While I understand that Paris and then most of France got swept up in revolutionary fervor. What happened in its far flung colonies, such as the Antilles, India, North America, Africa and even Polynesia? How did revolutionary France maintain these possessions from being snapped up by other powers that be, or simply them declaring independence, or maintaining their allegiance to the « Ancien Régime » ?

The specific time period I am interested in is that of 1791 to 1795.

  • well they sold there holdings in north america to the US, then Napoleon started a major European war, that kept all of Europe busy as well as i believe helped France to re-solidify their holdings else where.
    – Himarm
    Commented Feb 19, 2015 at 20:58
  • 1
    That is quite a few years after the french revolution, no? (I have edited the question to nail down the time frame I am interested in here). This also doesn't take into account the sentiment of the people in these colonies. I would expect the officers, administrators, governors, intendants, nobles and other upper crust elements to try and work against the new french government. Although, the average colonist and soldier might not feel that way.
    – BOB
    Commented Feb 19, 2015 at 21:04
  • the revolution is given a 10 year period, during which they actually had military campaigns outside of France, in which they added to their colonial holdings. so they weren't quite as helpless as they seemed.
    – Himarm
    Commented Feb 19, 2015 at 21:11
  • I have edited the question further to reflect the purview of my inquiry.
    – BOB
    Commented Feb 19, 2015 at 21:19
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    RUN, do not walk to Mike Duncan's Revolutions podcast for an excellent explanation of this complex situation.
    – MCW
    Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 12:22

1 Answer 1


From WIKI - Basically, the English took the good ones, and kept them from recapturing the ones riven by slave revolt (Haiti).

Some recovery of the French colonial empire was made during the French intervention in the American Revolution, with Saint Lucia being returned to France by the Treaty of Paris in 1783, but not nearly as much as had been hoped for at the time of French intervention. True disaster came to what remained of France's colonial empire in 1791 when Saint Domingue (the Western third of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola), France's richest and most important colony, was riven by a massive slave revolt, caused partly by the divisions among the island's elite, which had resulted from the French Revolution of 1789.

The slaves, led eventually by Toussaint Louverture and then, following his capture by the French in 1801, by Jean-Jacques Dessalines, held their own against French, Spanish, and British opponents, and ultimately achieved independence as Empire of Haiti in 1804 (Haiti became the first black republic in the world,[citation needed] much earlier than any of the future African nations although it was not until the 19th century that Europeans began establishing colonies in Africa).

In the meanwhile, the newly resumed war with Britain by the French, resulted in the British capture of practically all remaining French colonies. These were restored at the Treaty of Amiens in 1802, but when war resumed in 1803, the British soon recaptured them. France's repurchase of Louisiana in 1800 came to nothing, as the final success of the Haitian revolt convinced Napoleon that holding Louisiana would not be worth the cost, leading to its sale to the United States in 1803. The French attempt to establish a colony in Egypt in 1798–1801 was not successful.

  • so they lost most of the stuff in the 7 years war prior to the french revolution?
    – Himarm
    Commented Feb 20, 2015 at 14:27
  • They lost the North American holdings then..and I think their holdings in India as well. They got a few things back after the American War of Independence.
    – Oldcat
    Commented Feb 20, 2015 at 18:47

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