tons of ore.[xiii] To the above must be added the resources of other French deposits, notably in Normandy, but above all in Northern Africa. Algeria is already an important iron producer, although the greatest beds, those of Ouenza, have just lately been developed. Tunis also produces ore. No exact information concerning Morocco is available. Indo-China, Madagascar, New Caledonia, Western and Equatorial Africa, are all rich in iron ore deposits. As a whole, France is today the most important iron producing country of Europe. She is next to the United States as a world producer. It is because of this great wealth in iron ore that the question of adequate supplies of coal and particularly of metallurgical coke are of such vast importance.[xiv]

In the matter of other metals, France is less well provided. Nevertheless, aluminum, a discovery of French scientists, continues to be produced in some quantity by France, because of the rich bauxite deposits of Provence and because of the wealth of hydro-electric power available in the French Alps. Outside of Canada nickel is to be found only in New Caledonia. The reserves of this island are estimated at between eight and nine million tons; the annual production is about 100,000 tons. A start has lately been made at treating this substance on the island itself. New Caledonia also possesses considerable deposits of chrome (about 80,000 tons are produced per annum), of cobalt, etc.

The production of copper in France proper is insignificant. Even adding the Algerian production and that of the other colonies, the total is very small, and France remains tributary to the United States for the necessary supplies of this metal. Of all the French domains only the Middle Congo (in the neighborhood of the Belgian basin of Katanga) can be made to produce, after it has been linked with the coast by railroad, in sufficient quantities to meet French needs. In this instance also it is now proposed to treat the ore, at least partially, on the spot.

Zinc is to be found both in Algeria-Tunis and Indo-China; the production of this latter now totals between thirty and forty thousand tons a year. Tin (often mixed with tungsten) is to be found in Tonkin. Lead is mined in the Massif Central and Algeria-Tunis, both regions producing together about 100,000 tons a year. Occasionally this lead is found to have a high admixture of silver.

It is one of the characteristics of the French Empire that it is exceedingly poor in precious metals, particularly in gold. The few French deposits need only be mentioned as curiosities. Guinea produces a minimum of 3,000 kilograms a year; Madagascar occasionally reaches a production of 1,500 kilograms; Indo-China furnishes about 100 kilograms; and Western Africa about 300. No doubt these figures may be increased, but the total will always remain small.

Greater France occupies an interesting position as a producer of phosphates. In 1913 the 300,000 tons produced in European France--particularly in Picardy--were augmented by 2,500,000 tons from Northern Africa and some 200,000 tons produced by the islands of Oceania, thus bringing French production to a total about equaling that of the United States (3,000,000 metric tons). Since the end of the war this latter figure has been exceeded because of the added Moroccan production.

The return of Alsace to France has placed at the disposal of Greater France vast quantities of one of the most important fertilizers, potash. Under the German régime the Alsatian beds were not developed, in order to permit the sale of the poorer product of the Kalisyndikat. Thus in 1913 the Alsatian beds did not produce more than 50,000 tons of potash; in 1922 their contribution totaled 210,000 tons.[xv]


It is not our intention to multiply indefinitely this citing of statistical data.[xvi] From what we have already said it must be clear that Greater France presents an admirable reservoir of food-stuffs and raw materials.

How is it that the development of all these riches is so little advanced? How is it that French imports from the colonies total (leaving out Northern Africa) but one-tenth of all French imports? How is it that France buys 2,000 tons of cotton from her colonies when they might furnish the 300,000 tons which she requires ?

Three things are essential to the development of France's colonies. First, the sinews of development are necessary. In other words, the investment of capital in the colonies, which is now small, will have to be increased very rapidly and in very large amounts--perhaps 4 or 5 milliards of francs would be necessary in one lump sum.[xvii] Unfortunately, France, absorbed in the urgent work of reconstructing the devastated regions, is not by herself able to float a Crédit Colonial in addition to her Crédit National. The colonies remain, however, a tempting field for the investors of the rich countries of the world.

In the second place, the development of our colonies is largely a question of transportation. I shall not dwell upon the obvious role played by the railroads of European France in linking the regions of the north and east with the Mediterranean and Atlantic seaboards. The railroad is the conqueror of new countries. The fact that a trunk line now links Casablanca and Tunis, thus uniting all sections of Northern Africa, is certainly an accomplishment in which France may take pride. From this main road branches reach far south into the Sahara. Will they before long be linked with roads pushing up from Senegal and the Niger Basin? This dream does not seem utopian since the Sahara was crossed in an automobile-tractor during the past winter, a feat which has completely changed the terms of the problem of a trans-Saharan railroad. In Indo-China, too, we now can foresee the time when there will be rail communications along the entire coast of Annam, from Saïgon to Tonkin, and from there to the Chinese province of Yunnan. Important sections of this future trans-Indochinese road are now in actual operation. Railroads are also being built in Equatorial Africa and in Madagascar. Much work still remains to be done, however, to complete an adequate colonial railway system.

In the third place, it is also of importance that the colonies should be easily able to communicate with France and with each other by sea. The submarine war destroyed 980,000 tons of French shipping. This, together with stoppage of shipping construction during war and the unfair division of the enemy's commercial fleet after the war (particularly in the case of passenger ships), have made inadequate and somewhat precarious the steamship service between France and her colonial ports. Marseilles is too often obliged to buy the vegetable oil products of Dakar at Port Sunlight, just as before the war it was obliged to buy certain Tonkinese woods and the graphites of Madagascar at Hamburg. Fortunately one French colony, Indo-China, following the example of certain British Dominions, has now created its own merchant marine.[xviii]

Even at the present time the economic value of colonial France is very considerable. The trade of European France with the colonies, small though it is, is nevertheless in the neighborhood of 5½ billion francs (imports 2,287 million francs and exports 3,116 million francs). Algeria alone accounts for about 50 per cent of the above total; but active as are her trade relations with France, they are far from accounting for her total foreign trade, which exceeds in value 3,300 million francs.

It is impossible to place a figure on the total foreign trade of the French Empire because in order to do so it would first be necessary to determine what part of the foreign trade of each group was composed of produce bought or sold abroad, as well as what part came from other sections of Greater France or was sent to them for re-export. It would also be necessary to take into account different customs régimes. Certain colonies, for example, use the French customs system; others (Morocco and Tunis) are governed by International Conventions; others fix their own customs policy; others, again, are included in the Congo Convention. A computation of figures of such different significance would be without value.

Nevertheless, Greater France, as we have said, constitutes a complex and powerful economic machine which requires but one thing before it can be developed to the full--money. Unfortunately it is very difficult for France to obtain this money out of her own pockets until some solution has been found for the reparations problem. She thus is confined within a circle. In order for her to develop her riches to the full--a procedure from which humanity as a whole would draw profit--it is necessary for her once more to achieve an independent financial position; but this independence she can only regain when the utilization of all her various resources gives her back her former economic autonomy.


I propose to summarize briefly the facts which have been presented in this study.

Surrounding the ancient France of Europe, a small unit of only 550,000 square kilometers but with all the strength of a civilization of several thousand years growth, there are now grouped certain distant lands which in all cover over 10,000,000 square kilometers of the earth's surface.

France, because of the great variety of her soil and climate and because, also, she has been the scene of generation after generation of solid work, produces a wide variety of celebrated goods. It is not generally realized by the world that she is one of the great industrial nations of Europe, and that she is far from confining herself, as is too often said in words which have ceased to have any meaning, to the "luxury industries" in which she has long excelled. The orientation of our effort, even before 1914, was in the direction of Schwerindustrie. Peace, in restoring to her her natural frontiers, made France the leading iron producing nation of Europe. For this iron coal is necessary.

To the agricultural resources of France proper--those of the temperate zone and Mediterranean zone--may be added the natural resources of the various "Frances" of Africa and Asia, both temperate and tropical. Thus it comes about that Greater France, like the British Commonwealth and the United States, is one of the great reservoirs of food-stuffs and raw materials of the world. The principal problem of post-war France is the exploitation of the natural resources of this Empire and the creation of adequate means of communication between its different parts.

The fate of France is henceforth inseparately linked with that of Greater France. With a population which unfortunately remains stationary in the neighborhood of 40 millions France would seem to be condemned to be but a great memory, a shadow of a glorious past. That instead she is a great reality, faced with a great future, is because of the 60 million subjects and proteges who inhabit the France beyond the seas. Among them there are not, it is true, more than one million of European origin and not more than 10 million of the white race. But it is French civilization which is stamping these diverse elements.

French colonization policy had its faults; it was what most European colonization was, mercantile and brutal. But it was not long before the national French temperament, essentially good-natured, with an ability to understand so-called inferior races and with a tolerance of differing view-points, made the usual policy of conquest and exploitation less harsh than it was elsewhere. The crossing of Africa by Savorgnan de Brazza, without military escort, without the shedding of one drop of blood; the work of Paul Bert in inaugurating French activity in Indo-China by protecting the Annamites and by building schools for them--these were acts quite typical of French colonial policy.

To the harsh doctrines justifying the dominion of France over inferior races there at first succeeded a naif idealism, which saw in all the subjects of France men of equal value ready to be transformed into true Frenchmen. Experience and contact with the various populations of the French Empire have modified this exaggerated view and have taught France the complexity of her colonial problems. She knows now that her task is not to assimilate white, black, and yellow populations, each of them with its own traditions, but to help each, in its own interest as well as in the interest of all, to develop along the lines of its own individual civilization. She aims to develop all that is best in the Arab-Berber and Annamite civilizations; to awaken even in the negro of the Sudan a certain desire for betterment; to associate all these populations, through various measures of local self-government, in a collective productive effort; and to grant them little by little, as they reach majority, a fuller measure of local self-government in collaboration with Frenchmen. This is the new conception, both practical and humane, which France has of her proper colonial policy.

France is already reaping the fruits of this policy. During the war the French colonies, in spite of much German intrigue, remained quiescent. If the Frenchmen overseas were able to leave their colonial homes without danger and go to the front; if more than 500,000 troops, and as many workers, were furnished by France's colonies and protectorates; if since 1918 Greater France has been troubled neither with revolts nor similar disturbances; if the peoples which compose it turn unanimously to old France as to a protector--is there not in all this a magnificent justification of the policy adhered to by France during the past forty years?

[i]One reason why it is difficult to visualize this Empire is that its management is divided among several different authorities. Algeria is almost directly under the Central Administration. Tunisia and Morocco for diplomatic reasons are administered by the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Only the other protectorates and colonies come directly under the authority of the Minister of the Colonies. For this reason comprehensive statistics concerning the French Empire as a whole are difficult to obtain. Furthermore, in this article we leave out of account certain mandated territories.

[ii]That fact seems to have been forgotten at first by some of the negotiators at the Washington Conference. The maps of the Pacific made at that time in America did not go in a westerly direction beyond 110 degrees east, and thus failed to show Indo-China.

[iii]The recovery of Alsace and of part of Lorraine has approximately compensated France for the losses in population caused by the war. It should be noted that the rate of increase among the population of French descent settled in Algeria is greater than it is among the French in France.

[iv]The effect of Christian missionaries on these populations, useful though it is from a humanitarian standpoint, is of little significance from that of religion. It is necessary to guard against enthusiastic statistics of conversions.

[v]The production of rye, the cereal of poor countries, is diminishing both in France and in Northern Africa.

[vi]A note should be added about vegetables and fruits, particularly of the hothouse variety. Like the specialized sections of Southern France, Algeria and Tunisia have obtained important markets for the sale of these products, especially in London. Mention must also be made of the dates exported from the Saharan oases and of the tropical and exotic fruits exported from various colonies. A more rational method of cultivation and a better commercial organization would permit greatly increased production of bananas, pineapples, etc. Vanilla is produced in Réunion.

[vii]No mention is made of fisheries. To those of European France must be added: Northern Africa (particularly Tunisia), Western Africa (the Arguin bank), Indo-China (particularly Lake Tonlé-Sap in Cambodia). Finally to the fish caught along the French coasts must be added those which the French fishermen catch off Iceland and Newfoundland, which are afterwards dried and salted in France. This fishing has given birth to an active canning industry.

[viii]This industry in Northern Africa is purely French. In Islamic countries the vine is only cultivated for the consumption of grapes as such. It was the phylloxera plague of 1875-1880 which by driving thousands of Languedoc wine growers from the Mediterranean littoral of France to North Africa created this now prosperous industry there.

[ix]French production of raw silk, which was about 650,000 kilograms in 1908, has fallen to below 200,000. French producers keep first place only in the furnishing of mulberry seeds.

[x]The consumption during the war (exclusive of imports) exceeded 100,000,000 cubic meters.

[xi]Nevertheless, Indo-Chinese exports of rubber in 1922 totaled 4,500 metric tons, of which 3,000 tons went to France. The plantations cover 33,000 hectares.

[xii]We do not consider here France's well-known wealth in hydro-electric power. Furthermore, Northern Africa has an industrial future in this direction. In Equatorial Africa, vegetable oils might furnish motive power to engines direct, or be transformed into hydroelectric energy.

[xiii]See C. K. Leith: "The World Iron and Steel Situation," FOREIGN AFFAIRS, Vol. I, No. 4. Because of the general economic situation and the lack of coke, production in 1922 did not exceed 21,000,000 tons (as against 14,000,000 tons in 1921) for all of the deposits of European France. Lorraine alone is capable of producing 20,000,000 tons.

[xiv]See Leith article. Recent discoveries of French chemists permit us to consider certain coals of the Pas-de-Calais and the Saar as cokeable. Nevertheless, it will always be necessary to import Westphalian coke and coal.

[xv]Salt, which for many centuries constituted the principal mineral riches of France, continues to be produced in quantity in Brittany and Poitou, the Delta of the Rhone, Lorraine and Comté, South Tunisia and Algeria.

[xvi]One might, for example, mention cellulois, pulp, hides and skins, dyes, flower extracts (Provence, Northern Africa, Mascareignes), jute, etc.

[xvii]See the project of law establishing a general program for the development of the colonies presented to the Chamber by the Minister of Colonies, M. Albert Sarraut (Chamber of Deputies, No. 2449, Annex to the procès-verbal of the Session of April 17, 1921).

[xviii]I should point out the remarkable development of wireless communications between European France and Dakar and Saïgon, and the no less remarkable development which aviation is undergoing in our colonies. This last fact is little known in spite of its extraordinary importance.

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  • HENRI HAUSER, Professor of Economic History at the University of Paris, author of "Travailleurs et Marchands dans l'Ancienne France," and other works
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