Real Histories, False News, and Songs in 1914
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.
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