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Chair: Dr Mark Condos, Lecturer, War Studies Department

Speaker: Professor Martin Thomas, Professor of History at the University of Exeter

About the event

The turmoil surrounding France’s violent exit from Algeria in 1962 has become emblematic of the traumas intrinsic when decolonization is fought to a bitter end. It marked one of the more definitive ruptures between a former colony and its erstwhile coloniser. The abrupt departure of over half a million European settlers, the triumphalism of the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN), and the desperate, nihilistic terrorism of the Organisation de l’Armée Secrète (OAS) all point to relationships torn apart in an atmosphere of bitter recrimination.

After eight years of war culminating in Algerian nationhood, it might seem surprising that security cooperation between the newly-independent Algerian state and its former colonial enemy, France, should resume within a matter of months. Within a slightly longer timeframe – five years – France was secretly asked to assist in constructing an Algerian security service modeled on the SDECE, France’s external intelligence agency.

This event will explore how this shift came about, examining the Algerian political marketplace for external assistance and French adaptation to it in conjunction with the FLN cadres supporting future president Houari Boumédiène.

Speaker biography

Professor Martin Thomas is Professor of History at the University of Exeter. His previous research has examined colonial policing, intelligence, and violence across different European empires, with a particular emphasis on the French and British empires. He is the author of numerous books, including Empires of Intelligence: Security Services and Colonial Disorder after 1914 (2007), Violence and Colonial Order: Police, Workers, and Protest in European Colonial Empires, 1918-40 (2012), Fight or Flight: Britain, France, and their Roads from Empire (2015) His current research examines the meanings and impacts of colonial disintegration as a result of decolonization and globalization.

2022 marks the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Department of War Studies by Sir Michael Howard, and provides an important opportunity to both reflect and build upon his remarkable achievements and legacy. Sir Michael Howard’s greatest contribution to the history of war was his insistence on moving beyond the battlefield in order to examine the wider political and social contexts in which wars were fought. He also wrote about the legal, moral, and philosophical implications of war, and throughout his distinguished career sought to develop new approaches to understanding the impact of war on society.