Derived from Indochine française, a common label for French territories in Southeast Asia, Indochina included present-day Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. French interest in the region dated to the establishment of the Compagnie de Chine in 1660. In 1787 the Annamite ruler Nguyen Anh gave France a monopoly of trade in return for military security. In the mid-nineteenth century, French interest in the region intensified, partly as a result of the rise of the silk industry in France and partly in response to competition from Britain to the south, in Hong Kong and Singapore, and from the United States in the form of Commodore Perry’s visit to Japan in 1853. The French were also keen to gain access to the Chinese market without being hindered by the British, so they concentrated their energies on colonizing Indochina during the 1860s and 1870s primarily for economic reasons and a desire to reclaim national glory wounded by defeat in the Franco-Prussian War.
   Indochina was nonetheless to be a problematic area in the French colonial project. French Indochina was a federation comprised of Annam, Tonkin, and Cochin China. Only Cochin China became a full colony; the remainder became the protectorate of Annam-Tonkin. After the Sino-French War of 1883–1885, Tonkin, Annam and Cochin China came under French control. But the war with China involved some embarrassing setbacks that brought down the government of Jules Ferry before secret talks with the Chinese produced an acceptable outcome in the Second Treaty of Tientsin. In October 1887, Cambodia was added, and in 1893 Laos, too, became part of the federation. Its capital was Hanoi. While Annam, Tonkin, Laos, and Cambodia functioned as a protectorate, the kings of Luang Prabang and Cambodia and the Emperor of Vietnam were allowed to retain their positions This was only a façade, as a substantive authority was in the hands of the French governor-general. The control of military and naval forces was his alone. To boost national morale and prestige in the metropole, the government presented French presence in Indochina as benign and admirable through active propaganda. Artifacts from Indochina were exhibited in the grand expositions in Paris, popular during the belle époque to illustrate the grandeur of French mission civilisatrice .
   See also <>.
    Chapius, Oscar. The Last Emperors of Vietnam: From Tu Duc to Bao Dai. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2000;
    Power, Thomas F. Jules Ferry and the Renaissance of French Imperialism. New York: King’s Crown Press, 1944;
    Wesseling, H. L. The European Colonial Empires 1815–1919. New York: Pearson Education, 2004.

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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