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An Empire Divided - Book Review

Too many areas of history are forgotten or just ignored as the events are too ‘minor’ or just not enough in the spotlight. The colonization of the Far East by France is one of those subjects. Too few even realize how much presence the French had in that area of the world. J.P. Daughton brings that subject back into the academic circles with his book, An Empire Divided: Religion, Republicanism, and the Making of French Colonialism, 1880-1914.

The book covers the presence of the French in the Far East beginning with the missionaries that pushed forward and made the initial contacts and relationships. As the French did in the New World, they allowed the Catholic Church to take a big part in exploring, mapping, and creating relationships with the natives of the area before colonization began. Daughton discusses the religious strive, the misunderstandings, and the problems that accompanied the entire process.

Keep in mind that this is an academic book and is not written for an afternoon read next to the lake. It is a serious look at the French presence in the East at the turn of the twentieth century. For a visual learner, this book is broken out into many chapters and subheading which also makes it easier to research. Sadly, I saw very little else to help the visual learner. There were a few images, but not many. There are little in the way of maps, charts, graphs, or pictures.

Mr. Daughton does a great job in exploring the French influence and does so in an objective manner. He does not walk into the topic with a preconceived notion that he spends the pages on trying to convince the readers to believe. He discusses the religious role in the colonization of Indochina, Tahiti, Madagascar, and more. He then shows the intricate involvement of the French government and the dicey relationships they had with the various native governments and people.

If you are doing any research on the Far East at the end of the nineteenth century and the first of the twentieth century, this is a book you really have to look into.

Note: This book was provided as part of a college course.

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