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The Code de l'indigénat was a set of laws creating, in practice, an inferior legal status for natives of French Colonies from 1887 until 1944–1947. First put in place in Algeria, it was applied across the French Colonial Empire in 1887–1889. A similar strategy was also employed by other European colonial powers, under the concept of Indirect rule.

French colonial policy is often contrasted with the British concept of Indirect rule pioneered by Frederick Lugard of the British East Africa Company in Uganda and later the Royal Niger Company in what is today Nigeria. Lugard devised a method of colonial administration which relied upon maintenance of pre-colonial chiefs and other political structures, who were in turn subject to the authority of British representatives.

The French government, in contrast, wrote much about the assimilation of colonial subjects, with the final aim of creating in their colonies integral parts of France, filled with African, Arab, or Asian Frenchmen. This combined with a Jacobin tradition of centralizing government, has given weight to the argument that French colonial rule stood in stark contrast to other models. But only small areas of France's colonial possessions were ever afforded full rights as Overseas Departments of the French state. (Read more...)