Remembering Empire: Learners of Advanced Higher French


Materials for the Portfolio

Remembering Empire is designed to support learners through the Portfolio element of Advanced Higher French, using the case-study of the French empire in Algeria. It includes everything that you need: historical background, two literary sources, and step-by-step analysis of the texts.

There are two sections to the materials. The first section introduces you to different approaches to remembering empire and how these shape the world today. It uses videos, readings and quizzes to understand France’s colonisation of Algeria and how it continues to shape French society today.

In the second section we apply this knowledge to study a short French play, called Les Pieds Tanqués, about four characters who come together to play a game of pétanque. They all come from different backgrounds but in the course of the game the conversation turns to the past and to their memories of Algeria’s war of independence. Through comedy and drama the play explores the lasting influence of the past on the present.

Remembering Empire Section 1: France’s empire in Algeria

Session 1: Approaches to Remembering the Past

In this session we think about how we remember the past and think about two different models of memory.

Session 1 presentation
Pioneers fig 3_square

Session 2: Settling Algeria from 1830

This session looks at the conquest of Algeria, the Europeans who settled there, and the effects on Algeria’s indigenous peoples.

Session 2 presentation
Petit colon AH fig 3_edit

Session 3: Colonial Society

In this session we look at the ideas that held colonial society together, and the inequalities that tore it apart.

Session 3 presentation
Appelé AH fig 4_edit

Session 4: The Algerian War of Independence

This session looks at the war that led to Algeria’s independence and forced a million French settlers to leave their homes.

Session 4 presentation

Session 5: Repatriation and Exile

In this final session we examine the experience of exile and how it has been remembered.

Session 5 presentation

The history of the pieds-noirs is a story of migration from Europe to Algeria and then to France and beyond. Listen to Marion Geoffrey tell of how her family left France to settle in Algeria, and how she came to live in Scotland today. The video has French subtitles.

Interview with Marion Geoffray

To hear more about life in colonial Algeria, listen to Michel Geoffray’s memories of his childhood. The video has French subtitles.

Interview with Pied-noir Michel Geoffray

The pied-noir community had a distinctive accent and dialect called pataouète. You can hear Michel Geoffray reading a short extract in a pied-noir accent in this short video.

Le Cid en pied-noir

Remembering Empire Section 2: Les Pieds Tanqués


On the quintessentially French terrain of a boulodrome, four men meet to play a game of pétanque. As the game progresses, the conversation turns to the past, and to memories of the Algerian War of Independence. Each of the men has a different experience of that event, reflecting the different sides caught up in the war. Their exchanges – sometimes revelatory, often lighthearted – reveal the traces of the past that shape what it means to be French today.

There is a range of materials to help you with your portfolio:

  1. Les Pieds Tanqués electronic text

    This text of the play is interactive, with underlined phrases that expand to give explanatory notes.

  2. Les Pieds Tanqués printable text

    This is the same text of the play, as a PDF that you can print and write notes on it.

  3. Introduction to Les Pieds Tanqués

    Here you can find a summary of the history between France and Algeria, from the conquest to the present day. It presents background to the issues that feature in the play.

  4. Interview with Philippe Chuyen, author of Les Pieds Tanqués

    For your Portfolio you study two texts. The play is the first text, and this short interview is the second. In it, Philippe Chuyen talks briefly about some of the key themes in the play.

  5. A performance of the play

    You can watch a performance of the play, performed in Avignon in 2018. The actors’ physical portrayal of their roles helps us to understand the relationships between the characters, as does the audience’s reactions. Philippe Chuyen, the playwright, plays the role of Monsieur Blanc.

  6. Reading guide and Character profiles

    As you read the play it is important that you take notes to record what happens, highlight important moments and identify key quotes. To help with this you will find a reading guide called a ‘Fiche de lecture’ and profiles of each of the characters for you to complete. Add to these documents as you progress through the play and by the end you will have a useful record of the play’s key points.

Reading a text in French can be daunting, so we have divided the play into six sessions and provided presentations that will take you through each stage of it. By the end you will have finished the play and will be able to prepare a sample essay question.

Session 6

In this session we look at the opening of the play, its setting on a pétanque court and examine the differences between M. Blanc and the other characters, Loule, Zé and Yaya.

Session 6 presentation

Session 7

In this session memories of Algeria emerge. We hear about Loule and M. Blanc’s fathers.

Session 7 presentation

Session 8

In this session we hear more about Zé’s pied-noir experience, and Loule’s life growing up in Provence.

Session 8 presentation

Session 9

This session explores the conflicting memories within communities and consider the effects produced by immigration.

Session 9 presentation

Session 10

In this session we explore the play’s ending. Don’t forget to complete your Reading guide (Fiche de lecture) and Character profiles!

Session 10 presentation

Session 11

This session includes drama activities to allow you to explore the characters and themes in more depth.

Session 11 presentation

Session 12

This session analyses the interview with Philippe Chuyen and goes through the steps of planning an essay in response to an example essay question.

Session 12 presentation

You can access a completed copy of the Reading guide (Fiche de lecture) and Character profiles to help you, and also look at an annotated copy of the interview with Philippe Chuyen.

Session 12 Completed Fiche de lecture and character profiles
Session 12 Annotated Philippe Chuyen interview

Permissions and referencing

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Produced in collaboration with SCILT, Scotland's National Centre for Languages.

Les Pieds Tanqués play and interview referencing:

Full publication details for the play and the interview should be included in your Portfolio essay. They should be set out in this way:

Chuyen, Philippe. (2012) Les Pieds Tanqués. Le Revest-les-Eaux: Les Cahiers de l'Egaré. Available: [Accessed: give the date when you accessed it, e.g. 1 November 2023]

Chuyen, Philippe. (2022) Interview with Philippe Chuyen, author of Les Pieds Tanqués. Interviewed by Fiona Barclay. Narratives and Representations of the French Settlers of Algeria, 15 August. Available: [Accessed: give the date when you accessed it].

Video Permissions:

The videos in this course include extracts reproduced with the kind permission of the Institut national de l'audiovisuel (INA). For details, see below.

Extracts reproduced with the kind permission of the Institut national de l'audiovisuel (INA):

FR3: Propos d'E. Macron sur la colonisation (16/02/2017)

AF: Centenaire de la mort de l'Emir Abd El Kader (20/10/1949)

AF: Recolte du coton en Algérie (16/10/1942)

AF: La fin de la conférence d'Evian (21/03/1962)

AF: D'Oran à Alger: l'Algérie à l'heure du référendum (04/07/1962)

AF: Le gouverneur Chataigneur visite la Légion Etrangère (23/03/1945)

FR3: Torture Algérie (23/11/2000)

RTF: Les harkis du sud Oranais (31/10/1955)

FR3: Meeting Emmanuel Macron sécurité + pieds noirs (19/02/2017)

RTF: Round up (15/07/1962)

RTF: Transit des harkis à Marseille (23/06/1962)

AF: C'est un village d'Algérie... (01/01/1949)

AF: Du blé pour l'Algérie (29/06/1945)

RTF: Boulin visite un centre de rapatriés (17/07/1962)

RTF: Réfugiés d'Oran (2/08/1962)

FR3: Nîmes: Pélerinage traditionel des Pieds Noirs à Notre Dame de Santa Cruz (21/05/1982).