French, History, memory, Transculture, Translanguage, trauma

The BBC’s exploration of Algeria’s ‘Pieds Noirs’ and their exodus from Africa

A family arrives from Oran to Marseilles, 1962. AFP via Le Point.

Submission by Dr Amy L. Hubbell

“The Mass Exodus of Algeria’s ‘Pieds Noirs'”. The History Hour by BBC Sounds. August 2019.

Recently Dr. Amy Hubbell, Senior Lecturer in French at the University of Queensland was interviewed by Max Pearson for the BBC’s History Hour radio show and podcast. This episode of History Hour explores the “mass exodus” of Algeria’s “pieds noirs”, a term that refers to French and other Europeans who were born in Algeria, in the North of Africa, whilst the country was under French rule from 1830-1962.

In her interview with BBC’s Max Pearson, Dr. Hubbell discusses the violence that preceded the evacuation of civilians from Algeria in the early 1960s. She discusses several events where military, para-military, and terrorist groups targeted civilian populations, making the country very dangerous during this time of great social and political upheaval.

Dr. Hubbell notes that approximately 800,000 French civilians exited Algeria during the three months of March – July 1962 when Algeria’s independence from France was finalised. These civilians relocated back to France, where despite the tradition of equality amongst French citizens, the Pieds Noirs experienced a great deal of inequality and discrimination. This group of civilians was quite heterogeneous due to their linguistic, cultural, and ethnic diversity, making them somewhat easily identifiable by those who held resentment against those colonial citizens living abroad.

Thus, the term “Pieds Noirs” designated a stereotypical collective identity of these returnees from Algeria, who served as an inconvenient reminder of France’s difficult and colonial past.

The full episode runs for approximately 53 minutes and also covers topics relating to history such as the Catholic welcome when the British army was first deployed to Northern Ireland and Britain’s last battle in China in WW2. Max Pearson’s interview with Dr. Amy Hubbell commences at approximately 9:04 into the episode.

France; Algeria; Trauma; Transculture; Translanguaging; Memory; War; History;

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