Case Study 4: The history and memory of the October 1961 anti-Algerian repression in Paris: enriching public understanding of the Franco-Algerian colonial past
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Leeds
Unit of AssessmentModern Languages and Linguistics
Summary Impact TypeSocietal
Research Subject Area(s)
Studies In Human Society: Political Science
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies
Summary of the impact
The research examined the causes, events and public memory of the violent
repression of a peaceful, pro-independence demonstration of 40,000
Algerians in Paris (17 October 1961). Initially covered up, these events
resurfaced to become one of the most controversial episodes in
Franco-Algerian history, formally recognized by the French state in 2012.
This project's key impacts have been on civil society and public discourse
in France and Algeria, changing and increasing both public understanding
and visibility of the massacre. Further important impacts were enhancing
inter-ethnic and inter-generational understanding and citizenship, by
providing social knowledge to campaigning groups, as well as enabling
former demonstrators to speak publicly.
The case study centres on a 140,000-word monograph co-written (50%/50%)
by Jim House (started Leeds 1995, Lecturer A to 2000, Lecturer B
2000-2007, then Senior Lecturer) and Neil MacMaster (UEA, retired). The
research was undertaken between 2000 and 2005 and the book was published
in 2006 by OUP (1). This has been complemented by a number of
single and joint-authored publications (2-6). Paris 1961 is
the most comprehensive and original study in its field both because of the
wide range of sources used (archival, oral, print) and the methodological
approach adopted. Whereas previous analyses had concentrated on the
specific date of 17 October 1961, Paris 1961 argued that the
events of this day can be best understood within the longer history of a
repressive system in Paris inspired by methods of colonial policing and
counter-insurgency (state terror). Furthermore, Paris 1961
concentrated on a system, rather than on any one individual (e.g. Paris
Police chief Maurice Papon) and stressed that speaking of `October 1961'
better accounted for the weeks-long culmination of police anti-Algerian
violence and complex dynamics within the Algerian nationalist movement (6).
Simultaneously, Paris 1961 showed that mass killings of Algerians
had indeed taken place on and around 17 October 1961 itself.
No previous study had examined in as much detail why and how this
violence then `disappeared' in the years following the massacre, due to an
official cover up, tensions within the French Left, and the political
marginalisation of the French-based Algerian nationalists upon Algerian
independence. Nor had any study examined how and why the memory of October
1961 resurfaced in the 1980s, after several decades of virtual silence (2-4).
The key factor in this reappearance was the emergence in the 1980s of a
new generation of antiracist activists — often of Algerian heritage — who
promoted the public memory of this event within demands for symbolic
justice from the French state and sought to understand their parents'
historical trajectories (see also 3-4). October 1961 thus came to
occupy considerable public visibility, notably with Papon's trial (for
crimes against humanity during Vichy) in 1997-1998. Paris 1961
provided a uniquely detailed case study for the history of colonial /
postcolonial memory in both France and Algeria, showing the event's
shifting and multi-layered meanings over a 45-year period. Its timely
publication in 2006 followed nearly a decade of considerable academic,
media and political interest in Franco-Algerian history.
The massacre's greatest visibility came at the 50th
anniversary (October 2011) in part due to the book's research findings, as
evidenced by the high number of references to Paris 1961 by
journalists, activists and public practitioners. The book went straight
into OUP paperback (2009), French translation (Tallandier, 2008), and then
a French edition in Algeria (Casbah, 2012).
References to the research
(1) Co-authored with Neil MacMaster: Paris 1961: Algerians,
State Terror, and Memory, Oxford University Press, 2006, 375pp.
Translated (2008) as Paris 1961. Les Algériens, la mémoire et
la terreur d'État, Paris: Tallandier (trans. Christophe Jaquet). OUP
paperback edition 2009 (and e-book) based on positive critical reception
and sales figures (OUP e-mail evidence). The French edition has sold over
2,000 copies. Available on request.
(2) `Memory and the Creation of Solidarity During the
Decolonization of Algeria', article in Yale French Studies,
Nos.118-119, November 2010, pp.15-38. Listed in REF2.
(3) `Silences on state violence during the Algerian War of
Independence: France and Algeria, 1962-2007', chapter (co-authored with
Raphaëlle Branche) in Efrat Ben Ze'ev, Ruth Ginio and Jay Winter (eds.), Shadows
of War. A Social History of Silence in the Twentieth Century,Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2009, pp.115-137. Available on request.
(4) `Leaving silence behind? Algerians and the memories of
colonial violence', chapter in Nanci D. Adler, Selma Leydesdorff, Mary
Chamberlain and Leyla Neyzi (eds.), Memory and Mass Repression:
Narrating Life Stories in the Aftermath of Atrocity, Baltimore:
Transaction Publishers, 2008. pp.137-156. Available on request.
(5) `Time to Move On. A Reply to Jean-Paul Brunet', The
Historical Journal, Vol.51, No.1, March, 2008, pp.205-214. By Jim
House and Neil MacMaster. Available on request.
(6) `La Fédération de France du FLN et l'organisation de la
manifestation du 17 octobre 1961', Vingtième siècle. Revue d'Histoire,
No. 83, July-September, 2004, pp.145-160. By Neil MacMaster and Jim House.
Revised version chosen to be published in Raphaëlle Branche (ed.), La
guerre d'indépendance des Algériens 1954-1962, Paris: Perrin,
pp.127-149 (2009). Available on request.
External supporting grants
• AHRB Study Leave Award, September 2002-January 2003: `The social
memories of the 1961 massacre of Algerians', £9,400.
• British Academy Small Research Grant, 11 September 2001- 3 March 2002:
`The social memories of the 1961 massacre of Algerians', £678.
Indicators of research excellence
Paris 1961 has received overwhelmingly positive academic feedback,
and has been extensively and positively reviewed in UK, French, Algerian
and US-based academic journals. In his review article, Joshua Cole judged
Paris 1961 `substantial and convincing' (French Politics,
Culture & Society, Vol.28, No.1, Spring 2010, p.115), and Daniel
A. Gordon praised this `outstandingly well-researched book' (European
History Review, cxxiv 509, August 2009, p.1014), while Holder
Nehring in H-Net, Clio-online, called it a `real triumph of historical
scholarship' (2007-3-052). It was also nominated by the Society for French
Colonial History for best monograph in 2007, and has been described by
reviewers as `a landmark work' (Philippe Bernard in Le Monde des
livres, 13.10.2006), and as `exhaustive' and `unsurpassable' by one
of the organizers of the 17 October 1961 demonstrations and a former
government minister in Algeria (letter to authors, 09.10.2011). The other
items have appeared in leading scholarly peer-reviewed journals and in
edited collections that are major publications in the field.
Details of the impact
The impact for this project started in 2002, eliciting initial reach with
speaking engagements due to early publications. This created momentum
around the publication of Paris 1961 in 2006, and, crucially its
French translation in 2008. This culminated in 2011 with the 50th
anniversary of the massacre and in October 2012, when French President
Hollande formally recognized the existence of the massacre in the context
of the 50th anniversary of Algerian independence. Bolstered by
House's role as a central contact point for media correspondents,
filmmakers, civil society associations, as well as key individuals, the
research has had a significant impact on cultural life, education, policy,
public discourse and public services. It has been effective in four main
Firstly, its authoritative academic argument has increased public
understanding in the face of previous official French denials by providing
significant corroboration that a massacre took place. In legislation
seeking to formally recognize the massacre currently under consideration
by the French National Assembly, Paris 1961 is cited as proving
large-scale repression (A).This project has, according to the
co-president of the campaigning association Au nom de la mémoire,
`strongly contributed' to achieving official (presidential) recognition of
the massacre in France (B). One public historian, campaigner and
former vice-president of the French Human Rights League (FHRL) commented
that in addition to changing perceptions within French society, the
project has helped associations linked to Algerian migration and human
rights groups to `formulate their demands for official recognition' (C).
See also b, c, d and e, below.
Secondly, and linked to the above, this project is recognized as having
generated `greater social visibility' of the massacre (F), thereby
helping move October 1961 from the margins to the centre of political
debates not only in France, but also in Algeria. In September 2012, House
was invited to the Algiers International Book Fair, where he discussed Paris
1961 with both Algerian President M. Bouteflika and Algerian Culture
Minister, Mme. Toumi (E). See also a and b, below.
Thirdly, this project has played a role in portraying the War of
Independence as a key moment transcending generation, nationality and
ethnicity. The former VP of the FHRL describes how the project has helped
public acceptance of the idea that the October 1961 violence constitutes
`a shared event' in Franco-Algerian history: this has strengthened
inter-ethnic solidarity and reinforced `harmonious co-existence (vivre-ensemble)'
(C). According to one key collaborator — a former humanitarian
worker (and subsequently author and campaigner) — this project has also
improved inter-generational solidarity by `providing an overarching
narrative that is accessible to younger generations', allowing them a
`better understanding of what their parents experienced' (F). See a
and c, below.
Finally, Paris 1961 has helped bring about what the former VP of
the FHRL has identified as `a new social and political climate' (C),
one which the former humanitarian worker believes is `more conducive' for
former demonstrators and their descendants, better enabling them to
publicly speak out about this difficult event (F). See also d
and e, below.
(a) Cité nationale de l'histoire de l'immigration (CNHI)
The State-run National Museum for Immigration History (Paris) has
regularly used House's expertise since 2008 because of his `authoritative'
work (D). Over the past decade, successive French governments have
given greater policy priority to the public recognition of the experience
of immigrants, which is seen to promote social cohesion. On 13/10/11,
House delivered a public lecture on the subject of October 1961 at the
CNHI, which was recorded as a podcast and has been downloaded 521 times
since November 2011. It has also been added to the France Inter radio
station webpage (G).
(b) Radio and print journalists (France, Algeria, United Arab Emirates
House has intervened in the public debates on the Franco-Algerian colonial
past by providing expert analysis and generating approximately twenty
interviews for national radio, newspapers, TV, documentaries and websites.
He was interviewed on national French state television (France 2) news on
17/10/11 (average audience 3 million), participated in an hour-long live
debate on La Fabrique de l'Histoire on France-Culture, France's
equivalent of Radio 4, (brodcast 15/12/10), and was included in an
hour-long documentary programme La Marche du monde on Radio France
Internationale, France's equivalent of the BBC World Service (broadcast
27/10 /12). House also appeared on live Algerian national radio (Radio
Algérie internationale, 17/10/12), was interviewed by Le Monde
newspaper (Culture et idées supplement, 15/10/11 - average
circulation approx. 340,000) and the Algerian Arabic-language daily El-Khabar
(25/12/12). He was also cited in an article in the UAE newspaper The
National, published 19/3/12.
(c) Civil society associations (France, Algeria)
The project prioritized and directly supported initiatives with groups
containing a strong Algerian presence, helping older and younger
generations to understand October 1961. House gave presentations, produced
written content and acted as a research consultant for events organised by
civil society groups such as the Cercle des Algériens et
Franco-Algériens en Rhône Alpes (Lyon), Au nom de la mémoire,
Ancrages and Harkis et droits de l'homme, in addition to a
number of town councils and local associations, and the Amirat Foundation
in Algiers. His specialist support has `very usefully reinforced'
these initiatives (F).
(d) Documentary film-makers and writers
House has provided specialist advice to four documentary films, including
Ici on noie les Algériens (2011), which was shown across France
(House spoke to an audience of 450 at the film's gala preview in Paris),
and in 2012 was nominated for a César and released on DVD. He also
supplied a contact for one of the film's main interviewees with whom he
had previously conducted interviews: this man's appearance in such a film
shows how some former participants now feel empowered to publicly speak
out (H). The research has also had an impact in the literary world:
inspired by Paris 1961, writer Albert Drandov wrote the text for a
graphic novel relating to the 17 October massacre (I).
A former humanitarian worker in the Algerian shanty-towns of suburban
Paris (Nanterre) many of whose inhabitants demonstrated on 17 October
1961. Since interviewing her in 2002, House has helped arrange for her
personal archives to be made available to the general public in a major
Paris research centre, IHTP (J). He has facilitated discussions
between this person (today an author and campaigner) and head archivists
and encouraged media attention to ensure the wider dissemination of her
experience and that of other former shanty-town residents (F).
Sources to corroborate the impact
A) Bill (Proposition de Loi) presented to the French National
B) Documentary film-maker and co-president of the campaigning
association Au nom de la mémoire (In Memory's Name), Paris. E-mail
(8/12/12), available on request (in French).
C) Public historian and campaigner, former vice-president of the
French Human Rights League, Paris. Written testimony provided (24/01/13),
available on request (in French).
D) Director of Research Department, Cité nationale de l'histoire
de l'immigration, Paris. Written testimony provided (20/08/12), available
on request (in French).
E) Algerian newspaper El Watan (20/09/2012) confirms the
President's presence at the bookfair and interest in Paris 1961. Available
F) Author, campaigner, former humanitarian worker in Paris
shanty-towns, Paris. Written testimony provided (25/08/12), available
on request (in French).
H) DVD Ici on noie les Algériens, see credit to House at
1h29 and, at 1h27, to interviewee in film whose name also appears on p.341
of Paris 1961, available on request
I) Article describing the influence of the publication on
Drandov's work in Les Influences (18/10/11): http://www.lesinfluences.fr/17-octobre-1961-memoire-en-cases.html