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

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

Abstract

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.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

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

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