6. The French attempted to reestablish their Second Colonial Empire following World War II
When Napoleon abdicated for the second time in 1815, a defeated France lost most of the Empire he had built. A few overseas colonies remained, mostly islands in the Caribbean. Beginning in 1830, France moved to establish a Second Colonial Empire, in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. They also gained possessions in North Africa, and even for a time in North America, via the French Intervention in Mexico. The French moved to subjugate populations not always welcoming. It took them nearly 17 years to fully pacify Algeria, for example. A five-year war with Polynesian natives brought Tahiti under French control. Under Napoleon III, the French established colonies in Indochina, expanding their foothold in Southeast Asia.
The French built the Suez Canal, failed in an attempt to build another in Panama, and obtained territories, called Concessions, in China. France’s colonization everywhere operated under the principle of Mission Civiliatrice. The idea reflected their belief it was their God-given duty to spread French culture and civilization to those so unfortunate as to not have been born French. During the World Wars, colonial troops served with the French Army, and with the Free French Army during World War II. Many of them fought within their own homelands, such as in Africa, to free them of Germans and Italians. After the war, the French leadership under Charles DeGaulle attempted to restore the French Empire.
“â¦the possible constitutional self-government in the colonies is to be dismissed”, DeGaulle insisted in the Brazzaville Manifesto of 1944. The French determination to retain the Empire post-World War II led to bloody and protracted conflicts in Africa and in French Indochina. France sustained a humiliating defeat in the latter. Vietnam emerged as a divided nation, and American support of South Vietnam gradually dragged the United States into the Vietnam War. Some remnants of the Second French Colonial Empire remain today, such as French Polynesia, New Caledonia, and the Indian Ocean island of Mayotte.