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CES Dissertation Workshop

Twelve Anxious Men: Re-Examining Algeria's Transition to Independence


December 8, 2017
2:00pm - 4:00pm
Hoffmann Room, Busch Hall
December 8, 2017
2:00pm - 4:00pm
Hoffmann Room, Busch Hall

The CES Dissertation Workshop offers graduate students at Harvard a collegial and stimulating environment in which to present their current research to peers and faculty interested broadly in the study of Europe. It is a student-run, student-centered project. Graduate students and faculty are encouraged to attend.

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This chapter provides an overview of the Algerian War between November 1954 and March 1962 as well as a more detailed look at the four-month “transition period” between the signing of the Evian Accords in March 1962 and the referendum on Algerian independence in July 1962. This chapter will also discuss the months immediately following independence between July 1962 and the formation of the FLN-controlled National Assembly in September 1962. Throughout, this chapter examines the socio-political history of the Exécutif Provisoire (Provisional Executive), which the signatories of the Evian Accords established as a means to govern French Algeria (in concert with colonial authorities) until a referendum on self-determination could take place and, afterward, act as the caretaker government of a fully independent Algeria until elections could be held. Compared to processes of decolonization elsewhere, the Provisional Executive was a unique institution, as it represented an executive council of twelve men from both the colony’s European and Algerian Muslim communities and included members of the FLN (Front de Libération Nationale). Installed in the specially designed administrative complex of Rocher Noir located outside of the Algiers, these men worked around the clock for four months to hammer out the details of Algeria’s transition to independence and lay the ground work for the sovereign nation to come. Yet, little attention has been paid to the role that the Provisional Executive played in Algeria’s final chapter of decolonization. This is in part because the violence and uncertainty that marked the spring of 1962 has greatly overshadowed other events during the same period. Moreover, the Provisional Executive was quickly marginalized by the FLN immediately after independence. Nonetheless, by charting the day-to-day operations of the Provisional Executive, this chapter argues that far from being unprepared for the challenges of decolonization, French policymakers and their Algerian interlocutors were able to find common ground to ensure that a relatively peaceful transition to independence could take place.

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