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View series: Europe's colonial expansion, 1820-1939

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Algeria: Colonization and Settlement

This map is part of a series of 19 animated maps showing the history of Europe's colonial expansion, 1820-1939.

In 1830, most native Algerian Muslims lived in rural villages and cultivated large expanses of land held under a regime of traditional tribal holdings.

The population was now about 3 million people, though dropped to just over 2 million in 1872, due to famine and violence during the decades of war. However, the population rose again to 4 million by 1901 and to more than 6 million by 1936.

Reduced to poverty and pushed off their lands by confiscation and settlement, the growing population gradually became employed as farm labourers or moved to the high plains or the cities. After the Great War, many men migrated to France.

The creation of hundreds of villages, the redistribution of confiscated lands transformed Algeria. The European character of the population was reinforced by the arrival of large groups of immigrants from Spain, Italy, Malta, Switzerland and Germany.

In 1872, there were 280,000 European inhabitants. This figure was doubled by 1900 and rose to nearly 1 million by the late 1930s. Three-quarters of the European population lived in the cities and the majority, as a result of the Naturalization Law of 1889, was now French.

Colonial economic interests triumphed under the Third Republic and 7,4 million acres were in European hands by the time the Second World War broke out.