- White settlers in France’s overseas colonies. The term was usually applied to Algeria specifically or French North Africa more generally, as it was here that a particularly large white settler population posed the greatest threat to the indigenous population and in time constituted the greatest nuisance to the French government. Colons often came from poor economic backgrounds or were political exiles of the Second Empire, and many were not French but Italian, Spanish, and Maltese. Those with energy and an eye for the main chance quickly realized that in the newly conquered territories, they could secure a level of material comfort impossible for them in Europe. Native Algerians unfamiliar with European property rights could be persuaded to partition land hitherto held in common and sell off small parcels to colons, the most enterprising of whom within a generation employed them as landless wage laborers on prosperous estates. The colons also had full political representation in France, whereas native Algerians did not. The colons were therefore fanatical about maintaining France’s overseas empire and, in the case of Algeria, made Algerian independence into a national crisis for France.See also <
>.FURTHER READING:Ageron, Charles Robert. Modern Algeria: A History from 1830 to the Present . Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 1991;Bennoune, Mahfoud. The Making of Contemporary Algeria, 1830-1987: Colonial Upheavals and Post-independence Development . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.CARL CAVANAGH HODGE
Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.