Abstract

This paper explores the case of a village named Lacroix, located in a commune mixte of French East Algeria—La Calle—where many European settlers abandoned their land a few years after obtaining it. In the early1920s, most of the first settlers put their land up for rent or sale to native people, because they were attracted by Tunisia, the border of which was just next to the village. In the 1950s, only five French families were still living in Lacroix. This movement can be considered as a sort of decolonization, even if this concept must be handled with care. Those migrations were very usual throughout the country at that time, but the case of Lacroix is a good example of a colonization area being recovered by the natives. The analysis of this long and complex process shows how the French authorities tried to retain land, creating inventive strategies for over 20 years. The process was very difficult, however, and finally failed, especially because of the conflicts between the local administration and central authorities. Moreover, the General Government showed no interest in this rural part of the colony, located at the Tunisian border. This case also raises the issue of the influence of local politicians, who managed to be heard over the administrator of the village or the settlers themselves. Finally, this paper discusses the objections that colonization had to face to be efficient while French Algeria was nearing its centennial.

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