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Margaret Andersen

Associate Professor


I am a scholar of Modern France and Empire, with areas of focus in family policy, pronatalism, migration, and settler colonialism. My first book examines the ways in which France’s position as an imperial power shaped debates about the French birthrate during the Third Republic (1870-1940). Reacting to demographic studies demonstrating the steady decline in the French birthrate over the course of the nineteenth century, concerned citizens feared that France was headed towards depopulation. Pronatalism, as this political movement came to be known, focused on identifying solutions to this crisis. My book demonstrates that pronatalists believed that it was not enough to encourage French population growth solely within France’s borders; true demographic prowess entailed extensive settlement of the colonies and financial support for French families, both in France and the empire. Viewing the empire as critical to their nation’s regeneration, pronatalists looked to the colonies for solutions as they studied comparatively high birthrates among French colonial settlers, studied population policies introduced in Madagascar, and drew inspiration from the introduction of the family vote in Morocco and Tunisia. My research for this project was funded by the Council for European Studies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the University of Iowa, and the University of Tennessee.

My current research centers on the development of family policy, with its strong emphasis on the social and national importance of motherhood, in France and North Africa from 1939 to 1965. I examine the fluctuating meanings attached to motherhood by situating family policy squarely within the larger context of French imperialism and France’s transition to a post-colonial state. Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia each developed a distinct family policy during the Second World War that in turn shaped France’s approach to promoting demographic growth and dispensing family benefits. Following the Second World War, France experienced considerable immigration from North Africa. Given the shared histories of France and North Africa, I argue that understanding French family policy and social welfare during this period requires examining how race and immigration changed the demographic debate and shaped the approach the state took to promoting motherhood and a more robust birthrate.

In addition to teaching the second half of the Western Civilization Survey, I teach a variety of upper division courses on Modern Europe, Modern France, the French and Russian Revolutions, the Algerian Revolution, and European Imperialism.


MA & Ph.D. University of Iowa, 2009

BA, Occidental College

Selected Publications

Regeneration through Empire: French Pronatalists and Colonial Settlement in the Third Republic (University of Nebraska Press, 2015)

“The Office de la Famille Française: Familialism and the National Revolution in 1940s Morocco” French Politics, Culture, and Society Vol. 34, Issue 3 (Winter 2016)

“French Settlers, Familial Suffrage, and Citizenship in 1920s Tunisia” Journal of Family History 37, no. 2 (April 2012): 213-31.

“Creating French Settlements Overseas: Colonial Medicine and Familial Reform in Madagascar” French Historical Studies 33, no. 3 (Summer 2010): 417-44.

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