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Auchnie, Aailsa (1983) The Commandement Indigene in Senegal, 1919-1947. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This thesis concerns the interaction of the French colonial administration and indigenous chiefs at village, cantonal and provincial levels during the interwar and Second World War periods. Indirect rule was as important to the French as to the British, as chronic shortages of European personnel throughout the period necessitated cooperation with local intermediaries. By examining the selection, education and functions of the chiefs, this thesis will show the way in which the character of the chieftancy was transformed from a traditional ruling group before the arrival of the French to agents of the colonial power. The way in which the commandement indigene operated in practice had little connection with French colonial theory. Decisions concerning the appointment of chiefs were often political, and had to balance the French desire for literate, trained and reliable chiefs against African demands for a legitimate ruler. Sometimes, appointments were a compromise between local rivals. The chiefs had to bear the brunt of unpopular administrative tasks, the most important of which was the census, which laid the groundwork for taxation, conscription, forced labour and agricultural campaigns. In these duties, the chiefs were to act as intermediaries between the colonial administration and their subjects, but in practice, their functions alienated them from the latter and identified them with the French colonial power. At the same time, French protection gave them opportunities for arbitrariness, for as long as they produced results, the administration turned a blind eye to methods of extraction. The enormity of these abuses were exposed in the world depression of the 1930s, when pressures on the Senegalese cultivator from the administration and chiefs became intolerable. Anxious to preserve the fiction that the chiefs represented their subjects, the French appointed them to consultative councils where they could generally be relied upon to endorse government proposals. The French developed an intricate system of salaries and hierarchy among the chiefs so that they became more like civil servants. But Association policy dictated that the chiefs should not lose their "traditional" character. In this way, they fell between two stools for alienated from their peoples, they never quite attained civil servant status.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:04

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