The Conquest of the Sahara A History

Douglas Porch

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Trade Paperback

352 Pages



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In The Conquest of the Sahara, Douglas Porch tells the story of France's struggle to explore and dominate the great African desert at the turn of the century. Focusing on the conquest of the Ahaggar Tuareg, Porch describes the exploits—by turns fantastic, heroic, and bizarre—of the desert's explorers and conquerors and the incompetence of the French military establishment. Porch summons up a world of oases, trackless sands, bleak and inaccessible mountain ranges, desert forts, camels, and Arab cafés where customers paid the dancer by licking a one-franc piece and sticking it on her forehead.

The Conquest of the Sahara weaves a rich tale of extravagant hopes, genius, and foolhardiness as France's "civilizing mission" rolls through this vast, empty, and magnificent landscape.


Praise for The Conquest of the Sahara

"Everything a book should be—an adornment for your home, a blitz of information for your brain, a diversion, a hoot, and, finally, a balm of your soul."—Los Angeles Times

"A bravura account . . . Readers with a taste for exotic popular history will savor Porch's wry sense of irony."—Newsweek

"In this admirable book, Douglas Porch sets the record straight."—The Washington Post Book World

"[Porch is] a fine writer with a dramatic style . . . [He] has done a superb job."—The Boston Globe

"[Porch] presents a vivid blow-by-blow account of how this arid, inhospitable land was penetrated at a terrible cost."—San Francisco Chronicle

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The Conquest of the Sahara

In the center of an earth which cartographers like to depict in blues and greens lies a substantial area of khaki that stares like an eye out of the globe. Even here in this...

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  • Douglas Porch

  • Douglas Porch is a military historian and the author of many works of military history, including The Conquest of Morocco, The French Foreign Legion, The French Secret Services: From the Dreyfus Affair to the Gulf War, and The Path to Victory: The Mediterranean Theater in World War II. He is a professor of national security affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.