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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Effects of the Two World Wars in Shaping African Colonial Soldiers’ Perceptions of Colonialism

  • Author(s): Schiff, Eric William
  • Advisor(s): Keller, Edmond J
  • et al.

This study investigates the extent overseas military service of African colonial soldiers during the two World Wars altered their perceptions of Europeans, colonialism, and themselves. The subsequent impact of these changes is also explored. Soldiers of the French West African tirailleurs s�n�galais in World War I and the British East African King’s African Rifles in World War II are both examined and compared over the course of their respective periods of service and return to civilian life. While the two World Wars provided significant opportunities for unprecedented numbers of African soldiers to formulate deeper assessments of their role and status in the colonial system than previously imaginable, using this newfound knowledge gained through military service overseas to undermine the European order was another matter. Ultimately, the experiences of colonial soldiers in World Wars I and II proved most notable for showcasing the hypocrisies that sustained colonialism.

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