Colonial School, Paris

The Colonial School (French: École coloniale, also known colloquially as la Colo) was a French public higher education institution or grande école, created in Paris in 1889 to provide training for public servants and administrators of the French colonial empire. It also was a center for research in geography, anthropology, ethnology and other scientific endeavors with a focus on French-administered territories.[1]

Façade of the Colonial School building on avenue de l'Observatoire in Paris

As France's overseas possessions changed and shrank, the school was restructured and renamed on several occasions: in 1934 as École nationale de la France d'outre-mer (ENFOM, "National School of Overseas France"), in 1959 as Institut des hautes études d'Outre-Mer (IHEOM, "Institute of Higher Overseas Studies"), and in 1966 as Institut international d’administration publique (IIAP, "International Institute of Public Administration"). It had students from both Metropolitan France and its overseas possessions and colonies. Its latest incarnation, the IIAP, was sometimes referred to as "the foreigners' ENA" with reference to France's École nationale d'administration,[2] and was eventually merged into ENA in 2002.


Auguste Pavie (third from left, standing) and Pierre Lefèvre-Pontalis in 1893 with Cambodian interpreters trained at the École coloniale.

In 1885, explorer and administrator Auguste Pavie created a training program for native employees of the telegraph service in French Cambodia, which took the name of mission cambodgienne ("Cambodian mission"). This was succeeded in 1889 by the Colonial School as a fully-fledged establishment for the professional education of colonial services staff. Its creation, supported by State Councillor Paul Dislère [fr], was the first successful effort to create a permanent establishment specifically for the training of French civil servants, thus prefiguring both ENA and the French National School for the Judiciary.[3]: 273 

African students were admitted from 1892 alongside the Cambodian class, and soon later, students from Metropolitan France as well.[3]

In 1927, classes préparatoires were created at both Lycée Louis-le-Grand and Lycée Henri-IV to prepare future students of the Colonial School, and the latter's training was made free of charge in 1931.


The school's building in Paris, on 2 avenue de l'Observatoire near the Jardin du Luxembourg, was designed by architect Maurice Yvon [de] and built from 1895 to 1911.[4] The Colonial School moved there in 1896 after having been located during its first few years on rue Jacob.[3]: 272 

It is a prime exemplar of French colonial Moorish Revival architecture, with inspiration principally from Moroccan architecture, and used to be known colloquially as the "old mosque" since it predated the Grand Mosque of Paris, built in a similar style.[3]: 272  Its decorative features include works by painters Charles Lameire [fr], Gabriel-Charles Deneux [fr] and Claude Bourgonnier [fr], and by ceramic artist Jules Paul Loebnitz [fr].[5][6]

The building was successively the seat of ENFOM, IHEOM, and IIAP including after the latter's absorption by ENA in 2002. Some of the building's decoration evoking colonial glories was deemed inappropriate and removed in the 1970s.[2]

In 2007, Sciences Po acquired ENA's Parisian campus on the rue de l'Université, and ENA made the Colonial School building its sole Parisian location at the end of that year. On 1 January 2022, ENA was in turn replaced by the Institut national du service public, which kept the Colonial School building as its Paris campus.


Etienne Aymonier, first director of the Colonial School


  • 1889–1905: Etienne Aymonier
  • 1905-1917: Maurice Doubrère
  • 1918-1926: Max Outrey
  • 1926-1933: Georges Hardy
  • 1933-1937: Henri Gourdon
  • 1937–1946: Robert Delavignette
  • 1946-1950: Paul Mus
  • 1950-1959: Paul Bouteille
  • 1959–1964: François Luchaire
  • 1965-1974: Jean Baillou
  • 1974-1982: Henri Roson
  • 1982-1985: Gaston Olive
  • 1985-1993: Jean-Pierre Puissochet
  • 1993: Michel Franc
  • 1993-2001: Didier Maus

Selected facultyEdit

Léopold Sédar Senghor taught at ENFOM, then IHEOM from 1945 to 1960

Selected alumniEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Norbert Dodille. "L'école coloniale". Université de la Réunion.
  2. ^ a b Nidam Abdi (22 March 1997). "L'Ecole des colonies, fantasme d'architecture. Il y a un siècle, la France coloniale bâtissait une folie néomauresque, rue de l'Observatoire à Paris". Libération.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Armelle Enders (1993), "L'école nationale de la France d'Outre-mer et la formation des administrateurs coloniaux", Revue d'Histoire Moderne & Contemporaine, 40–2: 272–288
  4. ^ "Ecole Nationale d'Administration Publique - Paris 6e". Paris 1900.
  5. ^ "Ancienne école coloniale". Pariscosmop. 29 May 2021.
  6. ^ "Esquisse du plafond de l'Ecole coloniale". Musée d'Orsay.
  7. ^ Louis Vignon (1919), Un programme politique coloniale. Les questions indigènes, Paris: Plon
  8. ^ Bernard Le Calloc'h; Gyula Batâri (1992), "Un bibliothécaire original : Alexandre Csoma de Kôrôs", Revue française d'histoire d'outre-mer, 79:296 (296): 341–365, doi:10.3406/outre.1992.3018
  9. ^ a b Charles-Robert Ageron (1990), "Les colonies devant l'opinion publique française (1919-1939)", Revue française d'histoire d'outre-mer, 77:286 (286): 31–73, doi:10.3406/outre.1990.2759
  10. ^ Thomas Deltombe, Manuel Domergue, Jacob Tatsitsa, François Gèze, Ambroise Kom, Achille Mbembe et Odile Tobner (4 October 2011). "La guerre coloniale du Cameroun a bien eu lieu". Le Monde. Retrieved 6 October 2011.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)

Coordinates: 48°50′38″N 2°20′11″E / 48.84389°N 2.33639°E / 48.84389; 2.33639