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Library of Congress Country Studies

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Section 1 of 1

Ivory Coast

FRENCH RULE UNTIL WORLD WAR II

Evolution of Colonial Policy

French colonial policy incorporated concepts of assimilation and association. Assimilation presupposed the inherent superiority of French culture over all others, so that in practice the assimilation policy in the colonies meant extension of the French language, institutions, laws, and customs.

The policy of association also affirmed the superiority of the French in the colonies, but it entailed different institutions and systems of laws for the colonizer and the colonized. Under this policy, the Africans in Côte d'Ivoire were allowed to preserve their own customs insofar as they were compatible with French interests. An indigenous elite trained in French administrative practice formed an intermediary group between the French and the Africans.

Assimilation was practiced in Côte d'Ivoire to the extent that after 1930 a small number of Westernized Ivoirians were granted the right to apply for French citizenship. Most Ivoirians, however, were classified as French subjects and were governed under the principle of association.

Until 1958, governors appointed in Paris administered the colony of Côte d'Ivoire, using a system of direct, centralized administration that left little room for Ivoirian participation in policy making. The French colonial administration also adopted divide-and-rule policies, applying ideas of assimilation only to the educated elite. The French were also interested in ensuring that the small but influential elite was sufficiently satisfied with the status quo to refrain from any anti-French sentiment. In fact, although they were strongly opposed to the practices of association, educated Ivoirians believed that they would achieve equality with their French peers through assimilation rather than through complete independence from France, a change that would eliminate the enormous economic advantages of remaining a French possession. But after the assimilation doctrine was implemented entirely, at least in principle, through the postwar reforms, Ivoirian leaders realized that even assimilation implied the superiority of the French over the Ivoirians and that discrimination and inequality would end only with independence.

Data as of November 1988


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