A Chronology of the Algerian War of Independence

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May 8, 1945. While France celebrates VE Day, Muslim protesters in Sétif organize to demand Algerian independence. What begins as a march becomes a massacre: the protesters murder more than 100 European settlers, or pieds-noirs, and French armed forces retaliate by killing (according to various estimates) between 1,000 and 45,000 Muslims.

November 1, 1954. Emboldened by the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu, the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN) launches armed revolts throughout Algeria and issues a proclamation calling for a sovereign Algerian state. The French are unimpressed but deploy troops to monitor the situation.

August 1955. The FLN begins targeting civilians, inciting a mob that kills more than 120 people in Philippeville. Between 1,200 and 12,000 Muslims are killed in retaliation by French troops and by pied-noir “vigilante committees.” Jacques Soustelle, then governor-general of French Algeria, resolves not to compromise with the revolutionaries.

September 30, 1956. The FLN attempts to draw international attention to the conflict by targeting urban areas. The Battle of Algiers begins when three women plant bombs in public venues. Algiers erupts into violence.

May 1958. A mob of pieds-noirs, angered by the French government’s failure to suppress the revolution, storms the offices of the governor-general in Algiers. With the support of French army officers, they clamor for Charles de Gaulle to be installed as the leader of France. The French National Assembly approves. De Gaulle is greeted in Algeria by Muslims and Europeans alike.

September 1959. Increasingly convinced that French control of Algeria is untenable, de Gaulle pronounces that “self-determination” is necessary for Algeria. Pied-noir extremists are aghast. The FLN is wary of de Gaulle’s declaration.

April 1961. A few prominent generals in the French army in Algeria, clinging to a hope of preserving Algérie française, attempt to overthrow de Gaulle. This “generals’ putsch” is unsuccessful.

May 1961. The first round of negotiations between the French government and the FLN commences in Evian, but is not productive.

March 1962. After a second round of negotiations in Evian, the French government declares a cease-fire.

March–June 1962. Despairing pieds-noirs in the Organisation de l’Armée Secrète (OAS) mount terrorist attacks against civilians (Muslim and French). The FLN and the OAS ultimately conclude a truce.

July 1, 1962. A referendum is held in Algeria to approve the Evian Agreements, which call for an Algérie algérienne. Six million Algerians cast their ballots for independence.

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Christopher Hitchens was an Atlantic contributing editor and a Vanity Fair columnist. More

Christopher HitchensFor nearly a dozen years, Christopher Hitchens contributed an essay on books each month to The Atlantic. He was the author of more than ten books, including A Long Short War: The Postponed Liberation of Iraq (2003), Why Orwell Matters (2002), God Is Not Great (2007), and Hitch-22 (2009). He was a contributing editor to Vanity Fair, and wrote prolifically for American and English periodicals, including The Nation, The London Review of Books, Granta, Harper's, The Los Angeles Times Book Review, New Left Review, Slate, The New York Review of Books, Newsweek International, The Times Literary Supplement, and The Washington Post. He was also a regular television and radio commentator.

Hitchens began his career in England, in the 1970s, as a writer for the New Statesman and the Evening Standard. From 1977 to 1979 he worked for London's Daily Express as a foreign correspondent and then returned to the New Statesman as foreign editor, where he worked from 1979 to 1981. Hitchens has also served as the Washington editor for Harper's and as the U.S. correspondent for The Spectator and The Times Literary Supplement. From 1986 to 1992 he was the book critic at New York Newsday. He also taught as a visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley; the University of Pittsburgh; and the New School of Social Research.

Born in 1949 in Portsmouth, England, Hitchens received a degree in philosophy, politics, and economics from Balliol College, Oxford, in 1970.

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