IntroductionThe topic that will be explored is French Imperialism. This topic is important because the changes that resulted from the French taking over regions has influenced many cultures worldwide. The following question will addressed: To what extent did French Imperialism affect the Ivory Coast politically and culturally? The question at hand is significant to the subject field of history because imperialism has altered many countries and through analyzing the effects of colonization in these countries, we can see how imperialism is important to the world because it is the foundation of globalization. This question still has contemporary relevance because a big reason why the Ivory Coast is in its current state is due to the French colonizing their nation.InvestigationThe investigation will firstly consider what the Ivory Coast was like before imperialism , in regards to cultural traditions and the structure of their government. Following this, consideration will be given to the benefits and detrimental effects the French had on the Ivory Coast. To truly understand the extent of the effects that the French had on the Ivory Coast, one must first look at life in the Ivory Coast prior to the French.

In the time period before the Ivory Coast was colonized, the country had natural barriers formed by a dense forest that isolated the region from the other sections of Africa. The Ivory Coast was  relatively isolated for much of its early history. The country’s coastline and lack of sufficient harbors led to a decreased chance of Europeans visiting or trading. The only time the French interacted with the Ivory Coast during this time was when missionaries landed at Assini, which was located in the southern portion of the region. European nations such as, France saw no value in the Ivory Coast and left them alone for the time being.Ethnic Groups The culture present in the Ivory Coast  is diverse due to the multitude of ethnic groups in the region.

There are more than sixty indigenous ethnic groups in this region but they have been condensed to four cultural ethnic groups. The factors that differ each group from each other include things such as their economic activities, language and overall characteristics. Those that are from the East Atlantic region are known as “Akan people”, many of them that reside in the Ivory Coast are the Baoulé. Akan societies are generally organized into farming communities. Most Akan believe in a supreme being, Nyame, who created all things and from whom lesser gods derive their power. Collective religious ceremonies are important to the life of many Akan peoples.

(Religion in Ivory Coast) The most important of these is the yam festival, which serves several functions. It is a memorial service for the dead and begs for their protection in the future; it is a time of thanksgiving for good harvests; and it is a ritual of purification that helps rid the group of evil influences. The yam festival is important to the Ivory Coast culture because the population has the chance to reflect on the yam itself and how it impacts their daily life. Across the Bandama river is where the West Atlantic cultures are. The culture of this region is primarily represented by the “Kru people”. This ethnic group is one of the oldest ones in the Ivory Coast. Traditional Kru societies are organized into villages relying on hunting and gathering.

Cultural Traditions Another aspect of Ivorian culture is their festivals. The two major cultural events are the Fêtes des Masques, which translate to the Festival of Masks, and the Fête du Dipri. The festival of Masks is the Ivory Coast’s biggest festival. It is held in December. During the festival, different villages compete against each other through dances and creates elaborate masks. These masks are significant to their culture because the masks act as a way to pay homage to the forest spirits.

The Fête du Dipri festival is held during April and starts in the middle of the night. Women and children are the most engaged with this celebration. They sneak out of their houses and do several nocturnal rites to exorcise the village of evil spells. The chief also is involved with this event. He plays the drum and this makes the villagers go into a trance. Sometimes the villagers go to a river and cleanse themselves of spiritual impurities.

Many of the festivals in the Ivory Coast reflect their values and their belief system.ReligionReligion is a major component of the Cote D’Ivoire culture. As seen in the festivals, they incorporate religion into their daily lives and use it to create stability in their lives. Prior to colonization, many people in this region followed traditional indigenous African religions. These religions are based in the concept that we should be on one accord with the universe and should aimed to gain harmony with everything around us. This is a big reason why religion is incorporated in everything they do. It is believed that religion helps clarify life and that is why festivals such as Fête du Dipri and  Fêtes des Masques are so significant to the Ivory Coast.

Traditional DishesAnother aspect of culture that should be taken into consideration is the diet people eat in this country. The diet for each person depends on the region they live in and the ethnic group they are in. The people of Côte d’Ivoire generally rely on grains and tubers to sustain their diet. Yams, plantains, rice, millet, corn, and peanuts are staple foods throughout the country. The national dish is “fufu”, it is a mixture of yams, cassava and plantains made into a dough. This dish is usually served with meat and vegetable sauce. Just like any other dish, it is eaten with your hands.There are customs the people follow even when they are eating.

In most of the villages, everyone eats together as a community. Their reasoning behind this is that it creates a sense of a communal spirit shared with everyone. Within this, we can see another example of religious ties to everyday tasks. Women and girls eat as one group, men as another, and young boys as a third group.

Most villagers eat on a large mat placed on the ground. The elders eat first, this is done purposely so that they can detect anything. Once everyone has begun eating, there are some rules that are followed. It is considered rude and selfish to reach across the table for food.

Equality among everyone eating is present because the villagers ensure everyone eats the same amount of food. There are some things that are considered disrespectful to do while eating such as coughing, sneezing and talking. Talking is discouraged because it takes away from the special moment the meals create in the villages. Things are natural and we have no control of such as coughing and sneezing is looked down upon but if a person feels the need to cough they usually will leave the meal area. Following every meal, everyone washes their hands with a bowl of water passed around. This shows how connected the Ivory Coast population is. ClothingClothing is another significant aspect of Ivorian culture. One type of clothing that is popular is the Kenta or also referred to as the Kita.

It is a type of fabric that originates from the Akan ethnic group. In the past, this fabric was reserved for the notable and royalty to wear. The only time everyday citizens could wear these fabrics were during special occasions and ceremonies. The intricate patterns and figures weaved into these fabrics are important to the culture. There are multiple types of Kentes such as, Kente Ashanti which are fabrics with geometric patterns and bright colors weaved into them.

Another type of Kente is Kente Ewe which includes motifs of animal or humans weaved into the fabric. Every single aspect of the Kentes are symbolic and are held in high regards by the people who live in the Ivory Coast. Colors can hold meanings ranging from wisdom, and purity to also representing mourning. Motifs such as a square and diamond can represent the existence of man and the cosmos. Government Before investigating the effects of French Imperialism in the Ivory Coast, one must also look at the government before the French came.

When people first came to the region where the Ivory Coast is located, differents groups of traders formed little communities. As time passed the leaders of these communities formed into dynasties. The Kong dynasty lasted until 1897, when it was destroyed by Samory Toure. This was done in an attempt to create a new muslim empire.

Wars began to arise between these two groups and multiple states resulted from the fighting. One of the many states that is considered the most powerful is the Abron kingdom of Gyaman. It was conquered by the Asante people in the 1730s. The Anyi and Sanwi kingdoms were also founded in result of the fighting.

Political systems prior to the colonization of France consisted of kingdoms instead of the organized system that we usually associate with governments. ArgumentNow that life in the Ivory Coast prior to colonization has been taken into consideration, we must look at what effect the French had once they began to colonize the Ivory Coast.Initial Encounter The French, originally, was not interested in the region. Any contact that was made between the Ivory Coast and France usually was confined to trading along the coast. In the time period leading up to French colonizing the Ivory Coast, the French would trade for ivory and slaves. The French takeover began when Louis-Edouard Bouet-Willaumez signed treaties with coastal chiefs. These treaties gave France access to the coast and let them build forts and trading posts. This spanned from 1830 to 1870, in the year of 1870 private merchants began to take over the area and the French withdrew.

Merchants and traders explored all of Africa in an attempt to find more resources. During the peak of European imperialism, all European nations raced to obtain as much land as possible. The first continent they focused on was Africa. France controlled most of northern and eastern Africa. Their primary goal was to exploit the area for natural resources such as, coffee, oil, lumber, fruits and vegetables. French ImprovementsThe French would establish governments in African countries and export their goods to gain economic benefits and become a world power. The first thing the French did when they took over was build infrastructure.

The French built irrigation systems to improve the yield of agricultural products and they also constructed roads, railways, and harbors to facilitate exportation.  The French tried to help improve their economy and government by sharing knowledge with the natives. Due to the large amount of French colonial holdings encompassing many diverse tribes and languages, French became the official language of business and government in the colonies. Cultural shifts began to occur when the French introduced aspects of their culture such as French art, language, and cinema. The arts were primarily introduced to the cities that were wealthy but the French language was introduced everywhere. To a lesser degree, the French also encouraged the dissemination of Christianity and more specifically, Catholicism, ignoring the traditional beliefs of the Africans. When looking at the infrastructure built in these countries by the French, there is evidence of some positives that resulted from imperialism. The French helped them stabilize economically.

 At the same time you can see how French Imperialism negatively affected the Ivory Coast. They began to make changes to their culture at that time. Religious beliefs began to shift away from traditional African beliefs and towards Christianity. Before being able to reach a conclusion, we must see how the Ivory Coast stood after the colonization brought upon by the French. Militarism Throughout the French’s time in the Ivory Coast, they used military to maintain control over the African populations. Most of the time militarism worked but there were instances when the Ivory Coast resisted. In the late nineteenth century, Samori Touré tried to create his own kingdom in the northern portion of the Ivory Coast but faced French and British forces that were trying to conquer that area at the same time.

He was able to resist against them but was eventually captured in 1898. Resistance against the French’s military can be seen with the Agni and Abron ethnic groups. These groups worked together to create sabotages for the French administration. In the early twentieth century, the Baoulé of central Côte d’Ivoire openly defied colonial authorities until they were forcibly subdued in a bloody, pacification campaign undertaken led by Governor Gabriel Angoulvant. The French administered Côte d’Ivoire in a more direct, systematic style in comparison to the British, who preferred indirect rule. French authorities routinely dismissed locally selected chiefs, replacing them with others that had no legitimate claim to authority. The French would also and regroup or consolidate villages in an attempt to impose a uniform administration throughout the country. The consolidation within villages led to ethnic groups being forced together.

The influence of the French within the Ivory Coast government  led to leaders who once had control of the Ivory Coast being taken out of power are  replaced with inadequate leaders chosen by the French. These leaders generally were inexperienced and led only in the interests of the French. This resulted in increased tensions between the French and the Ivory Coast population because they no longer were served by people who actually cared about them.This continued well into 1958, the French still administered the colony without any regards to the Ivory Coast. This ruling left little room for their voice to be heard.

Most of the population were considered subjects of France. In the eyes of the French, they thought the people who lived in this region had no political rights and did not deserve a stable system of law. This affected many citizens in a detrimental way. For example, many adult males were forced to work ten days for no pay each year, often on plantations owned by the French, as part of a tax obligation to the state. This did not just affect those living in the cities, rural males were routinely drafted to work, for no pay, on public works projects like roads and the railroad. Resistance against the French administration eventually developed into groups of strong opposition. Contrary to the previous times, the French were not able nor willing to crush opposition as in the past.

The opposition, which focused on the administration’s institutionalization of forced labor and its discrimination in favor of French planters, initially intended simply to change colonial policy rather than to achieve independence. Due to the significant impact the French Administration had on the Ivory Coast citizens, many were hostile to the administration. Almost every citizen were affected by at least one of these discriminatory practices. Ivorian planters, in particular, suffered from French discriminatory policies. An example of the discrimination against farmers can be seen when the French forbid planters from recruiting their own labor. The French would even go to the extent of  removing them from their own plantations to work for European enterprises. Farmers stood to benefit from the abolition of labor recruitment policies because they could finally compete with European companies again.

This led to the formation of an anti colonialist movement that in 1944 resulted in the birth of the African Agricultural Union and later of the Democratic Party of Cote d’Ivoire. Conclusion This investigation has sought to answer the question: To what extent did French Imperialism affect the Ivory Coast politically and culturally? The evidence and arguments have led me to the conclusion that the answer to this question is that the French affected the Ivory Coast politically to a large extent but did not significantly impact them culturally. After analyzing the events that occurred during French Imperialism and establishing how the Ivory Coast was before and after Imperialism it can be shown that French Imperialism had devastating effects on their culture and their politics. I believe that the French affected the Ivory Coast greater politically in comparison to their cultural changes. When the French took over, political systems shifted from being consisted of kingdoms into of the organized system that we usually associate with governments. By the time the Ivory Coast became independent again, the French would administer Côte d’Ivoire in a more direct, systematic style. French authorities routinely dismissed locally selected chiefs, and then replaced them with others that had only led in favor of the French. The French completely altered their government whereas in comparison to the culture of the Ivory Coast, it was affected very little.

Cultural traditions such as the festival of mask and the yam festival still continue to be held and connect them back to the time prior to colonization. Clothing such as the Kentes and Kitas are still significant in the Ivory Coast culture. This fabric can still be found worn by celebrities and is sometimes incorporated into bags, jewelry and shoes. The only cultural differences that occurred was the shift of religious beliefs. There was a big shift from traditional Ivorian beliefs to Christianity. This was due to the missionaries during the beginning of the French colonization.

This shift from traditional beliefs to religions such as Islam and Christianity can still be seen today. In 2014, a census reported that 40.2% of the population were Muslim, 20.4% were Catholic, 26.3% were Protestant and 14.2% identified as being a follower of another religion.

Nevertheless, my studies demonstrate that there are clear problems with reaching a final conclusion to the question because the question produced different answers depending on whom I was focusing on. When trying to analyze the cultural affects the French had, it is difficult to come to one conclusion because each ethnic group has evolved in their own way and it wasn’t all necessarily due to the French colonizing. Additionally, cultural shifts could also be due to the increase of immigrants in the recent decades.


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