French Cultural Studies, 17, (2), . (doi:10.1177/0957155806064437).
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The introduction to this special number of French Cultural Studiespresents the key themes in the articles it contains, focusing on writers, intellectuals and the colonial experience. It sets them in the context of a reappraisal of Empire in both France and Britain, expressed in the recent French law obliging schools to recognise the benefits of the French colonial enterprise, and in related developments in Britain. French writers and intellectuals of the colonial period were concerned with issues of the benefits of civilisation, the universal spread of republican humanism, and the practical and theoretical implications of inter-imperial rivalries, especially with Britain. When they criticised colonial practice, it was in the name of the same values of civilisation that underlay the ‘civilising mission’ of colonialism. In a modulated discourse, these issues continue to inform the way governments and intellectuals view the mission of leading industrial countries to bring the benefits of Western values to the rest of the world. An understanding of how earlier generations of French writers thought about the colonial experience may be relevant to a reflection on similar current concerns.
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