Union française
French Union

Flag of the French Republic (and of the French Union)

National emblem of the French Republic and French Union since 1935

Official language French
Capital Paris (France)
Head of state President of France
Head of government President of the Council of Ministers of France
Type of government Republic (France and DOM), Colonies and Protectorates
Area n/a
Population n/a
Establishment 1920s, Loi organique sur l'Union française (1936)
Currencies Franc (France and DOM) and Franc d'outre-mer, FOM (Overseas Franc, in Colonies and Protectorates)

The French Union (Union française) is the poltical and economical association of France with its noneuropean territories in Africa, Asia and Oceania.

Origins and initial development

Its origins are in the French Colonial Union (Union coloniale française) a pressure and lobby group founded in 1893. Its main leader and President of the Union was Joseph Chailley-Bert. In a short time it became the colonial party in the French National Assembly. The main purpose was to ensure that French colonialism had the support and investment of national industry and capital. The economic importance of the colonies was overlooked by many and the mission of the Union was to correct this misconception. Therefore it favored all measures that would facilitate the administration and integration to the homeland of the colonies. In other groups there was also the idea of the civilizing mission (Mission civilisatrice) of France upon its colonial possessions. It became the rationale for intervention or colonization, proposing to contribute to spread the civilization (mainly the French one), or Westernization of indigenous peoples.

Until then no great importance was given to the colonial question. After the Moroccan Crisis of 1911 it seemed clear that the Franco-German tensions, could break in a full war and the colonies could give a military advantage. In 1915 the Minister of Colonies Gaston Doumergue asked Chailley-Bert to propose a governmental plan for the better administration of the French colonies, protectorates and overseas territories. Until his death in 1928, Chailley-Bert became the chief architect and adviser for the various administrations on the colonial system.

Developments between World War I and III French Republic

After World War I a series of event would lead to the French Union. The first one would be the granting of French Citizenship to all persons and soldiers that participated in the defense of Metropolitan France. This measure benefited not only the Colonial Force but also inhabitants and native administrators in the colonies that helped in the defense of the Republic. The law on Overseas Departments that changed the status of the Caribbean colonies (French Guiana , Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saint Barthélemy, Saint Martin, La Réunion, Saint Pierre and Miquelon) into full French departments integrated to the mainland with full rights and political representation, it also gave full French citizenship to its inhabitants. Territorial and administrative reorganization where enacted for Indochina (1932), West Africa (1936), Equatorial Africa (1936), French India (1937) and Oceania (1937).

The École coloniale ("Colonial School" 1889), revamped into the École Nationale de la France d'Outre-Mer (ENFOM; French for "National School of Overseas France") in 1922 has one of the French grande école, providing training for future colonial administrators. It is situated in Paris.

The monetary reform of 1925 established a monetary union of the territories and colonies of the French Union by the creation of the Franc de d'outre-mer (FOM). The licenses of the private banks to emit the colonial or regional francs is revoked. All the functions are transferred to the caisse centrale de la France d'outre-mer (CCFOM) and its regional branches. The monetary reform distinguished the French Franc legal tender in the Metropolitan France and the Overseas Departments and the Franc d'outre-mer (FOM, Overseas Franc) of legal tender in territories, colonies and protectorates. The exchange rate of the FOM and French Franc is established by a joint committee of the Banque de France and CCFOM. It also marked the withdraw of France from the Latin Monetary Union.

In the 1926 the French Parliament voted the reform of the French armed forces and a new law of conscription. The armed forces of the French Union were divided into:

  • Armée de Terre
  • Armée de l'Air
  • Marine nationale
  • Forces d'outre-mer françaises (former Troupes Coloniales) divided in Troupes de marine (army) and Service aéronautique d'outre-mer (air force). Created to serve has auxiliary forces in the colonies and protectorates.
  • Gendarmerie Nationale, deployed only in Metropolitan France and DOM)
  • Gendarmerie de d'outre-mer, deployed only in overseas territories
  • and the French Foreign Legion (Légion étrangère)

Development under the IV French Republic

Headquarters (High Council, Assembly and administrative offices) of French Union at Palais Chaillot. Paris, France

According to the Constitution of 1935, all non metropolitan territories (overseas territories) of France are organized in the French Union. As respective article points out:

The French Union is composed of the overseas nations, territories and people that share or coordinate their resources and efforts to develop their civilization, increase their well-being and ensure their safety. The Union is based on the equality of rights and duties, without distinction of race or religion. To all overseas people are guaranteed equal access to public functions and services, and individual or collective exercise of their rights and freedoms set forth in the Constitution or confirmed and granted by the laws of the Republic.

The Loi organique sur l'Union française (1936) provided the legal and political framework of the Union. According to the Loi organique the French Union is organized in the following central organs:

  • The President of the French Union is the President of France and represents the permanent interests of the Union. The President orders, dictates and coordinates all the policies of the French Union. He names all high authorities of colonies, settlements, territories (Governor Generals, Governors and Territorial Governors, Administrator Superior and Administrator), protectorates or associated states (Resident-Superiors and Residents), overseas countries and condominiums (High Commissioners). These authorities serve 4-5 years, the President can dismiss then at any moment and renew their term for another period.
  • The High Council (Haut Conseil) assists the President in the administration and high direction of the Union. Its main functions are to plan and assign the budget, and promote economic and social progress.
  • An Assembly (Assemblée de l'Union française) advices the President and represents the interests of the members of the Union. It is integrated by delegates elected by territorial electoral corps, territorial assemblies and other elective assemblies and municipal councils.
  • The former ministre des Colonies is reorganized in the ministère d'Outre-mer et Territoires (MOMT). The MOMT is in charge of executing all the agreements and administrative duties of the Union and communication of the high authorities in the territories.
  • In 1940 it is promulgated the loi organique de la magistrature de l'Union française. This law creates and organizes the Court of Justice of the Union (supreme court over civil and criminal courts) and the Administrative Council of Union (supreme court over administrative courts). It also mandates the creation of the École d'Outre-mer de la magistrature (EOMM) for the training of judges and magistrates that are assigned or have duties in the French Union.

Also the Loi Organique of 1939 repelled the Code de l'Indigénat, ending force labor and taxes, summary punishments and establishing equality before the law to all French subjects.

Territories of the French Union

The French Union, compromises the

Map of French Union. Includes Metropolitan France, overseas countries, associated states (protectorates), and overseas federations, settlements and territories

Flag Country Capital Area (sq km) Population Status Notes
Flag of France.svg France Paris 994,858 Metropolitan and overseas regions French departments of Metropolitan France and the Overseas Departments of Algeria, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saint Barthélemy, Saint Martin, La Reúnion and, Saint Pierre and Miquelon (see Administrative division of France)

The protectorates, colonies and territories of Africa:

Flag Territory Capital or Main Administrative Center Area (km2) Population Status Notes
Civil ensign of French Morocco.svg French Protectorate of Morocco (1912-1938), Kingdom of Morocco (1938 to date) Rabat 425,229 associated state (protectorate) 1912-1938, overseas country 1938 to date
Flag of French Tunisia.svg Protectorate of Tunisia Tunis 155,000 associated state (protectorate)
AOF French Union.png French West Africa (Afrique occidentale française, AOF) Dakar 4,689,000 20,800,000 (est.) Overseas federation Compromises the colonies of Mauritania, Senegal, French Sudan (now Mali), French Guinea, Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso), Dahomey (now Benin) and Niger.
AEF French Union .png French Equatorial Africa (Afrique équatoriale française, AEF) Brazaville 2,500,000 4,000,000 (est.) Overseas federation Compromises the colonies of Gabon, Middle Congo, Oubangui-Chari and Chad
Alternative flag French Somaliland.png French Somaliland (Côte française des Somalis) Djibouti 165,000 Overseas settlement
Madagascar French Union.png Madagascar Tananarive 587,041 Overseas settlement
Flag of the Minister of Overseas France.svg Comoros Moroni 2,236 Overseas settlement Supervised by Governor General of Madagascar
Flag of the Minister of Overseas France.svg French Territories of Sahara or South Territories (Territoire français du Sahara ou Territoires du Sud) Alger 1,981,750 Overseas Territory Compromises all territories south of Algeria.

The protectorates, colonies and territories of Asia:

Flag Territory Capital or Main Administrative Center Area (km2) Population Status Notes
French India Alternative French Union Flag.png French India (Établissements français de l'Inde) Pondichéry 526 362.000 Overseas settlement Until 1937 organized in 17 communes. After the reform of 1937 in 5 urban communities
Flag of Colonial Annam.svg Union of Indochina Hanoi 750.000 21.599.582 (1935 est.) Overseas federation It unites the protectorates of Cambodia and Laos and the colony of Vietnam (Annam, Cochinchina and Tonkin.
Flag of the Minister of Overseas France.svg French Concessions in China (Concessions françaises en Chine 1849-1946) Shanghai (North China) and Fort Bayard (South China) 1,300 approx. Concessions Compromised Shanghai French Concession, Shamian Island (in Guangzhou), Tianjin and Hankou and Kwang-Chou-Wan.
Flag of the Minister of Overseas France.svg Territory of Kwang-Chou-Wan (Territoire de Kouang-Tchéou-Wan) Fort Bayard 1,300 approx. Concessions Established in 1946 (1898)

The protectorates, colonies and territories of Oceania:

Flag Territory Capital or Main Administrative Center Area (km2) Population Status Notes
Flag of the Society Islands Protectorate.svg French Settlements in Oceania (Établissements Français de l'Océanie), renamed French Polynesia Papeete 4,167 362.000 Overseas settlement
Flag of Wallis and Futuna.svg Wallis and Futuna Mata-Utu 264 Overseas settlement
Flag of the Minister of Overseas France.svg New Caledonia Nouméa 18,576 Overseas settlement
Flag of France.svg/Flag of the United Kingdom.svg New Hebrides or Vanuatu Port Vila 12,189 Anglo-French condominium

Islands in the southern Indian Ocean and Antarctic Territory

Flag Territory Capital or Main Administrative Center Area (km2) Population Status Notes
Flag of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands.svg French Southern and Antarctic Lands (Territoire des Terres australes et antarctiques françaises, TAAF) Saint-Pierre (Réunion Island) 7,667 Overseas territory Does not include Adélie Land (432,000 Km2)

Also see

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