Margaret Andersen, assistant professor of history, recently published her first book, Regeneration through Empire: French Pronatalists and Colonial Settlement in the Third Republic, 1870-1940, with the University of Nebraska Press. The book examines the ways in which France’s position as an imperial power shaped debates about the French birthrate during the Third Republic (1870-1940). Reacting to demographic studies demonstrating the steady decline in the French birthrate over the course of the nineteenth century, concerned citizens feared that France was headed towards depopulation. Pronatalism, as this political movement came to be known, focused on identifying solutions to this crisis. This book demonstrates that pronatalists believed that it was not enough to encourage French population growth solely within France’s borders; true demographic prowess entailed extensive settlement of the colonies and financial support for French families, both in France and the empire. Viewing the empire as critical to their nation’s regeneration, pronatalists looked to the colonies for solutions as they documented comparatively high birthrates among French colonial settlers, studied population policies introduced in Madagascar, and drew inspiration from the introduction of the family vote in Morocco and Tunisia.
Andersen joined the UT faculty in 2009 after earning her doctorate at the University of Iowa. Andersen’s work has also appeared in The Journal of Family History and French Historical Studies. Her current research focuses on the establishment of a wide range of family benefits and social welfare services in colonial Morocco during the Second World War.