The story of the Paris Communards and Algerian rebels deported to New Caledonia


The French overseas territory of New Caledonia will hold a referendum on November 4th to decide whether the South Pacific archipelago should opt for self-rule. It comes after a 30-year political process to ease continuing high tensions between pro-independence militants from the indigenous Kanak population and the community of ethnic Europeans. The territory has a chequered and often violent history since it became a French possession in 1853, which Mediapart is charting this summer in a series of articles which examine the construction of what was a most singular colonial project. Here, Lucie Delaporte returns to the story of how the defeated militants of the 1871 Paris Commune were deported to New Caledonia alongside Algerian tribesmen who led one of the first major revolts against French rule in Algeria.

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During seven days beginning on May 21st 1871, the Paris Commune, the revolutionary regime which had managed the French capital in an insurrection since March 18th that year, was put down in a massacre that became known as “the Bloody Week”.