Ah, France. Home to such stories as: Caesars conquest of the Gauls and the Avignon antipope fights! Good times! But sometimes, one France just isn’t enough… Then they want New France, East France Hot France… What happens when France wants an entire empire? Well… Definitions for French Empire range from a period of about 15 years from the turn of the 1800s to a full four centuries! And depending on when, it covered anywhere from two to ten percent of the world’s land area. (Impressive, innit?) It’s honestly kinda ridiculous and researching this video reminded me vividly of how I nearly flopped AP European History way back in high school. I’m not going to editorialize about the moral implications of colonial imperialism and the painful legacy of European oppression But I will, however, complain bitterly about how freakin annoying it was for me to read through all of this garbage, as well as make the 50+ maps for this video. There are way too many plot threads happening all at once! That’s just bad narrative composition. Tidy that up! Get an editor! With colonialism, everybody loses …including France. To see why, let’s do some history. Now, colonialism is technically the action, whereas imperialism is the underlying mindset, but I’ll be using the terms interchangeably because I honestly just don’t care (fair enough) I’m gonna take the long perspective here and just talk about all of French colonization. So, our story begins very slowly in the 1500s when half of Europe spent a century trying, and failing to bandwagon off of Spain’s conquest of the new world In 1608, France settled the colony of Quebec along the St. Lawrence River and quickly spread west to the Great Lakes to form New France. But the French were unsurprisingly not the first people to live in North America, so they started trading furs with a local native populations like the Iroquois Confederacy, whose word “Kanata”, meaning ‘village’ or ‘settlement’, became… well… Canada! Plot Twist, I know. New France spread down the Mississippi River at the end of the century creating a second main entry port at New Orléans, as well as forming a big old wall against the developing English colonies on the coast. But this had the added benefit of connecting New France to their holdings in the Caribbean What started with two islands in the Lesser Antilles grew to include Saint-Domingue in 1664. and then all of modern Haiti by the end of the century Unlike the shiny France away from France that was blooming up north, the Caribbean was all sweltering sugar factories with extractable value that the colonists had simply earned by right of conquest The rules of imperialism were harsh, but simple: hAhAaAaAaA– Yeah! (exhausted and slightly disgusted sigh) Now this is obviously HORRIBLE but it was a genuine mentality of the European colonists. If it didn’t belong to the Spanish, English or Dutch, it was free real estate (insert funny meme) And, speaking of enslaving, it’s still a couple centuries before France clumps on to Africa en masse, but there was still plenty of coastal African outposts to facilitate the notorious Triangle Trade across the Atlantic The French Empire reached its first peak at the turn of the 1700’s, as New France was a strong and self-sufficient colony that rivaled Spain’s massive dominion of Central and South America. France next took a page out of Portugal’s colonial playbook, and went east to get rich, establishing a series of small outposts down and up the African coast on Senegal, Mauritius and the Seychelles, and over towards India. Of the European powers that went to India, France was by far the slowest to arrive. But they made up for two centuries of tardiness by carving a full chunk out of the southeast coast in 1740. So now that France has this vast and wealthy empire across both hemispheres and four continents, time to collapse! Because, much like a small child complaining that their friend has cooler toys, France’s empire earned the jealousy of England, and that meant war. About seven of them, to be precise. While all of these wars started for a smattering of different reasons and involve lots of tangential players, the core, underlying conflict was always France vs. England for the biggest and shiniest empire. Some historians call this “The Long Eighteenth Century” since this arc starts In the late 1600’s and ends in the early 1800’s, but I also enjoy the more descriptive moniker of “The Second Hundred Years War” Given most of Canada in the United States speak English, I won’t dally over the details because you kind of know how this one ends. Now, back to historical terminology for a minute because I can and will do everything in my power to not talk about French Imperial history. This era is usually described as but that name is dumb, unspecific, and also not informative in any way. So, I came up with a better name to describe that nebulous “New World Discovery” to “World War II” span of about 400 years. It’s topical here on account to the sheer national narcissism inherent and colonialism But it also encompasses the greater focus on the self after the Reformation and the development of capitalism, as well as recognizing the larger-than-life personalities of most European kings and queens between the 15 and 1900’s Three types of vanity in one! the first act of this era is the discovery of the New World and the ensuing age of colonialism The second act is that Hundred Years War I mentioned earlier along with the Enlightenment going on at the same time. Act three is the Industrial Revolution and the Scramble for Africa, and the fourth act, denouement, is decolonization. Each act displays different characteristics of state-driven personal and royal vanity, so that’s my pitch for naming this nebulous period. (Thank you for coming to my TED talk!) Let me know you think, or if you have a suggestion, drop it in the comments! Anyway, the first three of these wars in The Second Hundred Years War involve various coalitions to either beat back France or fight over who inherited the crowns of Austria and Spain. Two of which were directly caused by the incestuous literal clusterf*ck that is the Habsburg family, so I hate it on principle, but the big one was the Seven Years War, from 1756 to 1763 which started as a skirmish between French and English colonies in America, and picked up in Europe when Alliances spiraled out into a full-on continental war (awkward laugh) Good thing that never happens again… England’s main strategy was to open up fronts on every single French colony and stretch them out as far as possible So America, India and the Caribbean all turned into battlefields. If you want to see more on this, our friend Griffin The Armchair Historian has a full animated documentary about the Seven Years War. Definitely worth a watch! Bottom line for France was that they lost, and with it they lost nearly all of their overseas colonies. A couple decades later they supported America in their independance from Britain, but even this would only prove a dent in the blooming British Empire. So, in the late 1700’s, France was very much on the down-and-out. The state was broke, the people were poor and hungry, the intellectuals were fed up, all while the nobles and clergy were living large, and not paying taxes. this exploded into a bloody, guillotine-y mess in the French Revolution, also known as Exhibit A of France collapsing under the weight of its own failed Empire. The National Assembly killed a king, reign of terror yada-yada-yada and Britain thought this was a PERFECT opportunity to go double or nothing and kick France while it was down. And it probably would have worked if not for a clever general by the name of Napoleon Bonaparte who returned from yoinking to Northern Italy to seize power in 1799. as Consul of France and eventually Emperor of France in 1802. and then conquered across mainland Europe like he was a cat laying down across a keyboard. My favorite part about this last France vs. Britain conflict is the pure visual comedy between the heads of state King George of England as a powdered wig and all this royal fance, but prettyboy Bonaparte was the most powerful dude in Europe, And he looks like the missing Jonas brother! Why is the Emperor of France so shonin protagonist?! At his height, (hah) All of continental Europe was either Napoleon’s ally or vassal, and he issued a full trade embargo against Britain. When little Portugal dared to break it, Napoleon tore through Iberia and forcibly annexed Portugal and also Spain, since it was just on the way. This dude did not let up! Several coalitions tried and failed to topple Napoleon’s Grande Armée, but in the end, only Napoleon could defeat Napoleon. The big oops came when Emperor Bonaparte pushed his army deep into Russia without managing to secure their surrender, so Napoleon had to march back with a fraction of his troops, and he got soundly defeated by the Sixth Coalition the next year. Paris was captured, Napoleon was exiled, then he came back, posed, defeated again at Waterloo, and then he was exiled for good. And that’s the end of the whole Napoleonic story. Thereafter, Continental France was confined to… France, and they remained firmly shut out of the western Atlantic. So they started a new wave of colonization in Africa. Step 1) was a protracted invasion of Ottoman Algeria in 1830. that took 17 years and killed 1/4 of the native population No sweat! (Good Lord…) Step 2) was Napoleon’s nephew installing himself as Emperor after a brief revolution in 1848. and one Napoleon was already too many, so I am distinctly not a fan of this. His big thing was to boost the Navy and colonize more of West Africa, and also Vietnam. The means of acquisition for all these are ‘highly dubious’ In Asia, the Vietnamese tried in 1864. to clamp down on the growing French presence, so the army rolled in and just conquered the place outright in 1883, and they spread inland to Laos and Cambodia through the early 1900’s. From there, the colonists exported tea, rice, coffee, pepper and rubber back to France. They didn’t plan to make this a serious settlement colony, but simply extracted wealth through the lands natural resources, because Goods meant value in an industrialized world. This was a far cry from the old model of opening up a small trading post on some coastal sliver of land from far away and calling it a day. Even with the slave trade nominally abolished in 1848, France had strong reasons to get its paws on Africa, as it provided more resources, a convenient place to dump an overflowing population, and perhaps the biggest factor: if they had it, then England didn’t! From their main bases in Algeria, Senegal, and the Ivory Coast, France klomps nearly the entirety of West Africa. Pro tip: easy way to conquer half a continent – have guns! Really streamlines that whole process… And France didn’t take slaves. No, no, no! They simply deprived natives of French citizenship rights, and force them into low-wage grunt work! The civilized way! (Good Lord… [x2]) Y’know, kind of undercuts the grand narrative of “We’re bringing glorious civilization to these ignorant savages!” when you go out of your way to deprive them of the rights to actually participate in that civilisation… Hubris, dear viewers, is much like a bear trap placed gingerly on the seat of a chair. It likes to bite people in the ass… …hard. *clap* So, let’s watch this all go wrong. The beginning of the end came in World War II when Germany captured Paris, and annexed French West Africa while the Japanese Empire conquered Vietnam. During the war, France’s leader-in-exile and future President Charles de Gaulle decreed that the post-war Empire would remain firm, with no chance of colonial self-government… …or autonomy. SPOILER ALERT! This will backfire spectacularly! After the war, Africa tepidly returned to French control, but the Communist Viet Minh declared full-on independence from France in 1945, after the Japanese withdrawal. France was determined to keep their empire and deployed the army to quash the insurgent Vietnamese. And here to talk about that war is friend of the channel, Griffin Johnson, The Armchair Historian. GJ: Hey blue. Thanks for having me here! What began as a guerrilla resistance, Became far more complex when communist China supplied weapons and instruction to the Vietnamese Army. Late in the war, France attempted to lure Vietnamese forces into battle on their terms at a fort they constructed in the remote village of Dien Bien Phu, believing their technological and organizational advantages would grant them a decisive victory. What the French didn’t expect, was thousands of Viet Minh soldiers and civilians, hauling mass amounts of artillery and anti-aircraft guns through the jungle and atop the surrounding hills. The French position that seemed unassailable swiftly became a death sentence, as Vietnamese troops with superior artillery support ferociously pushed their way to the centre of the French positions, forcing a humiliating surrender. The catastrophic defeat marked the end of French presence in Vietnam, and ultimately caused the collapse of the French Empire. Blue: Thanks so much for stopping by Griffin, and be sure to check out The Armchair Historian channel for his video all about the Battle of Dien Bien Phu After Vietnam, it was clear to just about everybody that the French Empire was as good as toasted baguette. (which can incidentally be used as a weapon) Later that year, parts of French West Africa jumped ship and Algeria began a bloody eight-year war of independence The situation was so dire that the French Fourth Republic outright disintegrated under the weight of the crisis, this being colonial collapse Exhibit B, after which the rest of French Africa noped right the hell out of there The new fifth republic under de Gaulle was determined to hold on to Algeria, but eventually gave in and granted independence in 1962, though France maintained a handful of territories in the Caribbean and Pacific, the decolonization of Algeria marked the clear end to the French Empire. And that’s the rise and fall, And rise, and fall, (Good Lord [x3], stop it France) and rise, and fall of Imperial France! Though the motives and means change significantly from one century to another, the core mindset of imperialism was among the strongest guiding principles for France throughout The Age of Vanity. Moral of the story here: Don’t do colonialism! Everybody loses, and there is a two-thirds chance that it’ll break your government too! Thanks so much for watching and a huge THANK YOU to Griffin, The Armchair Historian for stopping by. I tell you, the more I learn about Napoleon the more *and* less I grow to respect him. It is truly an enigma that I just can’t crack. Though honestly, The monarchical politics of The Age of Vanity are so convoluted in general that I kind of don’t care to try, so stay tuned to my next video for something infinitely more familiar and comfortable for me to discuss. I’ll see you then

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

  1. People like to forget that the French never really colonized it’s North American possessions and instead just put up a sign saying “other empires GTFO” and then just peacefully traded with the friendly natives within their borders

  2. The "decolonization" was anything but, all of the nations that were "liberated" needed to pay a fine for their independence much like what Portugal did to Brazil, meaning the french still extracted resources from Africa, also France feeds all of it's nuclear reactors with african uranium of which they just take from them.

  3. Seven Years War? Don't you mean: World War Zero? (I just think that name is more appropriate and more descriptive)
    And France basically has still small specks of colonies:
    – Guadeloupe
    – French Guiana
    – Martinique
    – Réunion
    – Mayotte
    – Saint Pierre and Miquelon
    – Wallis and Futuna
    – Saint Martin
    – Saint Barthélemy
    and the ones that are in some way special in their status be it by designation or ownership:
    – French Polynesia ("over seas country")
    – New Caledonia (has it's own citizenship, Territorial Congress, and Customary Senate that can influence law proposals concerning the natives; they just rejected full independence in a referendum in 2018)
    – Clipperton Island (state private property, directly under authority of the government/Overseas Minister)

  4. Geneva Agreement temporarily divided Vietnam into 2 regions waiting for the general election, not creating 2 new countries

  5. Actually, in addition to my previous comment, this brings up a great point about why the Vietnam War was such a clusterfuck. The Viet Minh had been running an insurgency since the Japanese occupation, by the time the US got there they'd been at it for almost 30 years. American military leadership severely underestimated the skills and infrastructure they'd built in that time.

  6. I think it's weird how downplayed Vietnam was 100% France's fault, hell the US only backed the side it did out of some weird guilt over the help during the revolutionary war..oh and the red scare.

  7. Ok, as an austrian i gotta say, the one who is clousterfuck is you. The Habsburgs founded most of europe and Carlos II was a exeption. If you look to his sister, she was actually one of the prettiest womans in europe. And even soo, he managed to appoint a good legislative body over his reign despise his phisical and mental issues.
    Second, Portugal was never annexed. Napoleon failed completely in even surrender Portugal for one simple and funny reason: the King changed the capital to Rio de Janeiro. Napoleon failed in Portugal more than in spain bcs, while he managed to achieve some sucess in spain with the abdications of both Ferdnand and Carlos, Portugal never surrendered and was worse problem than anyone

  8. I reenact as a pro-French Native (Shawnee, Ojibwe, Lenape/Delaware, Huron/Wyandot, etc) during the French & Indian War and this was an interesting video for me.

  9. I know these videos are supposed to be brief overviews, but this was way too much to cover in a 12 minute video. Might have been better to break this down into multiple parts which you could give proper explanations for. The Haitian Revolution (not to mention most of the French Revolution), Tunisia, Syria, and Senegal were all basically skipped. Algeria was glossed over, the timeframe for the Louisiana purchase was off, and the part about "the French had guns" pertaining to West Africa was a cringey, face palming, eurocentric generalization (many West African kingdoms had been using firearms for centuries by that point…). You tried to cover A LOT of topics and condense them into a very short video which was incredibly disappointing. As a long time subscriber, I just really hope you don't make the same mistake with the British, and maybe at some point you'll go back around and go into greater depth on some of these topics.

  10. Hmmmmmm this video is too simplistic the french empire was significantly better than the British in terms of treatment of the locals take the 7 year war except for the Iroquois all the other tribes were with France because France was more trading than displacing people. French intamarried a lot more with locals unlike the brits in North America who dumped all their population there and kicked the locals out. And secondly napoleon was crowned emperor in 1804 not 1802

  11. Thoughts on French Guiana, and how they essentially still have a sizable colony on mainland South America, and mainly launch rockets from it

  12. Can you do the Miscellaneous myths of Typhon and Echidna or Phorcys and Ceto please?
    Typhon and Echidna spawn:
    – Cerberus
    – Lernean hydra
    – Chimera
    – Nemean lion
    – Sphinx
    – Ladon
    – Orthus
    – Caucasin Eagle
    – Crommyonian sow
    – Harpies
    – Cholcian dragon

    Phorcys and ceto spawn:
    – Echidna
    – Gorgons
    – Grey sister
    – Scylla

  13. suggestion for your Age of Vanity: include postcolonial & neocolonial (aka capitalist exploitation without outright rulership)

  14. When Americans laugh at the French but realize they helped them in there revolution and were able to conquer Vietnam.

  15. Small suggestion:
    I've always been fascinted with royal or important figures (mainly queens) throughout history and I know that your explanations would make learning about them and their accomplishments, for better or worse, really fun. Or heck make another philosophor type music video but with said important/royal figures instead! Have fun with it! Still love your videos no matter what they're about 🙂

  16. Canada still speaks French, yo.
    Well, the province of Quebec does. And stubbornly keeps wanting to secede/revolt every 60 years or so.

  17. You made a mistake in that last map with the dissipating French empire, because French Guiana is still a part of France as a overseas Department.

  18. I think Blue touches on something that must be understood by those who either study history or get mad at it because their ancestors got the short end of the stick: colonization in the Americas is not the same as colonization in Africa or Asia. In the 1500’s, Europeans sought glory; in 1900, Europeans sought resources. Similar means of expansion, but different purposes.

  19. Hey Blue, what's the background music you use at around the three minute mark? I hear it in a bunch of your videos, and would love to throw it on my relaxation playlist.

  20. You sound like such a little cuck, you're implying inherently that Europe was the only power to engage in Imperialism and Colonialism.

    Europeans just did it best.

  21. "You damn rat! You haven't forgot about us, have you mate?"

    Literally every english guy expecting a video on the Great Britain as well…

  22. Like most sources on the subject, this video too failed to address the fact that France is the last of the old European powers that still holds a firm grasp on its "former" colonies.
    Look up the concept of Françafrique. Your nation can hardly be called independent when your national currency is pegged to the French (and European) currency, when all your savings are "safeguarded" by France (and you have to ask them to lend you your own money), and all your natural resources are given exclusivity to French mining and energy companies.
    Oh and if you as a local leader wish to fight for your and your people's rights, well then you'd better be wearing a bulletproof vest 24/7.

  23. Hey! While I like the idea of "the Age of Vanity", I really think that it's historiographically wrong to extend the "early modern period" all the way to the second World War, as WW2 lies well into the modern period; it even arguably marks the end of modernity, at least in Western Europe. In my mind (at least), the early modern period lasts from the Renaissance and the discovery of America, until the mid-to-late XVIIth century (ie. the Peace of Westphalia, mercantilism, early proto-industrialisation, and the Enlightenment, etc.) railroading into the modern age. Of course, the period of time as a whole (including both the early modern and modern age) was a very vain age, especially for land owners and the wealthy, and I think that the prestige-politics/Weltpolitik of this age, especially that of the XIXth century justifies the apt usage of the word "vain" for this period.

  24. Blue: Why is the emperor of France a Shonen Protagonist

    Napoleon: I have the power of God and Anime on my side!!!

    Edit : 6:58 Lol, welp synced

  25. Honestly, I think a better name for that era is the Great Rise and Fall of Empires or the Rise and Fall of Imperialism and Colonialism. For this is a time were empire rise to new heights, and fall to new lows. Where empires are destroyed and new ones are born in such a short amount of time.

  26. You forget with napoleon being exiled the first time, he came back with out a army and walked up the the castle. Apparently the guards aimed their weapons at him and he goes up to them opening his jacket ordering them to shoot, and surprise they don’t as he takes back the throne.

  27. I don't think there is enough appreciation for the map titles produced here. My personal favourite being at 6:39 with "Bless My Soul, Nap Was On A Roll"


  29. Did you just “Yadda yadda yadda” the whole French Revolution?? I suppose, it wasn’t an empire yet…

    Your French pronunciation is very good!

  30. France didn't have on overflowing population during the 19th century. Following the Napoleonic Wars, it went to a prolonged period of lowered birthrates, in fact one that it hasn't recovered from since. Between 1871 and 1911 France's population had risen by 5.8% – in the same timespan Germany had increased its population by 60% and the UK by 54%.

    Nowadays we know that's simply what happens in a relatively secure, well-off society. France, having been ahead of the rest of Europe during the centuries before, simply had hit the demographic transition a century earlier.

  31. Western Africa is still in a colonial position towards France. Check decolonisation agreements between France and every other former colony which didn’t won it’s freedom.

  32. Osp you may have gotten my email but I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for teaching me and helping with my depression. Blue, your like the son wokong (spelt it wrong probably) of history. Red, your sense of comedy and overall common sense has cheered me up. Plus your song covers a amazing. Thank you

  33. Yes, but Blue, that coronation portrait of George III was painted in 1762. Though… admittedly, he's still wearing the awful wig in 1807, so… ugh, there's a reason we call it Georgian fashion.

  34. why did you have to add "thank you for coming to my ted talk" for the thesis on "the age of vanity." It's a legitimately strong thesis and you played it off as a joke, dont be so insecure.

  35. I know your Ptolemies podcast was ages ago, but could you try to do a similar incest-fest talk about the Hapsburgs? Liiiike maybe discuss how the last Hapsburg king of Spain's uncle and niece parents were actually more closely related than if they had been brother and sister 😀

  36. Few things:
    One: France still claims ownership of Guyana, Blue, so you messed up that map.
    Two: Can you do a video on Ancient Vietnam? And also one on the Holy Roman Empire, which I know will be tough because of the royal mess that it was, but still, I kinda wanna see you take the piss out of the HRE.

  37. It sounds like every time he even implies monarchy, blue becomes the most triggered college student on campus.
    Edit: or specifically western monarchy

  38. Britain and England are NOT interchangeable terms. England, Wales and Scotland had the same monarch from the 1600s and the same Parliament from 1701. England is not Britain

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