Bibliographic data

Bouillon, Jacques; Joutard, Geneviève: Histoire seconde. Nathan, 1987, 320–321.

The European Expansion by Nouvel-Kirschleger, Maguelone (2018)

Based on the question of what the Europeans’ feeling of superiority in the 19th century was based on and to what extent it motivated the European expansion, the author underscores Europe’s unity, the similarities that unite the European powers and that differentiate them from the other countries of the world. These similarities are simultaneously demographic, economic and cultural in nature. Thus the author speaks of the “values of the European culture,” of the “Europeans’ feeling of superiority,” and of the “mission,” that they are meant to fulfill with regard to the “inferior races.” Here the author develops the topic of the European powers’ unity in action, which took a similar position with regard to the “underdeveloped world.” Europe is personified in this narrative. It operates as the true ethical entity, governed by a completely innate consciousness.

Initially, a massive emigration by European states from Europe to other continents takes place. Differences with regard to the goals of emigration and the respective scope of the emigration movements among the European countries can be detected within this common strategy, however. This unity within diversity is portrayed concretely in a map of the “Migration Movements in the 19th Century.” The impressive map takes up the upper half of the textbook page. The European emigration movements are marked in pink, so that the importance of the flow of migrants and Europe’s preeminence in this area become clearly visible, while the respective country of emigration and the corresponding number of emigrants is stated on each arrow. The European countries also export their wares throughout the world and their currencies are internationally circulated. As the top economic power, Europe rules the world. It determines the international division of labor.

In addition to excerpts from contemporary documents that deal with the “moral legitimization” of the European expansion, the textbook offers documents that criticize the capitalistic imperialism of Western Europe. Using these diverging views of the topic as a foundation, the author prompts the reader to think about Europe’s “position” in the 19th century, about concepts related to the expansion and economic and cultural imperialism; then, in the next chapter, he introduces the themes connected with colonial expansion and political-military imperialism. This begs the question, however: does the author perhaps use the term “Europe” within the context of the debates about the imperial and colonial politics of the 1980s – mostly without differentiating among the countries – in order to place weight on the general character of this expansion and thereby to water down France’s responsibility within a broad presentation of the facts at a continental level? Is he pursuing a legitimization strategy with regard to the French position?


Constantini, Dino, Mission civilisatrice: le rôle de l'histoire coloniale dans la construction de l'identité politique française, Paris, Éd. La Découverte, 2008.

Curtin, Philip, The world and the West: the European challenge and the overseas response in the age of empire, Cambridge, Cambridge Univ. Press, 2000.

Eckert, Andreas, Der Kolonialismus im europäischen Gedächtnis, in: Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte (2008), pp. 31-38.

Semidei, Manuela, De l'empire à la décolonisation: a travers les manuels scolaires français, in: Revue française de pédagogie 16 (1966), pp. 56-86.

Suremain, Marie-Albane de, Entre clichés et histoire des représentations: manuels scolaires et enseignement du fait colonial, in: Cock, Laurence de (Ed.), La fabrique scolaire de l'histoire, Marseille, Agone, 2009, pp. 76-92.


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