Imperial Interdependence on Indochina’s Maritime Periphery: France and Coal in Ceylon, Singapore, and Hong Kong, 1859–1895

  • James R. Fichter
Part of the Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies Series book series (CIPCSS)


The maritime periphery of French Indochina needed British coal and ports. The French navy and the Messageries Maritimes coaled in Singapore, Hong Kong, Ceylon, and Aden, relying on Britain’s carbon empire for fuel (the coal came from Britain or Australia) and fueling stations east of Suez. Coaling in these ports was vital to French shipping routes, packet services, naval vessels, and troop transports traveling between France and Indochina and carrying Indochinese exports to market. This had significant geopolitical consequences. Britain closed its ports (and the bought-and-paid-for French coal in them) to French naval use in the Franco-Prussian War (1870–1871) and the Sino-French War (1885). Escaping the British carbon system was an important motive in the French conquest of Tonkin (1885), known for coal. But exploiting the Hongay mines did not make Indochina carbon independent. Instead Indochina developed a new interdependency within an international carbon market that drew Vietnamese coal to Hong Kong—redefining, but not severing the Anglo-French relationship.


Unpublished Primary Sources

  1. Archives Nationales d’Outre Mer., Aix-en-Provence, France. Archives Centrales de l’Indochine. Gouvernement Général de l’Indochine.Google Scholar

National Archives, Kew, Britain

  1. ADM 12/850 51Google Scholar
  2. ADM 12/873 51Google Scholar

Published Primary Sources

    Department of National Archives. Colombo, Sri Lanka

    1. Ceylon, The Ceylon Blue Book (Colombo: Government Printer, 1850–1895).Google Scholar

    The National Archives of Singapore

    1. Straits Settlements, Blue Book (Government Printing Office, Singapore, 1870–1909)Google Scholar

    University of Hong Kong Library

    1. China, China, the Maritime Customs: Decennial Report, 1882–1891. (Shanghai. Inspectorate General of Customs. Republished by Association of Research Libraries, Center for Chinese Research Materials, 1969) microform.Google Scholar
    2. ———. Trade Statistics of the Treaty Ports, for the Period 1863–1872. (Also known as Ten Years’ Statistics, 1863–1872.) (Shanghai. Inspectorate General of Customs, 1873).Google Scholar
    3. Hong Kong. Blue Book. (Hong Kong Government Printer, 1844–1859) Also sometimes cited as National Archives, Kew, Britain. CO 133/1-16.Google Scholar

    Bibliothèque Nationale de France

    1. Chambre de Commerce (Saigon). Bulletin de la Chambre de commerce de Saïgon (Saigon, 1881).Google Scholar
    2. Chambre de Commerce (Saigon). Statistiques Commerciales de la Cochinchine Française, 1879. (Saigon: Imprimerie et Librarie de A. Nicolier, 1880).Google Scholar
    3. ——— (Saigon). Situation Commerciale. Statistiques Importations et Exportations. (Saigon, 1897), published in Cochinchine, État de la Cochinchine en 1895 (Saigon, Imprimerie Commerciale Rey, 1898).Google Scholar
    4. Chambre de Commerce (Saigon). Compte Rendu des Travaux de la Chambre depuis sa Création. Situation Commerciale Pendant l’Année 1879 (Saigon, 1880).Google Scholar
    5. Cochinchine. État de la Cochinchine pendant l’année 1878–1885, 1890, 1894–1895, 1900, 1901 (Saigon).Google Scholar
    6. Indochine Française, Administration des Douanes et Régis. Rapport sur les Statistiques des Douanes pour 1888–1895. (Saigon).Google Scholar
    7. ———. Bulletin économique de l’Indo-Chine 39 (Sept 1901).Google Scholar

Secondary Sources

  1. Berneron-Couvenhes, Marie-François. 2007. Les Messageries Maritimes. L’essor d’une grande compagnie de navigation française, 1851–1894. Paris: PUPS, DL.Google Scholar
  2. Black, Brian C. 2012. Crude Reality: Petroleum in World History. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  3. Blondel, Fernand, et al. 1934. Les Ressources minérales de la France d’outre-Mer I. Paris: Société d’éditions géographiques, maritimes et colonials.Google Scholar
  4. Bois, Paul. 1991. Le Grand Siècle Des Messageries Maritimes. Marseille: Chambre de Commerce et d’Industrie Marseille-Provence.Google Scholar
  5. Brenier, Henri. 1914. Gouvernement Général de l’Indochine. In Essai d’Atlas Statistique de l’Indochine Française. Hanoi/Haiphong: Imprinerie d’Extrême-Orient.Google Scholar
  6. Brocheux, Pierre. 2009. Une histoire économique du Viet Nam 1850–2007. Paris: les Indes savants.Google Scholar
  7. Brocheux, Pierre, and Daniel Hémery. 2009. Indochina: An Ambiguous Colonization, 1858–1954. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  8. Carlson, Ellsworth C. 1971. The Kaiping Mines, 1887–1912. Cambridge: Harvard East Asian Monographs.Google Scholar
  9. Cordemoy, Pierre. 1933. Les Anthracites Français du Tonkin. Paris: Agence Économique de l’Indochine.Google Scholar
  10. Denis, Etienne. 1965. Bordeaux et la Cochinchine sous la Restauration et le Second Empire. Bordeaux: Delmas.Google Scholar
  11. Eastman, L. 1967. Throne and Mandarins: China’s Search for a Policy During the Sino-French Controversy. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Fichter, James R. 2012. British Infrastructure and French Empire: Anglo-French Steam Interdependency in Asian Waters, c. 1852–1870. Britain and the World 5 (2): 183–203.Google Scholar
  13. Friederich, Mike C., and Theo van Leeuwen. 2017. A Review of the History of Coal Exploration, Discovery and Production in Indonesia: The Interplay of Legal Framework, Coal Geology and Exploration Strategy. International Journal of Coal Geology 178: 56–73.Google Scholar
  14. Garnot, Eugène Germain. 1894. L’expédition française de Formose, 1884–1885. Paris: Librairie C. Delagrave.Google Scholar
  15. Gougal to Foreign Ministry, 28 Oct 1922. French Foreign Ministry, la Courneuve, Affaires politiques, Série E, Possessions Britanniques.
  16. Holdsworth, May, and Christopher Munn, eds. 2012. Dictionary of Hong Kong Biography. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Loir, M. 1886. L’escadre de l’amiral Courbet. Paris.Google Scholar
  18. Pollacchi, P., ed. 1929. Atlas Colonial Français. Colonies, Protectorats et Pays Sous Mandat. Paris: L’Illustration.Google Scholar
  19. Postel, Raoul. 1874. De Marseille à Saïgon: Notes et journal de voyage. Caen: Imprimerie de F. le Blanc-Hardel.Google Scholar
  20. Stoeker, Helmut. 1958. Deutschland und China im 19. Jahrhundert. Berlin.Google Scholar
  21. Thomazi, A. 1931. Histoire militaire de l’Indochine français. Hanoi.Google Scholar
  22. ———. 1934. La conquête de l’Indochine. Paris.Google Scholar
  23. van der Eng, Pierre. 2014. “Mining and Indonesia’s Economy: Institutions and Value Adding, 1870-2010” PRIMCED Discussion Paper Series, no. 57.Google Scholar
  24. Wright, Tim. 1984. Coal Mining in China’s Economy and Society, 1895–1937. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • James R. Fichter
    • 1
  1. 1.European StudiesUniversity of Hong KongHong KongHong Kong

Personalised recommendations