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Electric News in Colonial Algeria$
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Arthur Asseraf

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780198844044

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198844044.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 07 December 2021



Real Histories, False News, and Songs in 1914

(p.100) 3 Wartime
Electric News in Colonial Algeria

Arthur Asseraf

Oxford University Press

Did people in a colonial society live at the same time? This chapter tests this by looking at different forms of news that circulated around a single event: the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. Prophetic manuscripts, rumours, and songs emplotted the same events within different temporalities. A historical manuscript connected to an insurrection in western Algeria used the beginning of war to promise the end of French rule. By contrast, the French administration dismissed this as ‘false news’, using a different historicity that saw rumours as the remains of an archaic past. French historians like the medievalist Marc Bloch who was in Algeria during the war were key to this diagnosis of ‘false news’ that ignored most Algerians’ understanding of the world. Yet certain forms of news could move across communities, in particular the song of Hajj Guillaume, a popular tune that acted like a sung newspaper.

Keywords:   First World War, Algeria, fake news, Marc Bloch, Abu Ras, rumour, song, manuscript, historiography, Mascara

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