Political Convictions: French Deportation Projects in the Age of Revolutions, 1791-1854

Delnore, Allyson Jaye, Department of History, University of Virginia
Rosenfeld, Sophia, Department of History, University of Virginia

This work studies the role of deportation in the punishment of political protest and the consolidation of power in France between the French Revolution and the Second Empire. In particular, it traces the development of an official policy of colonizing the overseas empire with French deportees. Approximately 10,000 individuals were deported within the French overseas empire as a result of colonization through deportation efforts during this period. Of these men and women, the vast majority had been implicated in crimes of protest or revolution. In fact, deportation decrees became a common official response to social and political troubles throughout greater France during the Age of Revolutions. Though little known, the history of deportation is the story of various interest groups negotiating within a political culture that valued three different goals, all of which spanned changes in government and governing ideology between the Revolution of 1789 and the Second Empire: (1) cleansing the metropole and colonies of revolutionary elements, (2) improving the economic situation of existing colonies, and (3) finding French men and women to serve as pioneers in new lands. Throughout this period, many political elites and social reformers advanced the theory that deporting political criminals would secure order in the metropole, strengthen the overseas empire with an infusion of new “colonists,” and even result in the moreal reformation of the convicts. Yet for all the grand intentions of French political elites, each successive attempt at establishing communities of deportees overseas failed due to a combination of legislative indecision in the metropole, administrative inefficiency within the empire at large, concerns over local stability in the overseas colonies, and an almost universal unwillingness to participate in the colonial project on the part of the deportees. Nevertheless, for over sixty years, political elites continued to support colonization through deportation measures despite these failures. Only after official and popular perceptions of common-law crime changed, thereby linking commonlaw criminals to social and political disorder, did the official attitude toward deportation change. After 1854, the goal of deportation was not colonization, but merely the internment of dangerous criminals in remote locations.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
Issued Date: