In the late nineteenth century wine production took off in French-ruled Algeria, to such an extent that for most of the following century this Muslim-majority territory was the fourth biggest wine producer in the world. Many of Algeria’s vineyards were on a scale that far exceeded those found in metropolitan France, earning some colonists spectacular fortunes and, in time, significant influence over the colony’s affairs. Through a study of the backgrounds and business dealings of these “vinelords,” this talk will demonstrate the central importance of wine to the economic life of colonial Algeria, while arguing that agricultural capitalism also posed substantial risks to the French project of colonization.
Owen White is an associate professor of history at the University of Delaware. His publications include Children of the French Empire: Miscegenation and Colonial Society in French West Africa, 1895-1960 and the edited volume (with J.P. Daughton) In God’s Empire: French Missionaries and the Modern World, as well as articles on a variety of topics in French colonial history. He is currently completing a book manuscript about the Algerian wine industry.