chapter  1
39 Pages

France and its Overseas Empire

What interests us about that quest is the relationship which existed between France's problems within the European power-balance system and its pretension for world power through the building of an overseas empire. Why did France indulge itself in the expansion of its territorial gains overseas? Given the post-1871 revisionist spirit on the one hand, and the realization of France's lack of an independent offensive option due to its military inferiority vis-ä-vis Germany on the other hand, was it not unwise to invest precious national resources outre-mer rather than concentrate on the European arena? Were the advocates of colonialism guilty of distracting their country from its real problems by offering France 'twenty domestic servants' for the 'two children', Alsace and Lorraine, it had lost?2 Or were they proposing to their nation a way out of its political isolation and a means to enhance its power in the preparation for the next round?