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For more than five centuries France has been both a European and a global power. French explorers, traders, settlers, soldiers and missionaries journeyed to the world's farthest reaches establishing colonies, bringing millions of people under French influence and claiming vast expanses of forests, jungles, deserts, and rich mineral and maritime resources. Through continued wars with rival powers, including Spain, Portugal, Great Britain, and Germany, France lost large portions of its empire and gained others. Century-long conflict with some of its most valued possessions, such as Vietnam and Algeria, further hastened the empire's demise after World War II. This is a story of colorful personalities and dramatic events: Cartier's exploration of Canada, Richelieu's and Colbert's global trading companies, Champlain the colonizer, the French presence in Louisiana, the vast but short-lived French empire in India, the nefarious slave trade, and France's defeat in its prosperous Caribbean colony, St. Domingue.
Later chapters survey France's important colonial lobby, the administration of colonies, the impact of World War I, the Colonial Expansion of 1931, the rise of labor unions and nationalist movements. Other chapters cover events related to World War II, Free France vs. Vichy, General de Gaulle, Ho Chi Minh, Dien Bien Phu, Algerian independence, the emergence of a generation of African independence leaders like FÃ©lix HouphoÃ¼et-Boigny and LÃ©opold SÃ©dar Senghor, the short-lived Community (1958â"1960), and French relations with its overseas partners in a post-independence era. Drawing on the work of visual artists, creative and popular writers, and discussing the impact of science and technology on colonial life, the author paints a vivid picture of empire, including scenes of everyday life in overseas settings.
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