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The discovery of Algeria (1841)

View of Toulon, Departure of the Algerian Expedition

View of Toulon, Departure of the Algerian Expedition, anonymous © BNF

Tocqueville had been interested in the question of Algeria ever since its conquest by France in 1830. His friend Louis de Kergorlay had performed brilliantly in the military campaign, and had meticulously described the operations in his correspondence. According to Tocqueville, the future of France was at stake, because Algeria represented a chance for France to regain some of its lost glory. He was very taken with the idea that France could simultaneously be master of the Mediterranean, make it safe by means of a regular presence, and rival the particularly efficient British colonial policy. These hopes did not, however, calm his fears about the direction that colonization had taken, and the tyrannical nature of the French domination in Algeria - fears that were heightened by the appointment of Marshal Bugeaud as Governor-General.

« I hope that this trip will be useful to us and to the country. It would be hard to take a stranger journey. Never in my life have I seen anything more bizarre than my first sight of Algiers. It is like something out of the Thousand and One Nights. »
(Letter to his father, May 12, 1841)

After having researched and analyzed the data relating to the problem of colonization - but without having left France - Tocqueville finally decided in the spring of 1841 to go and see for himself. He set sail on May 4, 1841 from Toulon with his brother Hippolyte and his friend Gustave de Beaumont, and met up in Algiers with Francisque de Corcelle, who was also visiting the colony. After being impressed by the energy that the city seemed to give off   play sound extractlire l'extrait sonore  , Tocqueville visited Sahel and then, from May 15 to 22, traveled with Bugeaud as far as Mostaganem. This stop gave them the chance to meet Lamoricière, a friend of Louis de Kergorlay, whom they questioned at length about the situation of France in Algeria, using their favorite investigative method. At this point, however, Tocqueville's health began to show signs of weakness, and kept him - to his great distress - from accompanying Corcelle and Hippolyte on the military expedition to Tagdempt led by Bugeaud. Beaumont renounced the trip as well in order to look after his friend, and they returned to Algiers, passing through Oran on the way.

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Panorama of Algiers

Panorama of Algiers, anonymous © BNF


Mostaganem, anonymous


Map of the city of Algiers

Map of the city of Algiers

Map of Algeria

Map of Algeria © CAOM

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Algerian Journeys

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