A comparative analysis of settler colonial establishment: Ashley Sanders, Between two fires: The origins of settler colonialism in the United States and French Algeria, PhD Dissertation, Michigan State University, 2015

17Jun15

Abstract: This dissertation is a comparative study of the establishment of settler colonies in the American Midwest (1778–1795) and French colonial Algeria (1830–1848). It examines how interactions between the Indigenous populations, colonists, colonial administrators, the military, and the métropole shaped their development and advances the theory of settler colonialism. This study centers on the first fifteen to twenty years of conquest/occupation in the American Midwest, focusing specifically on southern Illinois and Indiana, and the province of Constantine, Algeria. Despite differences in geography, relative size of the military presence and Indigenous demographics, the process of establishing settler colonies in both locations followed similar trajectories. The study analyzes the founding moment of initial military occupation in Indiana/Illinois in 1778 and Constantine in 1836–1837 as well as subsequent land policies, settlement, and Indigenous resistance movements.

I argue that settler colonies in the American Midwest and Algeria resulted from a bottom-up process in which settler desires for land and greater economic opportunities compelled them to migrate (or emigrate) and stake their claim to these territories. This movement then served as a catalyst for initially makeshift colonial policies that only became systematized over time. The relationship between settlers and the Indigenous populations in both locations, as well as administrators’ responses to prevailing circumstances on the ground shaped the establishment of stable settler governments.

This research broadens our conceptions of American history and deepens our understanding of the processes by which settler colonies formed and “worked.” Settler colonialism’s legacy continues to influence geopolitics, national policy decisions, and people’s daily lives. Hence, the formation and eventual structures of settler colonies help researchers explain the founding of many contemporary societies and, taken together, recast empire, settler roles, and Indigenous actions within colonial contexts.



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