The effect of warfare on welfare state development in Western democracies has been a matter of growing interest among scholars. The question of how mass warfare influenced social reforms in former colonies on the other hand, has been completely neglected. This is astounding, considering the fact that most European colonial powers relied on colonial troops to maintain the colonial order, to conquer new territories, and to repress struggles for independence and colonial revolts. This contribution addresses the role of the military, warfare, and conscription for the provision of social protection in former French African colonies, particularly in French West Africa from the beginning of the 20th century until shortly after World War II. French African colonies are most likely cases to exhibit such an effect, as no other imperial power militarized its colonial societies to the extent France did. The results show that World War I and the introduction of mass conscription did not lead to any systematic handling of social issues in French West Africa. However, the militarization and the experience of the First World War formed soldiers and veterans as a societal group that started to demand social rights. This development paved the way for later social changes and major reforms in the course of World War II such as the introduction of uniform pensions for soldiers throughout the Empire and the expansion of education and health services.
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