White's focus, however, is not on miscegenation itself but on its results, on the thousands of métis born of mixed-race relationships. These were mostly abandoned by their fathers, but were the subject of special attention by colonial administrations, which set up institutions for them, or allowed and encouraged missionaries to do so (before Third Republic anti-clericalism). The goals of intervention varied considerably, as did implementations: in some cases children were taken away from their mothers, distinctions between métis and Black African children were not always maintained, conditions in institutions ranged from the appalling upwards, and of course boys were treated differently to girls. White looks in detail at two institutions and at the subsequent employment of their graduates — métis were pushed towards careers as "petty bourgeois functionaries" such as auxiliary workers in health and education.
White then looks at the place of miscegenation in nineteenth century racial theories, from Gobineau onwards, and the extent to which metropolitan theories, many of them obviously lacking contact with reality, were accepted or opposed by those in the colonies with first-hand experience. He also describes attempts to clarify the legal status of métis. Pressure to give them French citizenship increased with a 1910 change to French paternity law and with the First World War, but a 1930 decree allowed authorities to keep tight control on who was given citizenship and fewer than four hundred métis qualified before 1944. A final chapter considers the search by métis for a social identity, looking at the creation of métis organisations and the histories of a few individuals.
Note: Children of the French Empire happens to be in the middle of my sister Jennifer's research field, but she's not responsible for anything in this review.
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