Since the 1980s, historians of European colonialism in the Maghreb have pointed to the manner in which the French repurposed Roman historical narratives to guide and legitimize the enterprise following the conquest of Algiers in July 1830. As promoted by French military officers, alleged parallels between the Third Augustan Legion and French invading forces helped justify the first decades of French military activity and colonialism in the region. Framed in this manner, archaeological vestiges left by the Roman army became a practical road map of future ambitions and helped explain and legitimate the horrific violence wrought by the French armée d’Afrique. Due to the overwhelming legacy of these secular enterprises, the historian Paul-Albert Février, writing in 1989, contended that Christian influence in the French-dominated Maghreb played only a minor role in the early decades of the French conquest. This presentation will point, however, to the contributions and uneven careers of the first French bishop appointed in the region, Mgr. Antoine-Adolphe Dupuch (r. 1838-1846) and François Bourgade (1806-1866), who served first as the vicar of the cathedral of Algiers from 1838 to 1840 and then, from 1842 to 1858, as the chaplain of the church dedicated to Saint Louis in Carthage. Although memory of their archaeological activities did not linger long after the time of their respective departures, it served as inspiration for later French clerics in the region. They each made the clear case for the benefits of exploring Christian remains in North Africa, since they each recognized that physical evidence of the late antique Christian past might lay a powerful historical foundation for French colonial religiosity.
Hosted by Prof Bonnie Effros
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