Slavery in France and its Colonies

Slavery was abolished in the French colonies in 1848. This year, therefore is the 170th anniversary of this event. As citizens of a former colonial country, the French have been conscious in recent years of the history of slavery in there colonies, and some interesting works have been written on many aspects of the topic. This blogger is very interested in the position of individuals enslaved in the colonies brought to Europe. Two excellent works on this in France are Pierre H. Boulle, Race et esclavage dans la France de l’Ancien Régime (2007) and Sue Peabody, “There are no Slaves in France”: The Political Culture of Race and Slavery in the Ancien Régime (1996). (It is important to remember that slavery implicated most European states, and an interesting biography has recently been published of a runaway Danish slave who ended up in Iceland: Gisli Palsson, The Man Who Stole Himself: The Slave Odyssey of Hans Jonathan (2016).) There are also several editions of the famous Code Noir of 1685.

What prompts this blog entry in the announcement today by Emmanuel Macron of the establishment of a “Fondation pour la mémoire de l’esclavage”, which will be situated in the Hôtel de la Marine, where the decree abolishing slavery was signed. The body will have a wide remit, both scholarly and otherwise. There was also a special ceremony at the Panthéon. A special memorial will be erected in the gardens of the Tuilleries, in Paris. Some groups have also called for a museum of slavery.