Putting the Postcolonial into the Trentes Glorieuses: Bidonvilles, the Autoroute A8 and the Aéroport Nice-Côte d'Azur


This paper is part of a larger effort, undertaken now by several historians of modern France, to write workers from North Africa back into French history during the period 1945-1975. Most of that work has understandably considered Paris and Marseille, which had the largest concentrations of maghrébin workers. Here the focus is on the French Riviera and the links between transnational mass tourism and the migration of North African workers who helped build hotels, vacation rentals, the new airport (soon the second busiest in France after those of Paris), and France’s first autoroute requiring tolls, A8. They did so while living in bidonvilles (shantytowns), ultimately razed for the autoroute and for the beautification of the airport. North Africans were thus critical in constructing the postwar Côte d’Azur, yet they have been hitherto written out of the historical narrative of this imagined tourist “paradise.”

Stephen L. Harp is Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Akron. He is the author of Learning to Be Loyal: Primary Schooling and Nation Building in Alsace and Lorraine, 1850-1940 (1998), Marketing Michelin: Advertising and Cultural Identity in Twentieth-Century France (2001), Au Naturel: Naturism, Nudism, and Tourism in Twentieth-Century France (2014), and Rubber in World History: Empire, Industry and the Everyday (2016). His current research focuses on the environmental and social impacts of mass tourism on the French Riviera.