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Waldensian Immigration to Algeria and the Impact on Indigenous Moslems from 1880 to 1920.

All life stories, especially those of one's ancestors, are not written without bias. But even if the point of view of the biographer-historian is biased, his subject does not stay isolated from the historical context in which it evolves. At the symposium "Problems and Methods of Biography," Jean-Louis Planche said:

There is no human being who can be understood outside the social relations where he is committed, and who isn't defined and determined by the historical situation from where he is from; and the historical position he stands for, by conscience and reflection on this situation, and by labor on himself and the world that contains him. (Planche 1985, 257-58)

Planche declares that the history of colonial Algeria is a fruitful field for a contextual biographical writing defined as above, because as he says: "Less even than in Europe, man is isolated: the group models behaviors, imprints cultures, structures events." (Planche 1985, 257-58) Therefore, contextual biography functions as a prism that filters a historical period through the experience of the individual or of the group reproducing the universal in the particular.

The abundance and the quality of the memories collected from the living descendants of the Pichot-Orciere family has made this genre appealing for exploring the historical context of Algeria contemporary to my ancestors. [1]

Waldenses who were deported from France to Algeria, [2] Jacques Pichot and Eulalie Depussey emigrated following their participation in the June 1848 Paris riots caused by the closure of the National Workshops, a subsidized work program, by the French Second Republic. In 1886, their son Alphonse, who was raised in Algeria, married Henriette Orciere, a Waldensian from the Freissinieres Valley in France, who with her brother, sister, and mother, participated in the 1881 convoy to Algeria. After obtaining a free land grant in 1890 from the French government, the Pichot-Orciere family settled in the village of Guiard, ninety kilometers southwest of Oran. The lives of members of this family provide fresh insight into the social history of the Pied-Noirs within the broader political context of the Third Republic in colonial Algeria. [3]

This paper will describe the causes of the Waldensian emigration to Algeria. It then explores the consequences of the land confiscation process by the French Third Republic on the indigenous population of Algeria as well as the behavior of the Protestant Waldensian Pied-Noirs towards the indigenous Moslems. The relationships between the two communities, the Pied-Noirs and the Algerian Moslems, from 1880 to 1920 are documented. The thesis of this paper is that the Waldenses immigrants to Algeria, deprived of civil rights in France prior to the French Revolution in 1789, sought the human, social, and political progress of the Moslems in Algeria prior to the country's independence from France in 1962. In spite of their participation in the French colonization of Algeria, the living conditions of the indigenous Moslems who were deprived of the right to vote in Algeria reminded the Waldenses of their own past.


Why did the Orciere family origin abandon its village of Dormilhouse in the Freissinieres Valley located in the French Alps to emigrate to Algeria? To understand this decision to change homeland, it is necessary to reconstruct the tumultuous epic of the Waldenses that preceded their exile.

From the thirteenth to the eighteenth centuries, the Protestant population of the upper valley of the Durance River, with its branches from the Queyras, the Vallouise, and Freissinieres, was the victim of extremely cruel persecutions. In 1485, all the inhabitants of Vallouise were put to the sword. In 1530, the inquisitor Jean de Roma "instrumented against the Waldenseses: he forced the Waldenseses to wear leather boots filled with boiling grease and asked them if they felt comfortable to undertake their travels." (Miquel 1980, 120)

Around 1532, Jean Montaigne, professor of law at Avignon, wrote:

The Waldensians are mistreated here. Several have been burned alive, and every day others are arrested. It is said that more than 6,000 men belong to this sect. They are prosecuted because they do not believe in a purgatory, pray saints, even say they should not be prayed to, and consider that tithe should not be paid to the priests. (Miquel 1980, 122)

On August 8, 1545, the French king Francis I approved "all that had been done against the Waldenseses and asks that everything possible be done to exterminate this cursed sect" (Miquel 1980,134). Soldiers were sent to attack the Waldensian villages. All the homes were pillaged and burned. The men were executed with knives. The women were gathered in an orchard. (Miquel 1980, 132) Father Papon, an oratorian, recalls:

Mothers held their daughters tightly in their arms. They fought with the soldiers for them.... and, when they were forced to abandon them, they threw at them a knife exhorting them to pierce a breast rather then endure the dishonor that awaited them. ... It is even affirmed that there were two women who hanged themselves in desperation because their daughters were abused sexually in front of them. (Miquel 1980, 132)

In other villages, "the roughneck soldiers raped the women and cut their breasts" (Miquel 1980,129-32); a 17-year old young man was tied to the trunk of an olive tree and riddled with arquebus (an axe/sword weapon) blows. Accounts of these massacres were abundant.

Among the valleys of the French Alps, the Freissinieres Valley that merges into the valley of the Durance, a few kilometers downstream from Argentiere la-Bessee, represented a refuge during the Middle Ages. Because of the inaccessibility of the terrain, the Waldensian of Freissinieres managed to escape extermination. They fled to the depths of the forests, in the crevices of the rocks, and to the hollows of the ravines, where they fed on the grasses of the mountains and the meat of chamois during their months of isolation.

During the religious wars, the Freissinieres Valley was considered a small Geneva due to its fervently religious inhabitants. From 1567 onwards, it was considered a refuge and the headquarters for all the Protestants of the alpine valleys. It had been given the name "Israel of the Alps" (Pezet 1976, 13n). After the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, the Waldensian had to suffer more from the exactions of the marshal of France, Catinat, from 1689 to 1692. After the persecutions were appeased, they came to recover their estates sold by auction, but the best lands remained in the hands of the Catholics. The Waldensian were forced to settle on the highest and most barren lands of the valley. Following the Edict of Tolerance of 1787, signed by Louis XVI, they succeeded in staying in their homes with relative security. At the end of the nineteenth century, an almost equal number of Protestants and Catholics lived together in the Freissinieres Valley without any religious disputes.

Thus the departure of these Waldensian families from Dormilhouse to Algeria was not the result of the persecutions or the massacres. Religious tolerance had progressively reached all levels of society. The causes of this departure are rather to be found in the large material poverty that paralyzed all initiative of a population bound to the land of its ancestors. Due to its geographic location the Freissinieres Valley was not only one of the most difficult valleys to reach but also one of the most depressed. The relief, the climate, and the soil offered very little resources to its inhabitants. The plots of land were extremely divided. Sometimes two landowners had to share a tree.

According to the report on the emigration of the Waldensian from the French Alps to Algeria, written by the Protestant Committee of Lyon in 1883 (Comite Protestant de Lyon 1883, the village of Dormilhouse was perched at an altitude of 1800 meters above the valley of Freissinieres and was constantly threatened by avalanches. In those days, houses were built low with vaulted roofs, arched and thick to support the voluminous mass of snow that buried them most of the year. Since the snow exceeded the height of their dwellings, the inhabitants of Dormilhouse hollowed tunnels under the snow to be able to move from one house to the other. In order to resist the cold, they lived in stables keeping themselves warm with the heat of the animals. They covered the floor of their homes with a thick layer of manure to protect their feet from the cold. As fuel, they used a little wood found in the slopes of the ravines, peat, and cow dung.

The Orciere family and their fellow Waldensian fed themselves with a very hard black rye bread which they had to break with an ax and soften in water. Potatoes and various dairy products also made up their diet. To save fuel, the bread was baked once or twice a year in large quantities so it could last until the following harvest. But in spite of strict rationing, the amount of food was insufficient to feed them up to the next harvest. The soil, exhausted by gully erosion and rain no longer gave a sufficient quantity of rye and potatoes. Often then, so as to earn some extra money for herself, Henriette Orciere, who had beautiful blond hair, accompanied young ladies of her age on foot to sell their tresses at the fair in Saint-Crepin, 15 kilometers away. Sometimes she would sell goats and could be seen carrying one on her shoulders on her way to the market. This miserable existence and the diseases it brought about reduced to a third the original population of the village. These unbearable living conditions f orced the inhabitants to leave in spite of their attachment to their region, deeply rooted in religious faith, tradition, and habit. This explains the emigration of entire families, like the Orcieres, out of the Freissinieres Valley.

For a long time, many of the Waldensian from the Freissinieres Valley had regularly migrated as seasonal workers to Provence before they eventually settled there. A first attempt to emigrate to Algeria was organized by the Pastor of Bray in 1861. Marshall Pelissier, also governor general of Algeria, granted the territories of Trembles to a few families from Queyras, Freissinieres, and Piemont. This first attempt of an emigration to Algeria was only partially successful because most of the families did not possess the necessary sum of 2000 francs for the cost of the trip and moving. A few of the French Waldensian even left for Brazil, but because of lack of financial support, they were forced to leave again and return to their valleys in France.


During this period, the French government of the Third Republic granted free concessions in Algeria. It preferably grouped inhabitants from the same region in order to avoid disorientation and to soften the crises of acclimatization. The result was that the inhabitants felt less isolated and were more inclined to show solidarity and give mutual assistance, invaluable factors in the first stages of the establishment of a village. The Waldensian families were interested by this proposal because they preferred to remain, as much as possible, French and Protestant. They sent four individuals among them to explore the location. Encouraged by the enthusiastic report of the four, thirteen families decided to leave for Algeria with the support of the French government. This time, the Committee of Lyon would pay the expenses of the trip and settlement. Working on the assumption that a spiritual revival could only occur with a minimum of material comfort, the Committee of Lyon nominated a commission to investigate the needs and resources of the Freissinieres Valley. It concluded that an emigration was necessary:

The time seems to have come when these ancient Gospel witnesses must leave a country where they can only live with always renewed aid. Those who know them best are led to recognize the necessity of an emigration. (Agati 1956, 25)

Therefore, on July 3, 1881, thirteen families of Dormilhouse learned that they had been admitted to the village of Trois-Marabouts in the province of Oran in Algeria.

The center of Trois-Marabouts, so-called because of the three monuments that the Arabs had built on the plateau in honor of the three marabouts (holy men), was a village that was seventy-eight kilometers from Oran and only five from Ain-Temouchent. It was located at an altitude of fifty to sixty meters on a gentle sloping plateau crowned by newly constructed houses. The concessions stretched out to the north in a fertile valley.

The Waldensian immigrants to Trois-Marabout, and a group of settlers which had chosen to live in Algeria since 1871, were motivated by different reasons: the earlier settlers, the Alsatians and the Lorrains, wanted to remain French after the annexation of their provinces by Germany. For the Waldensian cornered into extreme misery, and those who fled the unsanitary conditions of the industrial villages and work in factories, colonization represented better living conditions. In fact, the Third Republic used the settlement of Algeria to resolve at the same time its metropolitan crisis (since 1873, the scarcity of world gold had affected the agricultural sector, and since 1882 the industrial sector) and to exploit the country by offering free concessions to French emigrants who would work among the indigenous population. In 1889, Alphonse Pichot and Henriette Orciere lived in Trois-Marabouts where masonry work was assured in building homes and cellars for the settlers.

A year later, Alphonse obtained a free concession in the tribe of Ain Tholba for the construction of a new center of colonization. In 1890 the Algerian government had decided to create this colony to receive a second Waldensian immigration wave from the Freissinieres Valley. So as to dampen the noxious effects of the feeling of strangeness and isolation, the Algerian administrators tried to group the inhabitants of the same region and the families of the same faith. The denominational settlement led to the creation of Catholic and Protestant villages. In the valley of Chelif, the archbishop of Algiers, Mgr. Lavigerie, founded the villages of Saint-Cyprien in 1873 and Sainte-Monique in 1876. The immigration of the Waldensian farmers from Dormilhouse to Trois-Marabouts, in 1881, then to Guiard in 1890, is an example of Protestant settlement.

The population of Guiard, located only fourteen kilometers from TroisMarabouts, had been largely decimated by cholera in 1880. The town had only a few inhabitants, mostly Catholic, when in November 1890, the colonists from the French Alps arrived. Twenty-two families, about a hundred emigrants, coming mostly from the village of Dormilhouse, the largest Waldensian immigration coming down from the French Alps. The revitalization of the village, populated mainly by 170 Protestants of 240 persons in 1891) took place during a period of worldwide economic recession, 1873 to 1895. In France and in the rest of Western Europe, this had led to an overseas expansion "conscientiously taken on by the governments, then later by public opinion favoring colonization which evolves rapidly from 1885 to 1895" (Mandrou 1984, 238). These colonies joined the residues of the colonial conquest from 1830 to 1870: Algeria, Gabon, Cochinchina and Cambodia, Senegal, and Djibouti. Robert Mandrou says that the great era for French coloni alization were the years 1880-1900 which gave shape to the empire with Tunisia, Tonkin and Annam, Western and Equatorial Africa, Madagascar, and finally, Morocco. The French colonial empire became a national undertaking, which started between 1890 and 1892. Mandrou says "the colonial Empire has a well defined economic role: no one doubts that around 1895 it is the repairman who will make it possible to overcome the crisis . . . the awareness came later." (Mandrou 1984, 239)

If the colonial expansion had stopped with the French defeat of Prussia in 1870, it had restarted with Jules Ferry. "Daughter of the industrial policies, his colonial policies were for an industrial nation such as France, the actual issue of outlets" (Ganiage 1968,48). Therefore, for Ferry, the stake was clear: outlets for the French industry had to be found in a context of international competition marked by the oppositions of English, and later, German imperialism. It was this race for territories that forced France to impose the political and economical form of the protectorate on Morocco, Tonkin, and Tunisia, because it was impossible to quickly populate these territories with French settlers. Under the protectorate, the land belonged to the French but the workforce stayed native. However, the Algerian specificity was clear: as it was a colony with a European population since 1830, it had to remain this way because all possibility of turning back was unthinkable without colliding with the hostility of th e French settlers.

The uncertainty of the previous French political regimes about Algeria's destiny was therefore followed by the Third Republic's consistent and firmly upheld policy that gave meaning to the colonial period of French Algeria. An Algeria assimilated into France was supposed to become its simple extension across the Mediterranean. An Algeria constituted of three French departments would gallicize the central Maghreb territories forever. [4] Algeria would be dependent on the French Interior Secretary. France aimed to assure an absolute and complete subjection of the ties and the workforce of its population to the needs and interests of the colonization. The colonists would benefit from all the rights French citizenship. Algeria's natives, on the other hand, would not be citizens but subjects of France because, according to a colonist newspaper of Algiers, L'Akhbar, dated 1869, "the French do not want to share their prerogatives with races whose self-interest is our annihilation" (Ageron1979, 11). Between 1871 and 1891, Algeria was progressively to become a small French Republic where only the interests of the colonists counted.

To understand how these concessions granted to the new settlers had been obtained by the French government on the whole Algerian territory, we must reconstruct the hierarchy of the rights of user which was compulsory before the arrival of the Europeans and the legal steps which brought about the European institution of absolute private property in Algeria.

Before the French conquest of 1830, the Algerian territory was divided into two categories of status: the rights of the bey, as sovereign, and the rights of the tribes. The lands of the hey were of three kinds: the best ones, called beylik, were cultivated under the direct authority of the hey; the lands which had been confiscated from the rebellious tribes, called maghzen, and the private property granted to others, called melk. The latter were not private according to western understanding, but undivided among the members of a large extended family in which everyone had the right of chefaa, the power to reject a buyer, assuring in this way the durability of the property. For the other cultivated lands, the tribes had the collective right of cultivation or of pasture on the lands called arch, which could not be sold or rented. Finally, the habous estates, were a separate category made up of pious donations.

During the first few years after the French colonization, the great landowner was the French state that confiscated the domain of the beylik, and its maghzen lands. These were shared and distributed to the French settlers. Then the domains were increased by other measures. The Didier law of June 16, 1851, had declared the arch property (of a private nature) and melk property (of a collective nature) inviolable and inalienable, except for the Algerian forests. The native population violating the forest code was fined and evicted. Officially, this policy guaranteed the rights of the natives to certain properties. Only the government could acquire tribal rights in the interest of the colonization. For example, the stationing operations between 1852 and 1867 had as their goal to have the tribes become attached to the land by concentrating them, regrouping the dispersed plots, and reducing the areas with agricultural potential. The government had seized most of the lands and the best plots to make them available for colonization. The tribes had been pushed back toward the most barren and most mountainous areas. Finally, the Senatus-Consulte of 1863, which had declared the tribes proprietors of the arch lands, effectively put the lands of the Moslems on the free market, thus allowing the colonists to buy them. Moreover, the French had seized the habous lands in exchange for the perpetual rights of user. A number of devout Moslems had made donations for these habous lands in order to build mosques on them.

The advent of the Third Republic was particularly disastrous for the indigenous property. Following the Moqrani revolt that had endangered French domination in Algeria, [5] the French government, as revenge, confiscated 450,000 hectares and administered a fine of thirty-six million francs, payable by the sale of extra lands. This taking of the lands was a disaster for the populous tribes who were relegated to their mountains. The Warnier Law of July 26, 1873--called the law of the settlers--was very harsh. Completed by the laws of April 22, 1887, and February 16,1897, it intended to gallicize the native lands by the abolition of ownership. Henceforth, the indigenous property was submitted to the dispositions of the French Civil Code. This law made it possible to easily break up the indigenous communities, make their free lands available for purchase, and set up the regime of individual property. Thanks to this systematic repossession of the native agricultural space, the Republic possessed the necessary gold mine to serve as a basis for a metropolitan immigration.

The government required the following conditions from the future concessionary:

1. French nationality

2. head of a family

3. agricultural knowledge

4. ownership of sufficient resources to cover the value of the concession (about 5000 francs)

5. commitment to reside on the granted land for 5 years; however, it was possible to obtain a definitive title of concession at the end of three years, if a moderate outlay of 100 F per hectare could be justified).

The Waldensian from Freissinieres were able to fulfill all the conditions except the fourth one, since none of them owned this sum required by the government. To obtain these funds, the Societe Coligny, whose mission was to direct the French Waldensian emigrants towards the French colonies, had bought lands from those who were leaving France and had lent to each of them the remaining sum to reach the required 5000 F by the government. Between 1871 and 1919, 870,000 hectares had been sold to the settlers. The Alsatians and the natives of Lorraine, victims of war, made up approximately twenty-five percent of the new immigrants after 1871. The rest came from everywhere in France, mainly from southern Europe that was heavily affected by the economic depression of 1873-1895. The creation of the new colonization center of Guiard had been made possible by the purchase of 2,725 hectares from Moslems and Europeans.

The most direct result of the sales of these lands confiscated from the indigenous Moslems was a steady impoverishment of most of the Algerian population that lived in a pastoral or agricultural economy, especially from 1870 onwards. Its mark could be seen in the degradation of living conditions, lack of adequate clothing, decline of cereal and livestock production (from 8 million head of cattle in 1865 to less than 5 million in 1945), and in the famines (1887, 1893, 1897, 1917, 1920) often accompanied by deadly epidemics. In fact, having become the owners of the concessions that given by the government, the Waldensian and their fellow Protestants, and all the new settlers, participated in the expropriation of the indigenous Moslems.


Were the new immigrants aware of the impact of their presence on the Algerian natives? Not in 1890, because they were far from imagining that the poverty of the natives was the direct result of their presence on the half-barren expanses that they had to wrestle from the bush or dig out from the swamps. On the other hand, the fact that the Republic had made it possible for the Moslem farmer to become the owner of his land was, for the new immigrants, the accomplishment of a work of progress that tied him to the land just as the French farmer was to his field.

The attitude of the Pied-Noirs of this period was also fueled by a sincere faith in the efficiency of their own race in a country where everything had to be changed. If the Pieds-Noirs were first concerned about the improvement of their living conditions, according to Xavier Yacono, they also requested the collective naturalization of the indigenous Moslems (Goinard 1984,119). And even if some drove families and tribes into poverty, others defended them: "It's us, Algerian settlers," proclaimed Gerente, their spokesperson, "who have been the first to rise up against these dishonesties, to expose to the government these embezzlements, these corrupt practices..." (Goinard 1984, 154). Moreover, these speculative transactions, not always dishonest, did not profit only the individual Pied-Noir but permitted certain indigenous Moslems to acquire immense properties at a low price. For example, Sayah Si Henni, "'without resorting to ligitation and by a multitude of acts, gathered together in the Chelif plain a domai n of 20,000 hectares" (Goinard 1984, 154).0

By accepting the free concessions, the new Waldensian immigrants and their Algerian and metropolitan contemporaries carried out, in good conscience, a basic transaction with the government, which for them meant better living conditions. The concessionaires were sometimes not even aware of the location of the village where the government had sent them, and although frightened by the difficult conditions that they had found there, many = them could no longer return to France because they would arrive devoid of everything. For example, in Guiard, out of the twenty-four Waldensian families settled in 1890 (among the forty-five who originally occupied the village), eleven returned to their native country within the first three years. Two families had forfeited their concessions and probably never went to Algeria at all. One of the settlers abandoned his concession after having sold his equipment and the livestock that he had gotten from the Societe Coligny. Another one became discouraged by the difficulties of cl earing the land. A third one returned because his wife could no longer stand to be away from her mountains. For five months thirty to forty persons had been ill in the village, and five adults and eight children died of disease. Frightened by these illnesses or loss of a loved one, five or six families returned to France during 1892-1893. Other Protestant families from various French provinces settled into the concessions vacated by those who had left. This allowed the population that belonged to the Reformed Church, as well as its influence, to remain unaltered.


What were the relationships like between these Protestant and Moslem families? Generally, all the colonists shared a community life with their indigenous workers: The property consisted of farm buildings, the homes of the settlers, and the sheds where the farm workers slept. Europeans and indigenous Moslems ate their meals together.

Nevertheless, the social relationships between Moslem and European families could not be the same as in France because of the cultural differences between the two communities and the situation of the indigenous woman, who rarely spoke French.

Moslem behavior perceived as barbarian by most Europeans was a judgment that reflected their lack of interest in and/or comprehension of Islam. Islamic values maintained Moslem families in a patriarchal structure. The head of the family had authority over his spouse and over his children who, in turn, respected their parents. Islam, for Moslems, is the medium in which life is immersed, not only the religious and intellectual, but also the private, social and professional life. Pierre Bourdieu adds:

Exaltation of the behavior of contemplation rather than action, feeling of futility of all earthly things, condemnation of the love of wealth and greed, disregard for the poor and the unfortunate, encouragement of the virtues of hospitality, mutual aid and civility (adab), feeling of religious brotherhood devoid of social and economic foundation.... (Bourdieu 1974, 114)

Nevertheless, prolonged contact between the two communities would provoke serious self-questioning and an opening to new attitudes. For example, Moslem maidservants who acquired Western household methods and imported customs contributed much towards mutual understanding. They became the intermediaries between the two societies. One should not underestimate their role.

However, there were limits to the socialization between the two communities. Mixed marriages were rare. Of the one hundred thousand Europeans who married from 1830 to 1877, barely one hundred twenty married indigenous Moslems. The backwardness of the indigenous Moslems in the area of education partially explains why Europeans searched for spouses of their own culture. In Guiard and Trois-Marabouts, the Waldensian community practiced endogamy and, until around 1900, maintained typical Waldensian characteristics.

If great cultural differences separate Europeans from Moslems, these were particularly symbolized by a complete linguistic difference between the romance languages and Arabic or Berber. To communicate, the settlers had learned Arabic; for example, Alphonse Pichot spoke it fluently. Moslems spoke French, and sometimes the Waldensian dialect. Paul Vercueil writes:

The use of dialect only faded away slowly. My grandmother [Henriette] would only use dialect when her sister came to visit her. In some families, it was the common language to such a degree that eventually some indigenous Moslems learned it. (Agari 1956, 96)

Nevertheless, if this colonial bilingualism was essential to communication between the two communities, for the indigenous Moslem, the acquisition of the language of the colonizer was made compulsory by the colonial context, if only to read kilometer-markers, train station signposts, street signs and bills. Consequently, equipped with only his mother tongue, the indigenous Moslem became a foreigner in his own country. In addition, the indigenous Moslem was denied the fundamental right of every man and woman: freedom. The Code of the Indigenous, established in 1881 and enforced until 1927 in Algeria, imposed on all indigenous Moslems an interior circulation license for every displacement outside their district, in accordance with the precedent created for the black slaves of the French West Indies. Naturalization was the only way out offered by the colonizer for the Moslem to escape his misfortune. The Senatus-Consulte of 1865 declared:

The indigenous Moslem is French; nevertheless he will continue to be governed by Moslem law. He may upon request be allowed to enjoy rights of French citizens; in that case he is governed by the civil and political laws of France. (Julien 1964, 433)

However, for the indigenous, to renounce to the personal status of Moslem meant apostasy.

It is therefore no surprise that the colonized Moslem kept the feeling of having been dispossessed, not only of his lands, but also of his dignity, and consequently, the settlers never felt perfectly safe. Farmers always had to have a rifle near them. At night, livestock thefts were frequent. Paul Vercueil wrote:

Arabs willingly practiced Bechara, the theft of livestock that would then be returned for a get into the stables, they pierced a hole in the wall and took away the animals. On several occasions, thieves caught in the act have been killed, even once in the village (Guiard), once in a farm located five kilometers away. (Agati 1956, 96)

The inhabitants of Gujard feared these attacks. In the villages, there was continual surveillance, often by indigenous guards. This arabophobia was a state of mind characteristic of the Algerian settler who feared the number of indigenous Moslems and consequently their strength. The census of 1872 counted 2,125,000 indigenous Moslems and 280,000 Europeans. In 1920, the indigenous population had reached nearly five million individuals, that of the Europeans, nearly eight hundred thousand.

This unfortunate colonial situation (of the indigenous Moslem) reminded the Waldensian families of Guiard and Trois-Marabouts of the situation of their ancestors. The French Revolution having granted them freedom, the French Protestants of Guiard and Trois-Marabouts did not manifest any enmity towards Moslems. Quite the contrary, as Andre Roux explains:

Generally speaking, we will not be surprised to find a liberal inclination among the Protestants. Consequently, if they naturally participate in the colonial adventure...they will spontaneously be inclined to want the human, social, and political advancement of the colonized populations whose situation reminded them of their own past. (Roux 1967, 218)

Protestant attitudes about colonization were in accord with those of Tommy Fallot, one of the great figures of French Protestantism at the turn of the century, one of the most ardent supporters of the Paris Evangelical Missions Society, and one of the founders of social Christianity. He wrote in 1905:

The colonial enterprise and the crimes it legitimates quickly leads to the moral decline of some of the nations who up to now were leading civilizations. (Roux 1967, 217)

The Protestant families of Guiard and Trois-Marabouts participated actively in the Evangelical Missions. The concrete results of their efforts was the progress of the indigenous Moslems which sometimes provoked the anxiety of the colonial authorities. Jean Bianquis, general secretary of the Society, wrote in 1906: "We will have accomplished our duty towards the indigenous Moslems of our colonies that distant day when they will have become our equals in liberty" (Roux 1967, 222). A report on the Evangelical Reformed Church of Guiard and Trois-Marabouts indicates that the church council ranked first among its activities the activity in favor of Missions. The Protestant churches of Guiard and Trois-Marabouts brought its support to the Evangelical Missions of Paris.

Nevertheless, if the Protestants took a stand against colonial authority, to defend the Moslems, whose situation recalled their own past, the Paris Evangelical Missions Society put into practice in Algeria and in all the territories where it was present the duty of obedience to the magistrate which is part of the Christian ethic. Therefore, the Society collaborated with the French government, a collaboration that was denounced as much by anti-colonialists as by overseas nationalists, in spite of the Protestants' preservation of a liberal tendency towards Moslems.


The Third Republic systematically confiscated the agricultural space of the indigenous Moslems of Algeria to create a base for French colonization in Algeria. By accepting free concessions granted by the government, the settlers participated in this despoilment. Nevertheless, motivated by unemployment and misery, those who searched for better living conditions by immigrating to Algeria were, at the turn of the century, not aware of the fact that the direct consequence of their presence on uncultivated ground would contribute to the progressive impoverishment of the Algerian Moslems. Among the Pied-Noirs, the Waldensian settlers of Guiard had integrated Moslems because they made up a workforce with whom most Pied-Noirs were close, in spite of the limits set by power struggles and differences of customs. Moreover, the Waldensian PiedNoirs settlers were sensitive to the living conditions of the indigenous Moslems that reminded them of their own past. Once the colonial settlement was achieved, the Waldensian set tlers sought the human, social, and political progress of the Moslems by cooperating with the French government, be it with a liberal prospect.

(1.) The author's research is based on taped interviews and correspondence with descendants of the Pichot-Orciere families, now living in Marseilles, Corsica, and Paris, and on historical correspondence. All translations are by the author. See Michel Pichot, "The Life Story of a Waldensian Pied-Noir Family: The Pichot-Orciere in Algeria from 1848 to 1925." Ph.D. diss., Pennsylvania State University, 1993.

(2.) Dissenters from the Roman Catholic Church, the Waldenses were a sect which arose about 1170 in the south of France, founded by a French merchant named Pierre Waldo from Lyon. The Waldenses preached fidelity to the scriptures, evangelical poverty, and nonviolence and adhered to the sixteenth century Reformation.

(3.) I adopt here the notion of Pied-Noir, which in its broadest acceptance encompasses all indigenous Algerians of European origin naturalized French and nonMoslem.

(4.) The Maghreb represents the countries of northwest Africa, chiefly Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia.

(5.) The uprising was the result of the dissatisfactions which were apparent before 1870 and which were stirred up by the Franco-German war and the French defeat. The capture of Napoleon III, the withdrawal of the Spahis (soldiers of the native cavalry corps of the French army in North Africa) from Algeria and of the most pro-Arab officers, the institution of a civil regime for the service of the colonists, created an explosive situation. The prevailing disorder in Algiers, the granting of French citizenship to the Jews (decree Cremieux, 1870) bred a political situation which some leaders exploited in an attempt to regain their influence. Such was the case of El Moqrani, great feudal lord of the Constantinois who formed an alliance with the powerful Kabyle brotherhood of the Rahmaniya, whose sheik, Rel Haddad, declared a holy war on April 8,1871. The uprising conquered the Petite and the Grande Kabylie, most of Constantinois and some tribes of Oranie, and a third of the Algerian population. For lack of coordination and of sufficient armaments, the hundred thousand moudjahidin launched nothing but punctilious, disorganized operations. Moqrani died in battle on the 5th of May. From July on, the uprising lost intensity and died Out at the end of 1872.


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