Relations with Other Nation-States

As a powerful nation in Western Europe, France has cooperated with, colonized, fought against, and maintained various other kinds of relations with many other countries. 

The French colonization of Algeria lasted from 1830 to 1962, during which the Mediterranean coastal nation was integrated as part of France and settled with European colonists (colons) later known as pieds-noirs (“black-feet”). Eventually, the pieds-noirs minority population came to dominate Algeria socially, politically, and economically, to the exclusion and exploitation of Algeria’s largely Muslim Arab and Kabyle population. Colonial authorities cultivated amenable Algerian political leaders known as the beni oui oui (“yes-yes tribe”), and religious leaders, while most simmered with discontent. Even though Algeria was considered a part of France during the colonial period, Algerians were barred from seeking French citizenship until 1919, and even then citizenship required renouncing their Muslim personal status (this ended in 1946). 

The bloody Algerian War of Independence—violently suppressed by the French military—met with success in 1962, resulting in the expulsion of over a million pieds-noirs and Algeria’s Jewish community, which had been granted full citizenship under the Cremieux Decree in 1870. France has maintained close—though not always smooth—economic, military, and political relations with Algeria since 1962, and there is a large Algerian migrant population living in France.[1] 

France and Germany, its northeastern neighbor, have deep historical relations. In the modern period, France and Germany fought several wars beginning with the 1870 Franco-German war (during which Prussia took the French regions of Alsace and Lorraine), World War I (framed by the French as a war of revenge against Germany), and World War II. Relations improved during the Cold War, and the two nations cooperated in political, economic, military, and cultural realms. France and West Germany were founding members of the European Union. 

Relations between France and the United States have long been positive. Wars with the British in the17th and 18th centuries forced France out of its North American colonies and led to French support for the Americans during the Revolutionary War. The American Declaration of Independence (1776) and the American Revolution (1765–1783) would inspire many of the leaders of the French Revolution, and certain American revolutionary principles are echoed in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen (1789). France also owned the territory that would become the state of Louisiana, which it sold in 1803 (the Louisiana Purchase), and these southern regions share important cultural ties with the Francophone world through today, including Catholicism. 

Though the coming century would see sometimes rocky relations, these were mended by 1884 when France presented the United States with the Statue of Liberty as a gift of friendship. Important intellectual and cultural exchanges took place in the 20th century between the two nations, along with alliances during the two world wars, the Cold War, and the First Gulf War (1991). The friendship strained during the Presidency of George W. Bush on account of the unpopularity of the “War on Terror” and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan among the French, sparking negative views of France among the American public, but these have largely been repaired, particularly with the Presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy. 

[1] Martin Meredith, The Fate of Africa (New York: PublicAffairs, 2005), p. 45.