In This Review

The French Overseas Empire
The French Overseas Empire
By Frederick Quinn
Praeger, 2000, 336 pp.

Quinn is a former American diplomat with considerable experience in the former French Empire. His book is a history of that empire "from within"-rather than "from below" or from the perspective of metropolitan France. He is good at pointing out the forms of conscious or unconscious racism that permeated French behavior and culture, and his account of French colonialism from the sixteenth century (where he begins with a woefully mistranslated fishermen's song) to the empire's collapse after World War II is comprehensive. Covering key individual actors as well as politics, economic domination, and culture, he also has much to say about the "military's and missionaries' Empire" of the nineteenth century and is keenly aware of the sprawling empire's diverse situations and conditions. De Gaulle gets due credit for having "allowed France to cut away cleanly" from obsolete entanglements. Despite minor typos and errors, a solid and impressive achievement.