Between 1870 and 1914, France during the Third Republic underwent sweeping education reforms in establishing a public primary and secondary secular education system in what are known as the Ferry Laws of 1882. Additionally during this period, Republicans in support of colonialism significantly increased the size of the French Empire to place the nation in a restored place of power within the world. Between the movement to expand colonial efforts and the availability of a primary school education to all of France’s children, Republicans had established a new future of literate and educated French citizens who, over time, became acclimated to an enlarged French Empire. With a new generation of readers, publishers and authors of children’s literature capitalized upon the growing popularity of sub-Saharan African colonies and the idea of a mission civilisatrice. Many of these books, however, increasingly included illustrations and embellished narratives that depicted a stereotypical, racialized image of the sub-Saharan African. Furthermore, as a result of the popularity of World’s Fair in Paris in both 1889 and 1900, and the publication of magazines and novels that focused on the subject of colonialism, a colonial culture was created in France that the government viewed as an effective way in garnering public support for colonial conquests. In this independent study, images of sub-Saharan African peoples in children’s literature and primary school textbooks are examined in order to highlight the relationship between France and the people it colonized. It also proves to demonstrate the relationship between political and cultural climates and their influence in children’s literature.


Gamble, Harry

Second Advisor

Friedman, Joan


French and Francophone Studies; History

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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