Challenging Censorship: European Publishers During the Algerian Revolution



During the Algerian Revolution (1954-1962), the FLN deemed important to have a part of the French public opinion on their side to reach Algeria’s independence. Todd Shepard tells us how publishers in Paris and Lausanne had to organize against censorship to describe the horror of the French colonial war.

The so-called era of decolonization began at the end of World War II, swelled to great heights by the mid-1960s, and continued to destroy empires and change boundaries into the early 1970s. In this context, thinkers, activists, writers, and leaders from the Global South created new ways of thinking and doing things, which included the establishment of novel information networks. Inspired by such initiatives, a new type of book publisher came into being in several countries of western Europe, which brought otherwise silenced colonial truths into Western public debates, and also drew from fast-moving anti-colonial and “Third Worldist” inspirations to alter left-wing politics. In 1954, for example, Italy’s Giangiacomo Feltrinelli published the first of what, after 1968, would grow to be a veritable library of anticolonial and radical texts: a biography of Jawaharlal Nehru, the nationalist who took the helm of independent India in 1947. One anticolonial struggle in particular catalyzed the larger trend: the Algerian Revolution, which the previously unknown Front de libération national (FLN) and the Armée de libération nationale (ALN) launched on November 1, 1954 to liberate their country from over twelve decades of French domination.