CAIRN-INT.INFO : International Edition

1In 1830, a non-indigenous population—joining an indigenous one of 3 to 4 million people—began settling in the Regency of Algiers, a territory that was being conquered by the French. By 1900, their numbers had grown to 600,000— slightly under 15% of the total population in what had become the European colony of Algeria. Over the 19th century, two types of immigration co-existed: highly organized agricultural settlement, mostly by French people but also people from German-speaking countries and Switzerland; and more spontaneous, need-impelled immigration from Spain, Italy, and Malta. The book retraces these migration histories, specifying their chronologies, sources (départements, provinces, villages), places of settlement (the countryside but above all coastal and inland cities), and particularities (migration of individuals, families, and groups from villages or provinces). Until the 1880s, the non-indigenous population grew through immigration rather than natural increase. The French pulled ahead of all other non-indigenous groups after 1850, and their numbers rose sharply after the naturalization law of 1889. The authors have studied the formation of this population, a minority on Algerian land. Kamel Kateb has already published a comprehensive work on the Algerian population, focused primarily on indigenous groups. [1] How did an initially disparate population ultimately become a group, and on what foundation did these ‘Algerians’, as they defined themselves in the early 20th century, construct a collective identity? To detail ‘how the matrimonial market operated’ and ‘the chronology of rapprochement among Europeans’ (p. 131), the authors analyse a sample of the 13,000 marriage licenses registered by the French administration in 13 of the territory’s main cities.

2This substantial labour enables them to retrace the development of nuptiality in an immigrant population marked at first by a skewed sex ratio (in the last chapter, they study the development of nuptiality among ‘Israelites’); to assess homogamy and social reproduction processes in order to determine whether or not immigration facilitated social mobility; and to describe the development of marriage markets in the first 80 years of French presence. The strong endogamy of the 1850s gradually diminished; the increasing presence of Creole spouses attests to the rootedness of second and third-generations in Algeria. Endogamy remained strong among Spaniards, however, and Creoles in that group tended to continue that practice. Italian and French migrants chose their spouses from a wider range of options, but few went so far as to choose an ‘indigenous’ spouse (0.4% of marriages). By varying the analytic scale and taking a genealogical approach, the authors have been able to produce a detailed analysis of the processes of lasting settlement in Algeria.

3This is a major contribution not only to the demographic history of Algeria but also to the general history of 19th-century migration. And it offers a precious framework for future social history research on colonized Algeria.


  • [1]
    Kamel Kateb, 2001, Européens, “indigenes” et Juifs en Algérie, 1830-1962. Représentations et réalités des populations, Paris, INED–PUF.
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