Recruitment of the Colonial

Recruitment of the Colonial

  • African troops. Engage yourself.

    SCOTT Georges Bertin (1873 - 1942)

  • Young people. Military released. Go to the settlements.


  • Enlist, re-enlist in the colonial troops.

    FAURET Léon (1863 - 1955)

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Title: African troops. Engage yourself.

Author : SCOTT Georges Bertin (1873 - 1942)

Creation date : 1927

Date shown: 1927

Dimensions: Height 120.3 - Width 79.4

Technique and other indications: Lithograph on paper.

Storage place: Army Museum (Paris) website

Contact copyright: © Paris - Army Museum, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Pascal Segrette

Picture reference: 06-506189 / 2002.1.148

African troops. Engage yourself.

© Paris - Army Museum, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Pascal Segrette

To close

Title: Young people. Go to the settlements.

Author : DANILO (-)

Creation date : 1928

Date shown: 1928

Dimensions: Height 119.3 - Width 80

Technique and other indications: Lithograph on paper.

Storage place: Army Museum (Paris) website

Contact copyright: © Paris - Army Museum, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Pascal Segrette

Picture reference: 06-505754 / 2001.72.6

Young people. Go to the settlements.

© Paris - Army Museum, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Pascal Segrette

To close

Title: Enlist, re-enlist in the colonial troops.

Author : FAURET Léon (1863 - 1955)

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 119.5 - Width 79.7

Technique and other indications: Offset printing on paper, made around 1930.

Storage place: Army Museum (Paris) website

Contact copyright: © Paris - Army Museum, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Pascal Segrette

Picture reference: 06-502437 / 2005.53.2

Enlist, re-enlist in the colonial troops.

© Paris - Army Museum, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Pascal Segrette

Publication date: July 2009

Historical context

Army of colonists, army of colonized

The colonial troops, heirs to the Marine units created under Colbert, were instituted in 1900. The most threatening provoked the Rif war in Morocco, in which France intervened in 1924 and which ended with the surrender of 'Abd el-Krim in 1926.

Image Analysis

The colors of the colonial imagination

The 1927 recruiting poster features text in the center and military figures populating the margins. Around a frame reminiscent of Arab-Andalusian architecture by its horseshoe arch, dominate the three colors of France, associated with two topoi military painting: the mounted review, the parade in full dress. Five types of characters make up the African army. Above, in the middle, European officers brandish the symbol of the Republic conquering territories and minds. Also mounted, on the right, the Moroccan spahis in white and red salute saber in the light; on the left, the hunters of Africa appear from the shadows on their camels. Below, on the left, the Zouaves present their weapons in an Algerian-inspired decor, while on the right, an (Algerian) tirailleur poses in front of palms.

The poster produced by Danilo in 1928 is addressed not to the natives, but to Europeans and in particular to young people. Here again, a mobilizing text, this time in large and small red or blue letters, is at the heart of a composition playing with the colonial imagination by adopting three distinct pictorial approaches. In the upper half, the yellow background, which connotes the sun and Eldorado, is combined with the green of stylized palm trees, a symbol of exoticism. In the lower left quarter, the camel race is treated with large touches of ocher and gray. In the other quarter, the design is on the contrary realistic, detailing the architectural specificities of the building, the camel's coat and its harness, the traditional costumes with their characteristic headdresses.

In the poster dated 1930, the text has almost disappeared, giving way to a slogan at the top of the page, still in the colors of the Republic. The setting is shared equally between an Asian landscape and three French soldiers in the foreground. Here again yellow and green triumph, which here denotes luxuriance. The red and white temple with meticulously reproduced details heightens the exoticism rendered by the elephant and the conical hats that punctuate a fruit market scene. The uniforms of the three officers contrast by their impeccable folds and their accessories with the looser outfits of the natives, by the frankness of the blue and brown which contrasts with green and ocher half-tones, by the richness of the braids and medals s' imposing on the white of the simple peasant dress.


Re-mobilize the colonial empire

If the years following the horrors of the Great War saw a real rise in pacifism, disseminated by veterans associations, the demobilization of several million men was a difficult challenge for French society. The first poster directly appeals to the soldiers of the African army by calling on them to re-engage, with financial arguments commensurate with their loyalty, associated with pictorial arguments playing on military tradition (regimental flags). The mention at the bottom of the text of all the intelligence points indicates both the likely location of the posting and the recruitment difficulties.

The aim of the second poster is to find new recruits, especially among ex-combatants or ex-conscripts. If the text insists on the financial and psychological advantages, the drawing tries to demonstrate the adaptation of the French to the territory they dominate: the only European character easily rides the dromedary, the flag flies on a building of Moorish architecture like it would do so on a fortified castle, the population appears both at the service of the colonists (hunters from Africa in dynamic mass) and close (including women). Everything identifies Algeria, a crucial settlement colony for France, for its history as well as for its development, at the heart of the colonial imagination of the metropolis and of attempts to reform the administration of the dominated territories.

Finally, the third poster clearly underlines the message of colonial domination. The three French officers appear taller, in good health, sure of their local power and of the military and industrial science that France imposes on traditional and archaic countries, which must be civilized. The three posters announce that after the Great War, France seeks to reaffirm its status as a great world power through the economic and military control of its vast colonial empire, without changing the relationship between metropolitan France, colonists and natives.

  • colonial history
  • propaganda
  • colonial troops
  • Third Republic


Maurice AGULHON, The Republic, volume 1 (1880 to 1932), Paris, Pluriel Hachette, 1990.Dominique BORNE, Henri DUBIEF, The crisis of the 1930s (1929-1938), Paris Seuil, 1989 Anthony CLAYTON, History of the French army in Africa, 1830-1962, Paris, Albin Michel, 1994.

To cite this article

Alexandre SUMPF, "Recruitment of the Colonial"


  • Rif War: The Rif War is a colonial war that pitted the Rif tribes (the Rif is a mountain range in northern Morocco) against the French and Spanish armies, acting under the protectorate agreements made with the Sultan of Morocco. The Rifans were led by heads of village republics also called Amghar, customary law being distinct from religious law.On July 20, 1921, the Spanish army came to subdue the rebels, but it was beaten by the Berber tribe of Aït Ouriaghel of the Alhoceima region, under the leadership of young Abdelkrim El Khattabi. General Sylvestre then had a powerful army of 60,000 Spanish soldiers to counter the Beni Ouriaghel. In June almost all of this army was killed in the battle of Anoual. Faced with this disaster, the general commits suicide. And thus the ambitious project of Abdelkrim El Khattabi, known under the name of Abd el-Krim, was launched. The Rifans, who were only humble mountain peasants, cut off from the great Moroccan body of which they formed only a tiny part, caused two European powers, Spain and France to falter. Abdelkrim El Khattabi brought together the tribal chiefs, who organized the resistance by creating the Confederate Republic of the Rif tribes on February 1, 1922. Abd-el Krim became president of the republic. Nevertheless by not declaring himself sultan, and by ordering the imams of the Rif to make the Joumouaa (Friday prayer) in the name of Sultan Moulay Youssef, Abdelkrim never questioned the authority of the King, and anchored the revolution in a future Moroccan national revolution with the objective of eventually pulling the Muslim world out of Western colonization. Many letters of good faith restoring the beyaa due to the Sultan reached Moulay Youssef. But the dangerousness of Abdelkrim's project made it possible to dissuade the sultan fearing the reactions of the occupiers. A war against the Spaniards ensued and they had to withdraw to the coast. In 1924 they only occupied Ceuta, Melilla, Asilah and Larache. France intervened to come to their aid and prevent contagion to the rest of Morocco, then under French domination. Advanced posts were installed by the French army, which provoked the confrontation with the Rif troops, crushed during the French offensive towards Fez during the winter and spring of 1924. General Lyautey obtained victories but he was replaced by Pétain. Commander Naulin succeeded in defeating the Riffians, and in the fall of 1925 negotiations broke down because of the demands of the Riffian nationalists. The Franco-Spanish troops pushed back the Riffs. Abd el-Krim complained to the League of Nations about the use by the French aviation of chemical bombs. (Source: wikipédia) Author: n01frposté le: 19/06/2008 03: 12

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