The Algerian War, long called "the events of Algeria", traditionally begins on November 1, 1954, to end with the Evian agreements, on March 18, 1962. This violent conflict which opposed France and the Algerian nationalists for eight years resulted in Algerian independence and the departure of almost all of the Algerian “black feet”. To have a more precise vision of this complex and still painful conflict in the history of France, we must broaden the chronological framework, and try to go back to the origins a little.
From conquest to WWII
- 1830-1857: conquest of Algeria by France.
- 1865-1867: failure of the reforms of Napoleon III (senatus-consulte of July 14, 1865 granting nationality to native Jews and Muslims,…).
- 1870 (October 24): the French government publishes theCrémieux decree granting French nationality to the Jews of Algeria.
- 1870-1871: the last great indigenous revolt, that of Sheikh El Mokrani, is defeated.
- 1881 (June 28): implementation of the Native Code.
- 1936 (December): Blum-Viollette project aiming at access to citizenship for twenty-five thousand Algerians without giving up personal status. But it was abandoned under pressure from the Algerian settlers.
- 1937: the Algerian People's Party (PPA) of Messali Hadj succeeds the North African Star.
- 1939: the PPA is banned.
- 1943 (February 10) : Ferhat Abbas published on Manifesto of the Algerian people, with an allusion to an “Algerian nation”.
- 1944 (March 7): General de Gaulle signs the ordinance of March 7, 1944 aimed at breaking the inequality between the inhabitants of Algeria that has existed since the 19th century. According to certain criteria (notably military), tens of thousands of Algerians have access to the right to vote in national elections. Ultimately, the Native Code should be abolished (officially in 1946). In the wake of the March 7 ordinance, Ferhat Abbas created the AML (Friends of the Manifesto and of Freedom).
From Setif to the call of the FLN
- 1945 (may): after the arrest and deportation of Messali Hadj, leader of the PPA (who had gone underground), his supporters joined the AML in droves and protests multiplied, as did arrests. The May 8, demonstrations degenerate in Sétif and Guelma. Europeans are killed, and the French army unleashes a bloody crackdown that lasts several weeks and claims hundreds of victims. These days are fundamental in the minds of Algerian nationalists.
- 1946: foundation by Messali Hadj of the MTLD, which succeeds the PPA, and by Ferhat Abbas of the UDMA, succeeding the AML.
- 1947 : the Statute of Algeria : creation of an Algerian Assembly of 120 members, with two colleges of equal number, one representing mainly Europeans (over 800,000 people), the other Algerians (over 7 million). The MTLD and UDMA reject this representative inequality. In February, the MTLD congress created a Special Clandestine Organization (OS) to organize the armed struggle.
- 1949 : "Berber crisis" within the MTLD. Ben bella arrives at the head of the OS.
- 1952: Messali Hadj is expelled from Algeria.
- 1954 : Split between messalists and centralists within the MTLD, with the eventual creation of the MNA. The October 10 is founded the FLN (and its armed wing the ALN), which calls for an insurrection 1er November, after a first night of terrorist attacks on Algerian territory. For François Mitterrand, Minister of the Interior, "Algeria is France".
The Algerian war
- 1955: at the end of January, Jacques Soustelle is appointed governor general, and begins to negotiate secretly with the FLN. The April 3, Edgar Faure declares a state of emergency. The 20 August, thousands of peasants of North Constantinese rise up, causing a bloody repression. First recall of the conscripts of the contingent.
- 1956: René Coty designates Guy Mollet as Chairman of the Board. Creation of a ministry of Algeria. Mollet, conspired in Algiers, must replace General Catroux by Robert Lacoste. The 12th of March the law on special powers is passed : the executive can govern in Algeria by decrees in the economic, administrative and law enforcement fields. 20 August : FLN congress of Soummam, setting up the platform of the Algerian revolution. Tensions are increasing between the FLN (joined by Ferhat Abbas) and the MNA. In November, France embarked on the Egyptian campaign against Nasser, whom it suspected of supporting Algerian separatists. Overall, 1956 was the year of a hardening of the conflict, even though the government refused to speak of "war". New dispatch of conscripts from the contingent.
- 1957: between January and October takes place the battle of Algiers, struggle between the French soldiers led by General Massu and the separatists who commit numerous attacks. At the end of May, the bloody rivalry between the FLN and the MNA culminates in Melouza massacre. The May 21st, the Mollet government falls.
De Gaulle and the threat of civil war
- 1958 : the political situation in France continues to deteriorate (fall of the Gaillard government in April). The May 13, the general government of Algiers is taken by the generals Massu and Salan. We appeal to De Gaulle who invested the 1er June, made a triumphant trip to Algeria ("I understand you!", but also "Long live French Algeria" ...). The September 19 is created by the FLN, the GPRA, who refuses "the peace of the brave" proposed by De Gaulle. The September 28, the French vote "yes" in the referendum on the Constitution. De Gaulle separated civil and military powers and appointed Generals Delouvrier and Challe in place of Salan.
- 1959 : Challe and Constantine plans. The September 16, General de Gaulle delivers his speech on the right to self-determination of Algerians.
- 1960: end of January, week of barricades in Algiers : French Algerians refuse self-determination by Algerian Muslims, and protest against Massu's recall. General Challe restores order. The June 14, De Gaulle speaks out for an "Algerian Algeria" (and an “Algerian Republic” in November). Timid start to negotiations with the GPRA. September 6, publication of the Manifesto of 121.
- 1961 : the January 8, the referendum on self-determination for Algeria collects 75% of "yes" in mainland France, and 69% in Algeria. De Gaulle recognizes the principle of independence. In February, creation of the OAS. The 23 april : putsch of the generals in Algiers ; it's a fail. The May 20, official opening of negotiations with the GPRA in Evian, and truce. Beginning of the withdrawal of troops from Algeria (France has mobilized more than 400,000 soldiers). The attacks by the OAS are on the rise. The October 17, the police violently repressed a demonstration organized by the FLN in Paris.
- 1962 : the February 8, nine protesters belonging to left-wing organizations were killed at the Charonne metro station after a police charge. The OAS attacks continue, but the Evian agreements are signed on March 18. Several weeks of great tension in Algeria (notably with the insurrection led by General Salan), until the proclamation of independence on July 3, 1962(despite the split between FLN and ALN). Two days later, it's the Oran massacre : Black feet and harkis must leave Algeria, most often abandoned by the French government. The August 22 : attack by the OAS in Petit-Clamart against De Gaulle. The September 26, the Ben Bella government is invested in Algeria.
- History of the Algerian War, 1954-1962, by Benjamin Stora. The Discovery, 2004.
- The Algerian War: Genesis and gearing of a tragedy, by Pierre Montagnon. Pygmalion, 2004.
- The hidden truths of the Algerian War, by Jean Sévillia. Fayard, 2018.