Published online by Cambridge University Press: 30 June 2011
In the years before 1939, the functionaries of Afrique Occidentale Française, or AOF, as France's West African possessions were known, consistently failed to introduce effective legislative controls upon Eastern Mediterranean migration under their purview. This was not for lack of trying; from 1905 onwards, administrators both in the territorial government of Guinea and in the Government-General of the Federation in Dakar repeatedly attempted to close their gates to these interlopers of empire, most of them from present-day Lebanon, who first began to venture into West Africa in the last years of the nineteenth century. By the late 1930s, some six thousand citizens of the Mandatory states of Lebanon and Syria resided across AOF. Most worked as produce brokers, shopkeepers, and traders, buying up groundnuts, palm oil, or kola nuts from African producers, and supplying them in turn with consumer goods such as textiles and clothes, processed foodstuffs, alcohol, and matches. Despite their attempts to channel and stem this flow of men and women, AOF administrators proved unable to impose effective legislative checks upon their movements.
1 The Federation of Afrique Occidentale Française was created in 1895 as a union of Senegal, Soudan, Guinea, and Côte d'Ivoire. In 1902, its separate territorial administrations were subordinated to a Government-General, whose seat lay first in Saint-Louis, then from 1904 in Dakar. It was also in 1904 that Dahomey was included in this group of colonies. Mauritania and Niger remained territoires militaires, administered by military men answering to the Ministry of Defence until the 1920s and the 1940s, respectively, while the colony of Haute-Volta (present-day Burkina Faso) was created only in the 1920s. For accounts of the shifting makeup of AOF, see Coquery-Vidrovitch, Catherine and Goerg, Odile, eds., L'Afrique Occidentale au Temps des Français: Colonisateurs et Colonisés, c. 1860–1960 (Paris, 1992)Google Scholar; and Conklin, Alice, A Mission to Civilize: The Republican Empire in France and West Africa, 1895–1930 (Stanford, 1997)Google Scholar.
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