Colonial Transatlantiques: The French Line in Algeria, 1880-1940

  • John H. Perry The Ohio State University


France’s largest and most prestigious company, the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique—known colloquially as the French Line—is best-known for its North Atlantic ocean liners. However, after 1880, it added the Mediterranean to its sphere of operations connecting Marseille with Algeria—the jewel in the crown of the French empire. The French Line’s move into colonial waters at first glance seems a strange move given its sphere of operations on the North Atlantic. However, the company founders, the Pereire brothers, and succeeding presidents that hailed from Marseille were deeply interested in Algeria as a market from the company’s founding and it formed a significant sphere of operations within the French Line and an important institution of colonial Algeria. This article brings to light the hidden colonial history of the French Line and its experience as a servant and shaper of empire.