Migration and nuptiality: 'Europeans' in a colonial context - Algeria, 1830-1871

Guy Brunet, Université de Lyon II
Kamel Kateb, Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED)

The northern part of the present Algerian Republic, conquered by the French army from 1830, saw a flood of settlers from Europe as early as the 1840s. During the first decades of the European presence on Algerian territory, French people represented a minority among the immigrants, the majority hailing from Spain, Italy, Malta, and other European countries (German territories, Switzerland …). The balance was reversed later on, and around 1872 there were 164000 French people for 116000 other Europeans. The registers of births, marriages and deaths recorded the marriages involving people from Europe and Jews, whether they were born in Algeria or in Europe. During the first decades of the European presence, men outnumbered women, which provoked an unbalance on the marriage market, as well as a certain pressure on young women to get married. The purpose of the present research is to study the choice of a spouse according to nationality, geographical origin or social background. Did nationality play a major part in the way couples were formed ? What was the proportion of marriages between spouses of different nationalities ? Which nationalities were concerned by these mixed marriages ? Did any national or local endogamy appear in this migratory context ? It must be pointed out that marriages between European, Jews and « Natives » are practically inexistent. To answer these questions, we will use a database including 5000 marriage certificates, formed by going through the registers of marriages of the main cities of Algeria between 1830 and 1870. These observations will be matched with the evidence given by contemporaries, and with the analyses carried out in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by administrators and university members, our aim being to understand the part played by marriages in the birth of an European population on Algerian territory.

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Presented in Session 68: Household formation, marriage and social mobility in the past