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Memory, History and Modernity

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This article examines how official and unofficial early film footage intersects in the representation of France's mission civilisatrice in films taken in West Congo in the early twentieth century. We study uncut, and largely unseen footage of the French soldier General Henri Gouraud in Syria and Lebanon, filmed during the French acquisition of these territories following the First World War. This footage taken by Albert Kahn's photographer Lucien Le Saint, and now in the Archives de la Planète in Paris, reveals twin images of the General: one a powerful military commander of France's ‘civilizing mission’ and the other a relaxed, modern man of the kind not usually seen in public film footage. This article then, examines various contradictions at the heart of imperialistic discourse that characterised French cultural self-confidence in the last decades of the Third Republic.
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Keywords: Albert Kahn; Archives de la Planète; Barbara Creed; General Henri Gouraud; Jeanette Hoorn; Lucien Le Saint; Paris; Third Republic; West Congo; mission civilisatrice

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2012-11-01

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