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European expansion began in the early modern period, but in the 18th century Europeans were still far from establishing their rule in Africa or Asia. Many attempts at expansion failed miserably. Nevertheless, the belief in European supremacy and civilizing charisma was consolidated. This study examines the reasons for these unrealistic plans and shows how a gap developed between imperial aspirations and the reality of intercultural encounters. Using the history of French attempts at expansion in Madagascar as an example, it analyses the unfolding of colonial fantasy, the production of bureaucratic knowledge and the role of the Enlightenment in the development of colonialism.
Damien Tricoire, Martin-Luther-Universität, Halle-Wittenberg.
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