French Colonial Policy


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In today’s class, we will be talking about French colonial policy. Enjoy the class!

French Colonial Policy

French Colonial Policy |


  • Historical Background
  • French Colonial Policies: Assimilation and Association-Features, Reasons for the Failure of Assimilation
  • Comparison between British and French Colonial Policies


France, in the administration of West Africa colonies, constituted all of them into a loose federation with headquarters in Dakar, Senegal. A governor-general was appointed in Dakar and he was in charge of the federation. France in her belief of the superior of French civilization and inferiority of Africa civilization adopted a system of administration known as the policy of Assimilation.


The policy of Assimilation involves the imposition of French culture on West African culture. This means the way of life, tradition, customs, beliefs, thinking, and traditional institutions gave way to a more advanced French culture and civilization. This Assimilation policy was practised in the four communes. They are Dakar, Goree, Rufisque and Saint Louis.

  1. It was centralized.
  2. It was a direct rule.
  3. West Africans were divided into two, citizens and subjects.
  4. Education was restricted because few schools were built.
  5. Paris served as the base of centralized administration.
  6. Political parties and association were absent.
  7. There was non-recognition of chieftaincy institutions.
  8. There was no respect for the African culture.
  9. French officials arrested and imprisoned Africans without trial.
  1. There were cultural differences between the French and the West African. The French did not consider the culture of the West Africans before introducing the policy.
  2. The powers of the traditional chiefs were reduced.
  3. The system placed a financial burden on the people of France and they, therefore, criticized it.
  4. The French intellectuals opposed the policy that would create equality between the French men and Africans.
  5. The success of the indirect rule system in Nigeria motivated the need for a change of the French policy to make the system flexible.
  6. The Second World War and its aftermath/ effects compelled the French to abandon assimilation.
  7. Forced labour, jail without trial etc. made the policy unpopular and objectionable.
  8. The love the people of Africa demonstrated for their culture contributed to the failure of the policy.
  9. The division of Africans into two classes, 1st class and second class citizen contributed to the failure of indirect rule.


As a result of the failure of assimilation which was caused by wrong opposition and wide criticism, France decided to abolish the policy of assimilation and adopted the policy of association which is similar to indirect rule.

  1. It respected and recognized the people’s culture.
  2. It abolished the indignant policy of forced labour.
  3. The people’s traditional political institutions were recognized.
  4. Dual citizenship was abolished.
  5. Freedom of political association was permitted.
  6. Each colony was granted freedom to develop in its own way as they desired.
  7. More French personnel were used than Africans.
  1. While Britain adopted an indirect rule system of government, France adopted a direct rule system.
  2. While Britain did not federate their colonies in West Africa, France did.
  3. Britain treated local languages and cultures with some respect, while France disregarded local languages and culture.
  4. Britain recognized and respected traditional rulers, while France did not respect traditional rulers.
  5. Britain encouraged mass education in her colonies, but it was restricted in French colonies, only a few had access to education.
  6. Britain, allowed the function of political associations in her colonies, while France opposed and suppressed the formation of political parties.
  7. The British indirect rule allows each colony to develop its area in its own best way, while France did not.
  8. While Britain allowed parliaments and assemblies to develop in her colonies, France did not allow such.
  1. What is the Policy of Assimilation?
  2. State the features of the French Policy of Association
  3. What were the reasons for the failure of the Policy of Assimilation?
  4. What is bi-cameral legislature?
  5. Give two (2) merits and two (2) demerits of the bicameral legislature.


We hope you enjoyed the class.

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2 thoughts on “French Colonial Policy”

  1. Oreofe Ijandipe

    Pleas I don’t understand number 7 under the comparison between the British and French colonial administration which states that the British indirect rule gives each colony the opportunity to develop its area in its own best way, while France did not.

    1. Yes, Oreofe!
      Britain ruled their colonies indirectly by using their local rulers to govern their colonies while the French practiced direct rule. They sent their officials and soldiers from France to rule the colony. Their goal was to impose culture on natives.
      This makes the British to develop their colonies the best way they can while the french focused on imposing cultures.
      I hope you now understand!

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