- Mission Civilisatrice
- A slogan, expressed in the coin of doctrine, of French colonialism of the late nineteenth century, initially championed by Jules Ferry. Its central idea was that France had a unique mission to civilize the world, which could both elevate the nation’s moral character after the humiliating defeat of the Franco-Prussian War and enlighten non-European peoples to the superiority of French culture. Coincidentally, the mission civilisatrice could assimilate colonial populations and ease colonial rule while enhancing French influence abroad at a time of increased imperial competition from other European powers - advantageous collateral benefits of a highminded policy. Behind the slogan was the notion that the colonial policy of the Third Republic ought to be qualitatively different from that of the Second Empire by appealing to the ideals of 1789. Cultural enlightenment in the colonies was to have the effect of making overseas subjects citizens of a global civilization for which secular and democratic France was the model and capital. As a colonial policy the mission civilisatrice had two critical shortcomings. Its ideals too often stood in grotesque contrast to the brutal reality in many of France’s colonies, while forcing colonial peoples to become French usually cultivated resentment rather than a sense of elevation.See also <
>.FURTHER READING:Burrows, Mathew. “Mission Civilisatrice: French Cultural Policy in the Middle East.” The Historical Journal 29, 1 (1986): 109–135;Conklin, Alice L. Mission to Civilize: The Republican Idea of Empire in France and West Africa, 1895–1930 . Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1997.CARL CAVANAGH HODGE
Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.