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Conclusion: “Là où nous passons, tout tombe”

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Chapter Summary

The French produced two unconvincing alibis for the state of the monuments in late 19th century Algeria and Tunisia. One was the destruction wrought by the Byzantines in response to the Vandals, although it was clear that their rebuildings preserved elements of many buildings. The other was the Arabs, although anyone could observe that their buildings consumed few antiquities. The new Vandals were the French: "Là où nofus passons, tout tombe", as De Montagnac wrote in 1885. Certainly, the mission civilisatrice frequently included not only demolition of buildings but also complete obliteration of antiquities. As the plentiful documentation illustrating this account has shown, contemporaries knew full well the levels of destruction they were causing in North Africa. Only a few scholars tried to mitigate or halt it, for central government and local administrations permitted or even encouraged destruction, as a way of simplifying colony-building and of keeping down infrastructure costs.

Keywords: Algeria; Byzantines; De Montagnac; Tunisia; Vandals



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