Men-At-Arms Series: French Naval & Colonial Troops 1872-1914

Published: February 2nd, 2019     
Product Image
Author: René Chartrand; Illustrator: Mark Stacey
Reviewed by: 
Gino Dykstra, IPMS# 11198
Company: Osprey Publishing
ISBN #: 978-1-4728-2619-0
E-Book ISBN #: 9781472826183
Other Publication Information: Softbound, 48 Pages
Price: $18.00
Product / Stock #: MAA 517

The world's perceptions concerning nationalistic colonialism have virtually reversed over the course of the last century, and the impact of such behavior and its aftermath by mostly European nations on less-developed areas of the world is still being debated today. That being said, for the figure modeler this era in human history is a goldmine of really interesting military uniforms, not least because so many of them combine European and local costumes in truly unique ways.

As far as global colonial powers during the 19th century go, France was certainly in the top three, having footholds throughout most of northern Africa as well as IndoChina and elsewhere. They incorporated large numbers of natives to help keep order in these regions, and in the process created some of these fascinating hybrids of dress. I can't think of any other colonial power of the period who embraced this idea quite so enthusiastically, although perhaps the British are a close second.

In any case, this new publication by Osprey examines this process in some detail, laying out the background to France's colonial ambitions, as well as detailing the seemingly endless campaigns and skirmishes that their troops were involved in during the period. It then discusses various French and indigenous units, their uniforms and campaigns as well as a few interesting historical tidbits about the more notable of them. A generous number of period illustrations are included that help give you a feel for how the people of time perceived these various foreign warriors and their campaigns.

Of course, as with most Osprey publications, it's the color plates that make this book shine, rendered by Mark Stacey with a beautiful fidelity. There is so much to see here that it can render the figure modeler (or at least me) speechless. You find your mind going into overdrive pondering how you might convert certain commercial figures to represent some of these really colorful uniforms into three dimensions. This is one book I really hope the better sculptors out there might take under their wings and do the job for us.

If you have any interest in the colonial period of history, or just like flamboyant uniforms, you will find this to be a really fine study of a turbulent time in world history. France's attempts to create its own global empire didn't last particularly long (as such endeavors go) but in the process it left behind a legacy of pomp and circumstance that has to be admired just for its own sake. This book does an excellent job of illuminating one small corner of that legacy.

My thanks to Osprey Publishing for releasing this fascinating document, and to IPMS/USA for the chance to read it. Good stuff!

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