This book is a major contribution to the social, political and intellectual history of the largest colonial state in Africa, the French West African Federation. By focusing on the specific subject of the development of French policy towards Islam, it sheds light on a wide range of issues, from the grand strategy of French imperialism to the psychology of individual administrators in isolated outposts of the empire. Christopher Harrison argues that in order to make sense of colonial rule, it is vitally important to understand the way in which the colonial power thought about the people it governed. He demonstrates how French understanding of Islam in West Africa evolved from the short-term, and often contradictory, policies associated with the period of military expansion, through a period of intense suspicion and fear of pan-Islamic movements, to a widely-held consensus that Islam in Africa was quite distinct from the Islam of the Arab world.
Publisher: Cambridge University Press