British and French Colonialism in Africa, Asia and the Middle East: Connected Empires across the Eighteenth to the Twentieth Centuries 3319979639, 9783319979632

This book examines the connections between the British Empire and French colonialism in war, peace and the various stage

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British and French Colonialism in Africa, Asia and the Middle East: Connected Empires across the Eighteenth to the Twentieth Centuries
 3319979639,  9783319979632

Table of contents :
Acknowledgments......Page 6
Contents......Page 7
Notes on Contributors......Page 10
List of Figures......Page 12
Chapter 1: Britain and France, Connected Empires......Page 14
Bibliography......Page 25
Part I: Empire in Africa......Page 29
Chapter 2: From Slaves to Gum: Colonial Trade and French-British Rivalry in Eighteenth-Century Senegambia......Page 30
The Era of Fortified Comptoirs in Senegambia: The Race to Land......Page 31
Senegambian Trade and Franco-British Rivalry (1700–1758)......Page 33
Senegambia Under British Occupation, 1758–1779......Page 36
Conclusion......Page 42
Secondary Sources......Page 43
Chapter 3: “Our Anglo-Saxon Colleagues”: French Administration of Niger and the Constraining Embrace of British Northern Nigeria......Page 45
Mapping Hausaland......Page 50
The Emergence of a Policy of Association......Page 52
The Use and Abuse of Christian Missions......Page 55
Managing the Hajj......Page 60
Voting with One’s Feet......Page 64
Conclusion......Page 70
Secondary Sources......Page 72
Part II: Empire and Islam......Page 75
Chapter 4: Anglo-French Connections and Cooperation against “Islamic” Resistance, 1914–1917......Page 76
The Sanussiyya Sufi Order and Anglo-French Intelligence Sharing, 1915–1916......Page 81
Nigeria, French West Africa, and Cooperation against the Sanussiyya, 1916–1917......Page 84
Britain, France, and Darfur, 1915–1916......Page 88
Conclusion......Page 94
Printed Sources......Page 95
Chapter 5: Sacred Surveillance: Indian Muslims, Waqf, and the Evolution of State Power in French Mandate Syria......Page 98
The Administrative Framework for Surveillance in the Mandate......Page 103
An Anglo-Indian Perspective of Syrian Waqf and Security at the Dawn of the French Mandate......Page 104
Syrian Mud Huts or Indian Pilgrimage Hostel? Divining Nationality(ies) in Circuits of Pious Movement......Page 108
Transnational Sectarian Anxieties across an Unstable Anglo-French Security Landscape......Page 114
Persistent Anglo-French Security Concerns in the Twilight of Empire......Page 115
A History of Colonial Surveillance through Waqf......Page 116
Printed Sources......Page 117
Part III: Empire at Sea......Page 120
Chapter 6: A Shared Sea: The Axes of French and British Imperialism in the Mediterranean, 1798–1914......Page 121
Anglo-French Rivalry in Barbary......Page 123
Algiers and the Rebirth of a “French Lake”......Page 125
The Birth of Britain’s Overland Route to India......Page 127
Saint-Simonianism......Page 128
Steamships and Steamship Companies......Page 129
Transnational Infrastructures......Page 133
Shifting Priorities 1870–1914......Page 134
Conclusion......Page 135
Secondary Sources......Page 136
Chapter 7: A Second “Fashoda”? Britain, India, and a French “Threat” in Oman at the End of the Nineteenth Century......Page 139
Oman, a French Pipe Dream: The French-Omani Relationship from the Eighteenth Century Onward......Page 141
The Reopening of the French Consulate and the Evolution of Franco-British Relations......Page 143
The French Coaling Station Affair in Oman: A Budding Second Fashoda?......Page 145
Curzon at Work through Meade......Page 148
Another Lost Battle......Page 151
Printed Sources......Page 157
Chapter 8: Imperial Interdependence on Indochina’s Maritime Periphery: France and Coal in Ceylon, Singapore, and Hong Kong, 1859–1895......Page 159
1870: Coal and the Franco-Prussian War in Asia......Page 167
Saigon and the East Asian Coal Environment......Page 171
The Sino-French War, 1884–1885......Page 176
French Coal, British Ports: Tonkin and Hong Kong......Page 178
Unpublished Primary Sources......Page 184
The National Archives of Singapore......Page 185
Secondary Sources......Page 186
Chapter 9: French Kwang-Chow-Wan and British Hong Kong: Politics and Shipping, 1890s–1920s......Page 188
Acquiring Imperial Leaseholds in China (1898–1900)......Page 191
The Kwang-Chow-Wan Postal Steamer Service (1900–1904)......Page 201
Abandoning Kwang-Chow-Wan as French Naval Hub (1904–1906)......Page 207
The Decline of the Kwang-Chow-Wan Postal Steamer Service (1904–1910)......Page 210
Repositioning Shipping Services Between Indochina and Hong Kong (1910–1923)......Page 215
Conclusion......Page 223
Vietnamese National Archives One, Hanoi (VNA1)......Page 225
Secondary Sources......Page 226
Part IV: Empire and Administration......Page 229
Chapter 10: Sharing Colonial Sovereignty? The Anglo-French Experience of the New Hebrides Condominium, 1880s–1930s......Page 230
Real Estate Litigation and Imperial Rivalries......Page 233
From Property to Sovereignty......Page 235
Initial Plans for Territorial Division......Page 237
The Choice to Maintain Territorial Integrity......Page 242
The Recurring Temptation and Impossibility of Territorial Partition......Page 246
Conclusion......Page 248
Printed Sources......Page 250
Chapter 11: British and French Colonial Statistics: Development by Hybridization from the Nineteenth to the Mid-Twentieth Centuries......Page 253
Flows of Ideas......Page 256
Imperial Statistics, a British “Model”......Page 257
The French Delay Becomes an Obsession......Page 258
French Colonial Statistics without Statisticians......Page 260
The Colonial Office: Colonial Statistics without Any Local Intermediary......Page 261
The Difficulty of Getting the Colonies to Cooperate......Page 264
New Challenges for Colonial Statistics......Page 267
Statistics in Indochina......Page 268
Franco-British Convergence......Page 271
Competition around Colonial Statistics......Page 273
Conclusion......Page 275
Secondary Sources......Page 277
Part V: Imperial Ends......Page 279
Chapter 12: Britain and Free France in Africa, 1940–1943......Page 280
British Contributions to Forging Free French Africa......Page 281
The Allied War Effort and the Economies of Free French Africa......Page 286
Rubber......Page 288
Transport Corridors......Page 291
Impacts on Africans and Their Reactions......Page 293
(Inter) Colonial Leaves......Page 294
Military Support, Cooperation, and Competition......Page 295
Epilogue......Page 297
Selective Bibliography (Secondary Sources)......Page 299
Chapter 13: The End of Empires and Some Linguistic Turns: British and French Language Policies in Inter- and Postwar Africa......Page 300
The Rise of Linguistic Containment in Late-Colonial British and French Africa......Page 304
The Postwar Turn Toward Western-Language Education in Africa......Page 312
La francophonie and the French Response to Postcolonial Anglo-American Influence......Page 318
Published Sources......Page 321
Index......Page 325

Citation preview

British and French Colonialism in Africa, Asia and the Middle East Connected Empires across the Eighteenth to the Twentieth Centuries Edited by  James R. Fichter

Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies Series Series Editors Richard Drayton Department of History King’s College London London, UK Saul Dubow Magdalene College University of Cambridge Cambridge, UK

The Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies series is a collection of studies on empires in world history and on the societies and cultures which emerged from colonialism. It includes both transnational, comparative and connective studies, and studies which address where particular regions or nations participate in global phenomena. While in the past the series focused on the British Empire and Commonwealth, in its current incarnation there is no imperial system, period of human history or part of the world which lies outside of its compass. While we particularly welcome the first monographs of young researchers, we also seek major studies by more senior scholars, and welcome collections of essays with a strong thematic focus. The series includes work on politics, economics, culture, literature, science, art, medicine, and war. Our aim is to collect the most exciting new scholarship on world history with an imperial theme. More information about this series at

James R. Fichter Editor

British and French Colonialism in Africa, Asia and the Middle East Connected Empires across the Eighteenth to the Twentieth Centuries

Editor James R. Fichter European Studies University of Hong Kong Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies Series ISBN 978-3-319-97963-2    ISBN 978-3-319-97964-9 (eBook) © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2019 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, express or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. Cover illustration: © Roger Viollet Collection / Contributor / Getty Images This Palgrave Macmillan imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Switzerland AG The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland


We thank the PROCORE France/Hong Kong Joint Research Scheme, the Faculty of Arts of the University of Hong Kong, and the School of Modern Languages and Cultures of the University of Hong Kong for their generous financial support. The School of Modern Languages and Cultures also provided invaluable logistical support. Thank you, too, to François-Joseph Ruggiu for helping to organize this project and to Richard Drayton for his support of this book. Our thanks, too, to the publishing team at Palgrave for their professionalism and expeditiousness.



1 Britain and France, Connected Empires  1 James R. Fichter

Part I Empire in Africa  17 2 From Slaves to Gum: Colonial Trade and French-British Rivalry in Eighteenth-­Century Senegambia 19 Cheikh Sène 3 “Our Anglo-Saxon Colleagues”: French Administration of Niger and the Constraining Embrace of British Northern Nigeria 35 Barbara M. Cooper

Part II Empire and Islam  65 4 Anglo-French Connections and Cooperation against “Islamic” Resistance, 1914–1917  67 John Slight




5 Sacred Surveillance: Indian Muslims, Waqf, and the Evolution of State Power in French Mandate Syria 89 James Casey

Part III Empire at Sea 111 6 A Shared Sea: The Axes of French and British Imperialism in the Mediterranean, 1798–1914113 John Perry 7 A Second “Fashoda”? Britain, India, and a French “Threat” in Oman at the End of the Nineteenth Century131 Guillemette Crouzet 8 Imperial Interdependence on Indochina’s Maritime Periphery: France and Coal in Ceylon, Singapore, and Hong Kong, 1859–1895151 James R. Fichter 9 French Kwang-Chow-Wan and British Hong Kong: Politics and Shipping, 1890s–1920s181 Bert Becker

Part IV Empire and Administration 223 10 Sharing Colonial Sovereignty? The Anglo-­French Experience of the New Hebrides Condominium, 1880s–1930s225 Hélène Blais



11 British and French Colonial Statistics: Development by Hybridization from the Nineteenth to the Mid-Twentieth Centuries249 Béatrice Touchelay

Part V Imperial Ends 275 12 Britain and Free France in Africa, 1940–1943277 Eric T. Jennings 13 The End of Empires and Some Linguistic Turns: British and French Language Policies in Inter- and Postwar Africa297 Diana Lemberg Index323

Notes on Contributors

Bert Becker  is associate professor of history at the University of Hong Kong and author of the forthcoming book Shipping Between Empires: Marty et d’Abbadie (1886–1918). Hélène Blais  is professor of contemporary history at the École Normale Supérieure (Paris). She is the author of Voyages au Grand Océan. Géographie du Pacifique et colonisation, 1815–1845 (2005) and Mirages de la Carte. L’invention de l’Algérie colonial (2014) among others. James  Casey is a doctoral candidate in the History Department at Princeton University. His forthcoming dissertation is entitled “States of Sacred Surveillance: Administration and Governance of Waqf and the Evolution of State Power and Capacity in Syria, 1920–1960.” Barbara  M.  Cooper is professor of history at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey (New Brunswick). Her publications include Marriage in Maradi: Gender and Culture in Hausa Society in Niger (1997) and Evangelical Christians in the Muslim Sahel (2006). Her forthcoming book, Childbirth and Fertility in the Sahel: Countless Blessings, will be published in 2019. Guillemette Crouzet  is Newton International Fellow in the Department of History, University of Warwick. She is a historian of the British Empire, the Middle East, and India in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Her prize-winning first book, Genèses du Moyen-Orient. Le Golfe Persique à l’âge des impérialismes, was published in 2015. xi



James  R.  Fichter is associate professor of European studies at the University of Hong Kong. His next book, Suez Passage to India: Britain, France, and the Great Game at Sea, 1798–1885, examines the Anglo-­ French relationship in Asia as mediated by the Suez Canal. Eric  T.  Jennings  is professor of history at the University of Toronto (Victoria College). His books include Escape from Vichy (2018), Free French Africa in World War II (2015), Curing the Colonizers: Hydrotherapy, Climatology and French Colonial Spas (2006), and Vichy in the Tropics (2001). Diana  Lemberg  is assistant professor of history at Lingnan University, Hong Kong. She has previously published on the American embrace of global English and interimperial language relations in Modern Intellectual History. Her book on freedom of information and US global power is forthcoming from Columbia University Press. John  Perry  has completed his doctoral degree from The Ohio State University. His dissertation is titled “From Sea to Lake: Steamships, French Algeria, and the Mediterranean, 1830–1940.” His article “Colonial Transatlantiques: The French Line in Algeria, 1880–1940” was published in May 2018 in Essays in Economic and Business History. Cheikh Sène  is a doctoral candidate at the University of Paris I Panthéon-­ Sorbonne. His thesis investigates trade, taxation, and coutumes in Senegambia from the slave-trade era to colonial conquest. John Slight  is lecturer in modern history at The Open University, United Kingdom, and author of The British Empire and the Hajj 1865–1956 (2015). Béatrice  Touchelay  is professor of contemporary economic and social history at the University of Lille. She edited, with Florence Jany-Catrice and Isabelle Bruno, The Social Sciences of Quantification: From Politics of Large Numbers to Target-Driven Policies (Springer 2016). She is organizing a European project to create a team of researchers on imperialism and statistics.

List of Figures

Fig. 5.1

Fig. 8.1

Fig. 8.2 Fig. 8.3

Fig. 8.4 Fig. 8.5 Fig. 8.6 Fig. 8.7

Indian cavalry entering Damascus, October 1918. (James Pinkerton Campbell, “Indian Cavalry Entering the Square in the Town,” 2 October 1918, Australian War Memorial, AWMB00314. Public domain. Accessed 25 April 2018. Tonnage (in thousands) of French and British vessels arriving in Singapore. (Straits Settlements Blue Books (1870–1885), Government Printing Office, Singapore. National Archives of Singapore (NAS).) 155 Tonnage entering Saigon, 1866–1882, long cours vessels. (Cochinchine, État 1882, 34.) 157 Metric tons of coal imported at Saigon by port of last transshipment. (Cochinchine, État 1878, 1880–1885, 1894– 1895. Chambre de Commerce (Saigon), Statistiques Commerciales de la Cochinchine Française: 1879 (Saigon).) 165 Coal imports to Singapore 1870–1889 and straits settlements 1902–1909 (tons). (Straits Settlements Blue Books (1870–1909), Government Printing Office, Singapore. NAS.) 166 Coal, coke, and patent fuel imported into Ceylon by place of origin (tons). (Ceylon Blue Books (1850–1895), Department of National Archives. Colombo, Sri Lanka.) 167 Indochina coal and coke imports (in piastres). (Cochinchine, État 1882–1885.)171 Sources of coal imported for use of the state at Saigon. (Cochinchine, État 1880–1885.)172



List of Figures

Fig. 8.8 Fig. 9.1 Fig. 9.2 Fig. 9.3

Fig. 9.4 Fig. 10.1 Fig. 10.2 Fig. 10.3 Fig. 10.4 Fig. 10.5 Fig. 10.6 Fig. 10.7 Fig. 12.1

Tonkin, estimated coal net exports (francs). (Indochine Française, Rapport sur les Statistiques des Douanes pour 1888–1895.)175 Detail of a map of China, showing the Gulf of Tonkin, early twentieth century. (The Hundred and Twentieth Report of the London Missionary Society, 1915.) 183 A lodge of non-commissioned officers in Fort Bayard, Kwang-chow-wan, ca. 1904. (Private collection Bert Becker.) 194 The main offices of the River Shipping Service of Tonkin (Marty et d’Abbadie) in Haiphong, with the landing place for the company’s river steamships, ca. 1900. (Private collection Bert Becker.) 197 An ocean-going steamer (with stars on the funnel) of the Tonkin Shipping Company (Marty et d’Abbadie) in Haiphong port, ca. 1900. (Private collection Bert Becker.) 198 Map from Cambridge Modern History Atlas (1912) 227 Island of Espiritu Santo. South Coast, 1903. (ANOM, Fm, SG, NHB//4, Picanon report from 1903.) 232 Comparative map of French and British influence, 1902. (ANOM Fm, SG, NHB//6.) 233 Close-up of Fig. 10.3. (Ibid.) 234 Partition plan of 1889. (MAE,186CP/COM/4.) 236 Sketch map from the French Interministerial Commission of 1901. (MAE, 186CP/COM/5.) 238 Ministry of the colonies. Maps of the New Hebrides, 1917, printed and modified by hand. (ANOM FM/SG/ NHB//6D.)242 River and land transport corridors between Free French and British Colonial Africa, 1942. (Map by Isabelle Lewis.) 290


Britain and France, Connected Empires James R. Fichter

This book is part of a wave of new scholarship looking at the connections between the French and British empires. These two empires—which engaged each other on nearly every continent over 400 years—were constantly forming and re-forming in relation to each other: connecting to, depending on, referencing, contrasting to, opposing or in open warfare with, and acting in spite of the other. They were more often rivals than collaborators. Yet even in war, perhaps especially then, each shaped the other. They shaped each other as opponents, as allies, and, perhaps most commonly, as frères ennemis—frenemies who, with one act of competitive collaboration, managed to simultaneously support and undermine each other. Throughout, they were co-imperialists—not in the sense that they always collaborated but in the sense that their empires grew up, lived, and died entwined. They were, as Barbara M. Cooper suggests in Chap. 3 of this volume, “mutually informing and constraining.” Their interconnections were many and so locally varied as to defy macroanalysis in the space available here. This book, then, takes a smaller approach, collecting a dozen case studies of interimperial connections. The contributors conceive of the French and British empires together, each a point of reference

J. R. Fichter (*) European Studies, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, Hong Kong © The Author(s) 2019 J. R. Fichter (ed.), British and French Colonialism in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies Series,




and connection to the other. More than simply the comparative study of two separate units, these connected histories look at the shared ­experiences of the French and British empires from the late eighteenth century through decolonization. This book emerges now for several reasons. One is a sense that French colonial history is building toward a renaissance in France itself—thus four of the contributors here are Francophone writers, some of whom have rarely appeared in English before. A second is the sense that French colonial history, unlike its British comparator, has distinctly overshadowed areas of its chronology (particularly the period, 1815–1870), which can be ameliorated when French imperial history is seen in a connected perspective—two of the contributors here take on part of this “lull” between the first and second French colonial empires, what David Todd has called the “French Imperial Meridian.”1 A third concern is to draw out French colonial history generally, for, somewhat paradoxically, despite the growing interest in the topic, many historians of metropolitan France (based both in France and the Anglophone world) have difficulty taking an imperial perspective. The links and feedbacks between national and imperial history are plumbed by historians of Britain’s empire to the point that “Britain and the empire” is taken as a coherent field.2 Universities hire in it. “France at the empire” is not nearly as large a field, and imperial  links remain insufficiently thought through by many historians of France, who often preclude a colonial perspective by defining themselves as Europeanists. Colonial historians are the ugly stepchildren of French history conferences, where the focus, among Francophone and Anglophone historians of France, is the Hexagon, to the near-exclusion of other topics, like the colonies or France in the world. Fourth, British imperial history sometimes suffers from the unhealthy illusion of an empire in isolation. While often more powerful than neighboring empires, few parts of Britain’s empire were so fully isolated from the extra-imperial world as to make a broader approach unenlightening. Historians of colonial France see extra-­imperial connections more easily since French imperialists themselves were more aware of their British interlocutors than vice versa—the British Empire was usually more powerful, and the French 1  David Todd, “A French Imperial Meridian, 1814–1870,” Past & Present 210, no. 1 (Feb. 2011): 155–186. 2  Catherine Hall and Sonya Rose, eds., At Home with the Empire: Metropolitan Culture and the Imperial World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006) showcases some of the empire-metropole connections now well accepted in British imperial history.



were usually playing imperial catch up. This made the connected frame matter more for France than Britain. Thus, most contributors here write from a stance that is more firmly rooted in French than British archives. In this book, scholars of the French colonialism and of Anglo-French imperial entanglements address French colonial, British imperial, and global historians, revealing how intercolonial connections further our understanding of empire. Finally, a growing body of scholarship has come to remark that, while the French and British empires might both be linked to other colonial histories, the French and British empires each remained a primary point of reference and connection for the other for centuries, and the two empires engaged each other globally in a way few other empires ever did.3 To be sure, the British and French measured themselves 3  This trend includes Richard Drayton, Nature’s Government: Science, Imperial Britain, and the “Improvement” of the World (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000) and “The globalisation of France: Provincial cities and French expansion c. 1500–1800,” History of European Ideas 34, no. 4, 424–430. Gwyn Campbell, An Economic History of Imperial Madagascar, 1750–1895: The Rise and Fall of an Island Empire (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005). Pier Larson, Ocean of Letters: Language and Creolization in an Indian Ocean Diaspora (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009) and in-progress book on the transimperial life and career of Jean René and others in his extended family. Laurent Dubois, A Colony of Citizens: Revolution and Slave Emancipation in the French Caribbean, 1787–1804 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press for the Omohundro Institute, 2012). J. R. McNeill, Mosquito Empires: Ecology and War in the Greater Caribbean, 1640–1914 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010). Alan Greer, La Nouvelle-France et le monde. (Montreal: Editions Boréal, 2009). Eric Jennings, Free French Africa in World War II: The African Resistance. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 2015). Alison Games, The Web of Empire: English Cosmopolitans in an Age of Expansion, 1560–1660 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008). Frederick Cooper and Jane Burbank, Empires in World History: Power and the Politics of Difference (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2010). Frederick Cooper, Africa Since 1940: The Past of the Present (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002). Martin Thomas, Britain, France and Appeasement: Anglo-French Relations in the Popular Front Era (Oxford: Berg, 1996). Martin Thomas, The French North African Crisis: Colonial Breakdown and Anglo-French Relations, 1945–62 (London: Macmillan, 2000). Martin Thomas and Richard Toye, Arguing about Empire Imperial Rhetoric in Britain and France, 1882–1956 (Oxford, 2017). Martin Thomas, Fight or Flight: Britain, France, and their Roads from Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014). Martin Thomas, Empires of Intelligence: Security Services and Colonial Disorder after 1914 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008). Maya Jasanoff, Edge of Empire: Lives, Culture, and Conquest in the East, 1750–1850 (New York, 2005). Todd, “French Imperial Meridian.” David Todd, “Transnational Projects of Empire in France, c. 1815–c. 1870,” Modern Intellectual History, 12 (2015). David Todd, A Velvet Empire: French Imperial Power and Economic Life in the Nineteenth Century, book in progress. James R. Fichter, “British Infrastructure and French Empire: Anglo-French Steam Interdependency in Asian Waters, c. 1852–1870,” Britain and



against and competed with the Spanish, Russian, Italian, German, Portuguese, Belgian, Dutch, American, and Japanese empires, but not globally and not for centuries. Britain and France were a dyad like no other. Precisely because of this extensive history, it is impossible to do justice to every area of Anglo-French imperial engagement in this space. This volume focuses on the post-1800 period, with Chap. 2, the exception, examining the late eighteenth-century slave and gum trades of Senegambia. The slave trade, slavery, Caribbean plantation monoculture; the early modern Anglo-French conflicts over North America and India; and English and French encounters in the Pacific are vital subjects that will not be addressed here. Even many areas of Anglo-French interaction in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries are not covered: the Anglo-French dance over Mexico, Texas, and the Confederacy in the mid-nineteenth century; the struggle for informal empire in South America; the AngloFrench relationship in Chinese treaty ports4; the jockeying of British and French explorers, geographers, and archaeologists; the two powers in the Mascarenes; their nineteenth-­ century struggles for Madagascar (influenced by Britain but taken by France) and Egypt (influenced by France but taken by Britain). This book sets these extensive areas of interimperial encounter aside not because they are unimportant but because the AngloFrench imperial relationship is too vast to confine to one book.

the World 5 (Sept. 2012), 183–203 and Suez Passage to India: Britain, France, and the Great Game at Sea, 1798–1885, book in progress. Robert Aldrich and Cindy McCreery, eds., Crown and Colonies: European Monarchies and Overseas empires (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2016). Robert Aldrich, Banished Potentates: Dethroning and Exiling Indigenous Monarchs under British and French Colonial Rule, 1815–1955 (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2017). Julie Kalman’s current book project, on the House of Bacri and Busnach, is provisionally entitled The King of Algiers. François Ternat and Lucien Bély, Partager le monde: rivalités imperials franco-britanniques (1748–1756) (Paris: PUPS, 2015), Claire Fredj “Une présence hospitalière en territoire colonial: les Filles de la Charité en Algérie (1842–1962)” in Matthieu Brejon de Lavergnée, ed., Des Filles de la charité aux Soeurs de Saint-Valence-dePaul (XVIIe-XXe siècle): Quatre siècles de cornettes (XVIIe-XXe siècle) (Paris: Honoré Champion, 2016) 447–474, Claire Laux, Le Pacifique aux XVIIIè et XIXè siècle, une confrontation franco-britannique, Enjeu colonial et rivalité géopolitique de 1763 à 1914 (Paris: Karthala, 2011), as well as the work of David Channu, Fabrice Argounes, David Mokam, N’buéké Adovi Michel Goeh-Akue, Clothilde Houot, Cécile Vidal, Isabelle Surun, and others. 4  Pierre Singaravélou, Tianjin Cosmopolis. Une autre histoire de la mondialisation (Paris: Le Seuil, 2017).



Much of the reviving interest in French colonial history is in the context of the new geographic frameworks emerging in the last few decades (Atlantic history, Indian Ocean history, Pacific history, and global history). These have both aided imperial historians and encouraged them to look across state boundaries to see connections between colonies and empires.5 So, too, has environmental history. Francophone scholars have also been motivated by the growing population of French citizens with ancestors from the former colonies, especially those with roots in North and West Africa, which has made the French colonial experience more relevant than ever in contemporary France. As with colonial history, these other forms of history have flourished. Witness the 2017 publication of the handbook Histoire mondiale de la France, which appeared to widespread applause and distribution.6 Histoire mondiale encompasses over 100 short essays bringing previous research to the broader French public—for what well-read bourgeois lacks an ostentatiously placed shelf of white paperbacks? Valeska Huber’s chapter on the opening of the Suez Canal, for instance, was excellent and an obvious fit. The opening ceremony, with the participation of Empress Eugenie and the crowned heads of Europe, was an ostentatious statement that France was global. The French imperial yacht L’Aigle headed the queue of vessels inaugurating the canal.7 The canal was a subject of considerable commemoration and has been associated with all kinds of art: a painting by Edouard Riou in his Voyage pittoresque à travers l’isthme de Suez (1870) marked the opening ceremony. Sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi proposed a colossal statue-cum-lighthouse, “Egypt Carrying the Light to Asia.” Turned down by the Egyptian government, he recycled the idea into the Statue of Liberty. Even Verdi’s Aida has long (falsely) been associated with the canal. The canal was something that men wanted to commemorate and to have commemorated. If Verdi would not write Aida for the canal, no matter, it would be reimagined that way because the canal, that great mark of man’s capabilities, needed commemorating.8 Here was a lieux de mémoire if ever there were one. 5  In Quebec, where French colonial history became a national history of sorts, interest never died. See, for instance, the work of the French Atlantic History Group at McGill: 6  Patrick Boucheron, Nicolas Delalande, Florian Mazel, Yann Potin, Pierre Singaravélou, eds., Histoire Mondiale de la France (Paris: Le Seuil, 2017). 7  See also Valeska Huber, Channelling Mobilities: Migration and Globalisation in the Suez Canal Region and Beyond, 1869–1914 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013). 8  D.  A. Farnie, East & West of Suez: The Suez Canal in History, 1854–1956 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1969), 87.



All the more striking then, that Pierre Nora, whose three-volume Les Lieux de Mémoire did so much for history and memory in France, would think Histoire mondiale was taking French history “hostage” to globalist ideology. Histoire mondiale and Lieux de Mémoire, international and national histories respectively, complement each other. (Nora had overlooked the canal in his work, after all, paring France’s decidedly global and imperial nineteenth-century ambitions to a small Hexagon in the corner of Europe.) French conservatives fretted that Histoire mondiale was an attempt to “dissolve France in 800 pages,” that its authors were “gravediggers of the great heritage of France.” Such announcements would surely surprise Ferdinand de Lesseps, who saw his canal digging as a great heritage for France and sought endless publicity for it.9 There is an irony here, too, since histories of France, which, following Nora, are confined to the Hexagon and ignore the global or imperial history of France, leave more of that global and imperial history undone and ready for other writers, following Histoire mondiale, to write. Historians gravitate to gaps in the literature, and, by leaving a gap abroad, national writers made global history more important without realizing it. This volume has no stake in the global-versus-national-history debate, but rather it emerges from the catholic sensibility that different historical phenomena will inevitably be more or less suited to local, national, imperial, or global scales and that supranational histories and national histories, by the very nature of their different scales, leave space for and need each other.10 And two of those scales will inevitably be the imperial and the co-imperial scale of history writing. If the Suez Canal can be a global history of France (or Egypt), so too can it be a story of Anglo-French rivalry. The canal is usually interpreted as a site of such rivalry. This rivalry has given credence to the apocryphal story that the first vessel to actually pass through the canal on the opening day was HMS Newport. The commander, in a very Jack Aubrey-esque moment, is said to have snuck in front of L’Aigle, 9  Pierre Nora, “Histoire mondiale de la France, Pierre Nora répond,” L’Obs 2734 (30 Mar. 2017) 68–69. Patrick Boucheron, Nicolas Delalande, Florian Mazel, Yann Potin, and Pierre Singaravélou, “Faire de l’histoire aujourd’hui,” L’Obs 2735 (6 Apr. 2017), 72–73. “‘Histoire mondiale de la France:’ le livre qui exaspère Finkielkraut, Zemmour et Cie,” Le Nouvel Observateur (1 Feb. 2017). Éric Zemmour, “Dissoudre la France en 800 pages,” Le Figaro (19 Jan. 2017), 15. 10  Richard Drayton and David Motadel, “Discussion: The Future of Global History,” Journal of Global History 13, no. 1 (Mar. 2018), 1–21.



positioning Newport so that it could not be pushed aside and a British vessel would have to lead the French empress through. This probably never happened, but the rivalry was real enough. There were rivalries between Egypt and the Ottoman Empire and between France and Britain. The Egyptian khedive resented Ottoman suzerainty over Egypt and British support for the Ottomans. Britain rubbed salt in this wound when it sent its ambassador to the Ottoman Empire as its official representative to the canal opening rather than a dignitary of higher rank unconnected to Constantinople. France, represented by Empress Eugenie, favored Egypt, and the canal itself comprised the expenditure of French capital, diplomacy, and effort, even as British officials, led by Lord Palmerston, had been naysayers for years. The khedive snubbed the British ambassador at the opening ceremony (Egyptian warships were forbidden to salute the ambassador’s vessel), and the canal company took pains to make sure the ceremonial decor left Britain out. When the Aigle reached Ismailia, partway through the canal, she was met not with cries of “Long live the khedive” or “Three cheers for British commerce” (which benefited greatly from the canal) but “Vive la France! Vive l’Impératrice! Vive Lesseps!” The French yacht went through the canal first. The British ambassador’s yacht was eighth. For some Britons, a story about the Newport going first was preferable to the truth of being eighth. This fake story of Anglo-French rivalry was a product of that rivalry. Even without the Newport story the canal was, and would remain for a century, both a place Anglo-French imperial entanglement and a place to remember, a lieux de mémoire of that entanglement.11

11  Nares did evade a partial blockage of the canal but followed L’Aigle. J. E. Nourse, The maritime canal of Suez, from its inauguration, November 17, 1869, to the year 1884. (Washington: 1884). Nares’s escapade is not mentioned in “Obituary: Vice-Admiral Sir George Strong Nares, K. C. B., F. R. S.” The Geographical Journal 45, no. 3 (Mar. 1915), 255–257 or “Vice-Admiral Sir George Nares, K.C.B., F.R.S.” Nature 94 (21 Jan. 1915), 565–567. The incident was not noted in the Times (London) coverage nor by Henry M. Stanley, My early travels and adventures in America and Asia (New York: 1895), 51, nor in Alexander Russel, Egypt: the opening of the great canal (Edinburgh: 1869), 64. Stanley gives Newport as eleventh in procession. Farnie, East and West of Suez, 85–88. Zachary Karabell, Parting the Desert: The Creation of the Suez, Canal (London: John Murray, 2003), 255, says that the Aigle went in and through first, but that in later years a story emerged via a letter to the Times that a British ship had jumped the queue. He gives no citation. No reference to Nares or Newport appears in a search of the Times Digital Archive.



Historians of colonial France are aware of British imperial historiography. This is in part because of the various colonial rivalries between Britain and France. More meaningfully, territories in North America, Madagascar, Egypt, the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean, and elsewhere changed hands. And the histories of one power’s colonialism in these places have long been written with reference to the other power as well. The sheer volume of publications on British imperial history appearing in English—now the clear academic language of Europe—draws French colonial historians’ attention to new historiographic trends in a way that, say, less-accessible Lusophone histories of the Portuguese colonial do not. If French colonial historians are often aware of their British counterparts, British colonial historians rarely return the favor. This is partly due to linguistic ignorance. Francophone historians of the French Empire are more likely to read secondary works in English than Anglophone historians of the British Empire are to read secondary works in French. (Indeed, some prominent “global” histories written in English seem to cite English-­language works only.) The ensconcing of English as a global academic language is accelerating Francophone scholars’ engagement with Anglophone publications, as growing numbers of French faculty, and the majority of French graduate students, read English. At the same time, the expectation in the Anglophone world that history graduate students studying Britain or its empire learn additional European languages is becoming increasingly outdated and pro forma—the reason for studying such languages was always partly historiographic, and almost all literature of note on the British Empire appears in English today—so why bother learning French? For Anglophone historians of the British Empire, there is also a vague sense that the French colonial world did not deeply affect the British one. Younger historians of the British Empire are often either monolingual or versed in the languages of colonial subject peoples. There is nothing wrong with this per se—such work is indeed good and necessary, and it leaves the stories of interimperial connections for the others, including the contributors to this volume, to tell. Given their breadth, interimperial relations can become a proxy for global or world history, but interimperial relations and global history are not the same. Refining our focus to specifically Anglo-French interimperial relations helps, as does the framework of an edited collection. These allow authors to make narrow interventions around their scholarly expertise without reaching to write broader histories beyond their knowledge.



This introduction will likewise eschew such generalizations about the global history of Anglo-French imperial relations.12 What, then, is so special, about interimperial relations as a frame? It is the way it upsets the boundaries of analysis. Historians bemoan the artificial boundaries that colonial empires foisted on local peoples (dividing, for instance, Tuareg peoples between separate French colonies or dividing the post-Versailles Middle East into French and British Mandates with little concern for the Arabs caught up between them). If written as the history of just one colony or just one empire, imperial history risks re-­creating these boundaries. We risk “seeing like a state,” so to speak, without realizing it. Historiographic specialization underscores linguistic and research specializations, and we become historians of the French colonial empire, or the British one, focused on specific imperial historiographies, and on the national historiographies of the states that emerged from those empires, without seeing the connections between them. The result is a myopia that reinstantiates the division between French and British from the archive into our research without querying whether that opposition is relevant or useful. One antidote to this is area studies, and Middle Eastern and African studies specialists, taking as their remit the study of, say, Arabs or Tuaregs, have some of the strongest traditions of looking across imperial ­boundaries to tell a colonial people’s story. Scholars of early modern Native Americans have also long had interimperial frames. And yet oftentimes, because the modern nation state in many parts of the world is a legacy of colonial-era bound­ arydrawing, histories of, say, India or Algeria or Vietnam tend to examine the histories of those peoples and places without examining their connections to the broader world beyond the British or French colonial empire. Language-learning requirements accentuate this, and many historians of Vietnam, with their already hard-won grasp of Vietnamese and French, are 12  The theme of interimperial relations is of growing interest; the variety of ways to frame this topic leaves many openings for intervention. Volker Barth and Roland Cvetkovski, eds., Imperial Co-operation and Transfer, 1870–1930: Empires and Encounters (London: Bloomsbury, 2015), esp. John M. MacKenzie, “European Imperialism: A Zone of Cooperation rather than Competition?” in ibid., 35–53. Laura Doyle, “Inter-Imperiality: Dialectics in a Postcolonial World History,” Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies (Mar. 2013) 1–38. See also recent conference calls for papers. node/20292/discussions/174646/between-national-rivalry-and-inter-imperial-cooperationeuropean,%20Mirrored%20 Empires%20Conference%20Call%20for%20Papers.pdf both accessed 28 June 2018.



not motivated to learn Thai or Burmese or even Khmer, languages useful for becoming a Southeast Asian, as opposed to Vietnamese historian. And so national history, in this case a Vietnamese rather than a French national history, reads its way back into the colonial past. We might consider further the case of French colonialism in Indochina. An older generation of scholarship looked at French expansionism through a color-the-map-French lens and tended to take the wildest French ambitions more seriously than it should have. We have thus been treated to extensive examination of French designs on Yunnan and Guangxi, with hopes for reaching Tibet from the railroad head at Haiphong. French officials did hope to use railroads for empire, part of early twentieth-century international efforts to use railroads to carve up China. France aimed to break off Southern China from Beijing and attach it to Hanoi. But it was a hope that was impractical (building a railroad to Tibet was not done until the twenty-first century and by a state with significantly more funds at hand than what France was willing or able to allocate to the enterprise). In terms of transport, communication, and economic links, railroad imperialism as a frame overlooks the much stronger sea-bound links that connected Haiphong to British Hong Kong much more frequently, intimately, and intensively than to “French” Yunnan or than even to, say, Laos, a point made by James R. Fichter, “Imperial Interdependence on Indochina’s Maritime Periphery: France and Coal in Ceylon, Singapore, and Hong Kong, 1859–1895” (Chap. 8), and Bert Becker, “French Kwang-Chow-­ Wan and British Hong Kong: Politics and Shipping, 1890s–1920s” (Chap. 9), in this volume. Even the best history of Indochina can thus leave one asking, given Saigon’s and Haiphong’s overwhelming dependency on exports to and imports from British Singapore and Hong Kong, whether “Indochina,” a political unit that excludes vital trading links abroad but includes the less economically important territory of Laos, is always the right unit of analysis.13 As much could be said of any place, of Hong Kong, Algeria, Nigeria, Niger, and the other places treated in this volume, which were sometimes more intimately intertwined with foreign parts than other parts of the empire to which they belonged. This book is divided into five parts. In considering the two empires in Africa, it examines issues of competitive and mutually informed governance. It considers the two empires’ relationship with Islam in the context of the hajj, 13  Pierre Brocheux and Daniel Hémery, Indochina: An Ambiguous Colonization, 1858–1954 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009).



Syrian governance, and various religiously inflected colonial revolts during the First World War. It considers the two empires at sea through the shipping and coaling needs of their merchant marines and navies in the Mediterranean Sea, Persian Gulf, and South China Sea. It considers their mutually informed systems of administration both in the specific case of the New Hebrides and also more generally. Finally, it considers the Anglo-­French imperial relationship during the Second World War and after, when, in the first instance, those colonies faced significant military threats and, in the second, Britain and France gave up formal political control of their colonies and sought to use language as means of maintaining influence after decolonization. The contributors to this volume address other themes that cut across chapters and parts. Cheikh Sène, “From Slaves to Gum: Colonial Trade and French-British Rivalry in Eighteenth-Century Senegambia” (Chap. 2), and Guilemette Crouzet, “A Second ‘Fashoda’? Britain, India, and a French ‘Threat’ in Oman at the End of the Nineteenth Century” (Chap. 7), address war, and the possibility of war, between Britain and France. After 1815, war between Britain and France was rare. With the exception of Mers-el-Kébir and Vichy, Britain and France never went to war after Waterloo. Yet war remained an ever-present possibility. France and Britain were antagonists and armed rivals who had war scares—in 1840, 1859, and 1898—that did not become shooting contests but could have. Sène and Crouzet bring out the underlying possibility of conflict in Anglo-­French relations, a conflict (with Vichy, not Free France) that is also noted in Eric T. Jennings’s “Britain and Free France in Africa, 1940–1943” (Chap. 12) and implied in John Perry, “A Shared Sea: The Axes of  French and British Imperialism in the Mediterranean, 1798–1914” (Chap. 6). But how to make sense of this possibility for conflict? Even moments when conflict seemed imminent, like the French invasion scare that swept Britain in 1859, or the standoff at Fashoda in 1898, were paired with cooperation in other theaters: against China in the Second Opium War in 1856–1860, in Europe with the signing of the Cobden-Chevalier Treaty (1860), and in China again with the Boxer Rebellion (1899–1901).14 The British and French empires were often in conflict and cooperation at once—near war at Fashoda and collaborating in Beijing at the same time— mutually malevolent and constitutive, with no clear sense which way AngloFrench relations would drift. Thus, Hélène Blais’s “Sharing Colonial Sovereignty? The Anglo-French Experience of the New Hebrides Condominium, 14  Bryan Allen Craig, “The Great 1859–1860 French Invasion Scare in Great Britain” (MA thesis, Kent State University, 1995). Michael J. Salevouris, “Riflemen Form,” the War Scare of 1859–1860 in England (New York: Garland, 1982).



1880s–1930s” (Chap. 10) sees Britain and France locked in a frozen conflict—a “temporary” condominium that became more and more entrenched as alternative “permanent” arrangements threatened each side’s territorial claims. As the temporary became permanent and the permanent never happened, this frozen conflict also necessitated a sort of frozen cooperation— each side’s short-term needs locked it in to making the condominium work despite the desire for a different long-term settlement. Religion links Barbara Cooper, “‘Our Anglo-Saxon Colleagues’: French Administration of Niger and the  Constraining Embrace of British Northern Nigeria” (Chap. 3), with John Slight, “Anglo-French Connections and Cooperation against ‘Islamic’ Resistance, 1914–1917” (Chap. 4), and James Casey, “Sacred Surveillance: Indian Muslims, Waqf, and the Evolution of State Power in French Mandate Syria” (Chap. 5). Wartime cooperation links Slight’s chapter with Jennings’s work on Free French Africa. Cooper and Béatrice Touchelay, “British and French Colonial Statistics: Development by Hybridization from the Nineteenth to the Mid-Twentieth Centuries” (Chap. 11), both address colonial statistics, and Cooper shares with Diana Lemberg, “The End of Empires and Some Linguistic Turns: British and French Language Policies in Inter- and Postwar Africa” (Chap. 13), an interest in language and education. These chapters represent some of the growing interest in interimperial connections. These connections  did not happen in the cracks between empires, rather,  imperial boundaries fell around  them. It is hoped that these specific interventions will find a home in the larger conversations about the French and British empires.

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Boucheron, Patrick, Nicolas Delalande, Florian Mazel, Yann Potin, and Pierre Singaravélou. 2017a. “Faire de l’histoire aujourd’hui.” L’Obs 2735: 72–73. Boucheron, Patrick, Nicolas Delalande, Florian Mazel, Yann Potin, and Pierre Singaravélou, eds. 2017b. Histoire Mondiale de la France. Paris: Le Seuil. Brocheux, Pierre, and Daniel Hémery. 2009. Indochina. An Ambiguous Colonization, 1858–1954. Berkeley: University of California Press. Campbell, Gwyn. 2005. An Economic History of Imperial Madagascar, 1750–1895: The Rise and Fall of an Island Empire. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Connected Histories, Mirrored Empires British and French Imperialism from the 17th Through 20th Centuries. Connected%20Histories,%20Mirrored%20Empires%20Conference%20 Call%20for%20Papers.pdf. Accessed 28 June 2018. Cooper, Frederick. 2002. Africa Since 1940: The Past of the Present. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Cooper, Frederick, and Jane Burbank. 2010. Empires in World History. Power and the Politics of Difference. Princeton/Oxford: Princeton University Press. Craig, Bryan Allen. “The Great 1859–1860 French Invasion Scare in Great Britain.” MA diss., Kent State University, 1995. Doyle, Laura. 2013. Inter-Imperiality: Dialectics in a Postcolonial World History. Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies 16 (2): 1–38. Drayton, Richard. 2000. Nature’s Government: Science, Imperial Britain, and the “Improvement” of the World. New Haven: Yale University Press. ———. 2008. The Globalisation of France: Provincial Cities and French Expansion c. 1500–1800. History of European Ideas 34 (4): 424–430. Drayton, Richard, and David Motadel. 2018. Discussion: The Future of Global History. Journal of Global History 13 (1): 1–21. Dubois, Laurent. 2012. A Colony of Citizens: Revolution and Slave Emancipation in the French Caribbean, 1787–1804. Chapel Hill: Published by UNC Press for the Omohundro Institute. Farnie, D. A. 1969. East & West of Suez. The Suez Canal in History, 1854–1956. Oxford: Clarendon. Fichter, James R. 2012. British Infrastructure and French Empire: Anglo-French Steam Interdependency in Asian Waters, c. 1852–1870. Britain and the World 5: 183–203. Fredj, Claire. 2016. Une présence hospitalière en territoire colonial: les Filles de la Charité en Algérie (1842–1962). In Des Filles de la charité aux Soeurs de Saint-­ Valence-­de-Paul (XVIIe–XXe siècle). Quatre siècles de cornettes (XVIIe–XXe siècle), ed. Matthieu Brejon de Lavergnée, 447–474. Paris: Honoré Champion. French Atlantic History. Accessed 28 June 2018. Games, Alison. 2008. The Web of Empire: English Cosmopolitans in an Age of Expansion, 1560–1660. Oxford: Oxford University Press.



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Empire in Africa


From Slaves to Gum: Colonial Trade and French-British Rivalry in Eighteenth-­ Century Senegambia Cheikh Sène

In the eighteenth century, Senegambia was one of the most important places for Europeans’ economic needs. The region is situated between the Senegal River to the north and the Gambia River in the south, rivers that enabled Europeans to forge important commercial relations with African Atlantic states and also with African states located in the hinterland. This facilitated the opening of communications with the Niger Valley.1 It was a area that had been sought by Portugal, France, the Netherlands, and Britain due to its position on the sailing route between Europe and the Americas, which allowed slave ships to travel quickly across the Atlantic. This part of West Africa provided Europeans with slaves, gum, wax, ivory, gold, and food. Between the seventeenth and ­eighteenth centuries, France 1  Etienne-Felix Berlioux, André Brue ou l’origine de la colonie française du Sénégal (Paris: librairie de Guillaumin et Cie, 1874), 18.

Cheikh Sène (*) Institut des Mondes Africains, Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne, Paris, France © The Author(s) 2019 J. R. Fichter (ed.), British and French Colonialism in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies Series,




and Britain were the two European states that most asserted power in Senegambia. The Franco-British rivalry in Senegambia was a major political and economic issue. It focused first on the race to the comptoirs (trading posts) and points of trafficking, then on the trade in gum in the north of Senegambia and slaves in the south. The British made several attempts to occupy positions in Senegambia. They occupied the French comptoir of Gorée from 1758 to 1763 (during the Seven Years’ War) and the French comptoir of Saint-Louis from 1758 to 1779. The British then re-­occupied Gorée from 1779 to 1783. These occupations were linked to British interest in monopolizing Senegambian trade, including the trade in gum and the trade in gold from Bambouk in the land of Galam. The French and British fought fiercely for the control of trade, using the price of captives, gum, and customs (taxes paid on trafficking to local sovereigns) as political-economic tools. To better understand the Franco-British rivalry, this chapter will trace the history of these two major maritime powers on the Senegambian coast, analyze the economic effect of this rivalry on Senegambian trade, and describe the political conflicts between France and Britain in Senegambia.

The Era of Fortified Comptoirs in Senegambia: The Race to Land European rivalries manifested on the coasts and rivers, places from which to organize trade with the states located in the Senegambian hinterland. As early as the fifteenth century, the Portuguese frequented Senegambian coasts. In 1446, they settled on the shores of Senegal, and, in 1455, they built a fort on the island of Arguin.2 They traded for slaves, leather, and ivories with the coastal populations. The Dutch, English, and French joined the Portuguese in trading with the populations of Senegambia. At the beginning of the seventeenth century some texts show the presence of the French, English, and Dutch various places of trafficking. In 1606, Pieter Van Den Broeck wrote, “The 15 of January 1606 we dropped anchor at an island … There we met 2 Dutch vessels, 3 French, & 5 2  Léonard Sainville, Histoire du Sénégal depuis l’arrivée des Européens jusqu’à 1850 d’après les documents des archives françaises, première partie 1364–1758 (Saint-Louis du Sénégal: C.R.D.S, 1972), 6.



English, which one also sought to peddle, & the other wanted to take refreshments, to go to Brazil.”3 In this precolonial period, the French, English, and Dutch tolerated each other. Though clashes and piracy were common enough, there was no systematic hostility between the sailors of these nations.4 The foundation of the Dutch establishment of Gorée in 1617 opened the era of comptoirs under European sovereignty and greater conflict between European powers. In 1633, the island was conquered by the English. The Dutch, having lost Gorée, withdrew to the Gambia River island of Saint-André. In 1638, the merchant captain Thomas Lambert was chosen by the traders of Rouen and Dieppe to build the first fixed French establishment on the tip of Bieurt, three miles from the mouth of the Senegal River. In 1659, the clerk Louis Caullier built a fort on a small island, a league upriver from the sea, which seemed better protected against the attack of the waves.5 The island, called Ndar by local populations, would be baptized in the name of Saint-Louis in the honor of King Louis XIV. Two years after the creation of Fort Saint-Louis by the French, the English, already installed in Gorée, launched the conquest of the Gambia River. In 1661, Sir Robert Holmes seized Saint-André from the Dutch. Holmes fortified the island in 1664, and the fort took the name Fort James in honor of the Duke of York.6 From this comptoir, the English sought to impose a monopoly on trafficking. On 24 October 1664, Gorée was reconquered by Admiral Ruiter to the benefit of the Dutch East India Company with the support of the fleet of the United Provinces.7 In 1677, Admiral d’Estrée took Gorée for France. The Compagnie du Sénégal, 3  Pierre Van Den Broecke, “Voiages de Pierre Van Den Broeck au Cap Vert, à Angola et aux Indes Orientales,” in René-Auguste-Constantin de Renneville, Recueil des voiages qui ont servi à l’établissement et aux progrès de la Compagnie des Indes Orientales, (Amsterdam: Etienne Roger, T. IV, 1725), 306–307. 4  Jean Boulègue, les royaumes Wolof dans l’espace sénégambien (XVIIIe–XIXe siècle), (Paris: Karthala, 2013), 189. 5  Prosper Cultru, Les origines de l’Afrique Occidentale, Histoire du Sénégal du XVe siècle à 1870 (Paris: Emile Larose, Libraire-éditeur, 1910), 43. 6  Mbaye Gueye, Sites liés à la traite négrière et à l’esclavage en Sénégambie: Pour un tourisme de mémoire (Paris: UNESCO, 2005), 75–76. 7  Olfert Dapper, Description de l’Afrique: contenant les noms, la situation et les confins de toutes ses parties... ([Reprod.]) translated from Flemmish by O. Dapper l’Institut national des langues et civilisations orientales, 1686, 502.



established in 1673, traded from Cape Verde and on the Small Coast.8 The Dutch withdrew to Arguin until 1727, leaving Saint-Louis and Gorée under French control and the Gambia under British control. Yet France did not wish to leave all Gambian trade to the British. In 1681, France founded a comptoir at Albreda on the shore of the Gambia River in the Kingdom of Bar. With the withdrawal of the Portuguese and Dutch from the area between Saint-Louis and the Gambia, the French and British became rivals for mastery of Senegambia. The struggle to monopolize Senegambian trade emerged between these two powers.

Senegambian Trade and Franco-British Rivalry (1700–1758) In the eighteenth century, the products most sought by Europeans in Senegambia were gum and slaves. Gum arabic has multiple uses. It was used in European manufacturing, particularly in the textile industry, in food, in the paper-making industry, in woodworking (glue, varnishes),9 and in medicine. This gum had been the subject of fierce competition and attracted the interest of the three major manufacturing powers of this time: England, France, and Holland. These nations waged a commercial war for the possession of the Senegambian stopovers where Moors brought in their gum harvest.10 After the Dutch withdrew from Arguin and Portendick in 1727, England and France remained. France did not successfully monopolize the gum trade at Arguin and Portendick—British and Dutch interlopers took some of the trade for themselves. For French traders, sharing the gum trade was unacceptable. The existing trade along the Senegal River was in British hands. They could not allow the British and Dutch to be major redistributors of gum in Europe “to the disadvantage” of the French company.11 Even before Arguin and Portendick were ceded to France in 1727, in the 1720 Treaty of The Hague, Saint-Robert reminded the Compagnie des Indes that patrol vessels were needed to  Abdoulaye Ly, La Compagnie du Sénégal (Paris: IFAN-Karthala, 1993), 112.  Geneviève Desiré-Vuillemin, Essai sur le Gommier et le commerce de la Gomme dans les escales du Sénégal (Dakar: CLAIRAFRIQUE, 1993), 23. 10  André Delcourt, La France et les Etablissements Français au Sénégal entre 1713 et 1763 (Dakar: Mémoire de l’IFAN, n°17, 1952), 45. In the Senegalese context “Moor” refers to a specific ethnic group comprising Muslim Hassaniya Arabic speakers organized into tribal entities around two powerful emirates, Trarza and Brakna. 11  Delcourt, La France et les Etablissements Français au Sénégal, 181. 8 9



stop other traders and give the company a monopoly on the supply of gum to Europe.12 In this same letter, one learns that the company was building in Saint-Malo a small frigate of fourteen cannons with a capacity of eighty men intended to chase the interlopers off Portendick. The Agreement of 1724 did not eliminate competition between the British and French. The British company recognized the Compagnie des Indes’s right to settle in Albreda under an agreement authorizing the British to trade in Joal and Portugal,13 dependencies of Gorée where slaves, leather, and food were traded. Yet in 1730, Britain sent warships off the coast of Mauritania for the defense of its nationals. On at least two occasions, in 1737 and 1738, meetings of the two navies almost escalated to violence. At the same time, in Guinea, the British navy evicted or captured French ships that came to trade in the roadstead fair of Annamabou.14 Things calmed a bit in 1740 when the director of the Compagnie des Indes, P.-F. David, negotiated with his British colleague in the Gambia. This led to a treaty by which the French company undertook to sell to the British company 360,000 pounds of gum from Senegal against 300 “pièces d’Inde” (a young captive in very good physical condition) from the Gambia.15 If France had a hand in the gum of Senegal, the Gambian slave trade was virtually dominated by the British installed at Fort James. In the first half of the eighteenth century, Fort Saint-Joseph de Galam was, from an economic point of view, the main French settlement in Senegambia.16 The bulk of the French captives came from Galam. The British attempted to divert the Jula caravans from upper Senegal and Niger to their posts in the Gambia by offering Mandingo traders fees much more attractive than those of French Galam. In 1726, the French paid twenty bars per captive in Galam. (The bar was a synthetic currency used to price trade slaves. A bar’s nominal value was a bar of iron, although usually payers paid twenty bars’ worth of mixed trade goods rather than twenty actual iron bars.) In

12  Archives Nationales d’Outre-Mer, Aix-en-Provence, France. (ANOM) C6 6, 26 Aug. 1720. 13  Gueye, Sites liés à la traite négrière et à l’esclavage en Sénégambie, 76. 14  Delcourt, La France et les Etablissements Français au Sénégal, 50. 15  ANOM, C6 12, “Copie du traité de fait par Mr David avec les Anglois du fort Jacques en Gambie, 25 May 1740.” 16  Abdoulaye Bathily, Les portes de l’or: Le royaume de Galam (Sénégal) de l’ère musulmane au temps des négriers (VIIIe– XVIIIe siècle) (Paris: L’Harmattan, 1989), 12.



the Gambia, the British offered double, forty bars per head,17 and Fort James became the favorite place of Mandingo traders. In the second half of the eighteenth century, a memorial on French trade described the business strategy adopted by the British as follows: “It is hardly possible to give other reasons for the decrease in the trade of captives in Galam than the influx of interlopers in The Gambia; they pay the captive in this river commonly 100 bars and … our old price of 30 bars remains in Galam.”18 In the Gambia, Fort James became the main trading post for Mandingo traders. The French memorial worried that in such an environment, Albreda would have no point: We must not pander to attract merchants of captives to our comptoir at Albreda with a price of 40 and 50 the bars as long as the interlopers will go looking for up to 80 leagues in the river and pay 100 bars and more as well. The restoration of this comptoir will have no use, other than to maintain our right to trade and to provide us wax and morphil.19

French slave traders suffered competition from British traders who were always ready to outbid the French traders. For the British, it was inconceivable to allow the French to dominate the slave trade after having already let the French dominate the Senegal gum trade. French and British traders asserted their strategies and trade policies through local authorities, relying on the cooperation of Senegambian sovereigns. Their policy was to regularly pay the taxes on their commerce (called customs) and to give gifts from time to time as well. To divert Moor traders from Portendick, where British and Dutch interlopers ventured, la Compagnie des Indes paid the local Moor leader high customs and paid high for gum as well.20 The British had no opportunity to trade on the Senegal River, which was totally controlled by the French who bought gum from the Moorish Emirates of Trarza and the Brackna and bought slaves, ivory, hides, leather, and food from the Fuuta, the Waalo, and Galam while paying taxes to the sovereigns of these different regimes. The only option for the British was to encourage the head Moors to divert gum on the river stopovers from Senegal toward the coast of Arguin and Portendick. In 1757, the absence of British traders at Portendick left the French to buy  ANOM, C6 10, Mémoire sur le Sénégal 1726.  ANOM, C6 14, Senegal 20 Oct. 1754. 19  Ibid. 20  Ibid. 17 18



up 500 tons of gum.21 Britain was at this time already at war against France and was preparing a political-military strategy to seize the French possessions of Gorée and Saint-Louis in 1758.

Senegambia Under British Occupation, 1758–1779 In 1756, the Seven Years’ War (1756–1763) began in Europe. Early on, this conflict extended to colonies in Africa. Colonial issues were at the heart of this war, as Britain and France sought to establish dominance in North America, the Caribbean, Africa, India, and elsewhere.22 In 1758, la Compagnie des Indes lost the forts of Saint-Louis and Gorée. Saint-Louis was prized by the British because of its strategic position. Whoever took Saint-Louis controlled the trade of the Senegal River. Already engaging in a large-scale trafficking of slaves in the Gambia at Fort Saint James, the British also wanted to take over the market in gum arabic bought from Senegalese tribes.23 After the conquests of Gorée and Saint-­ Louis, the commander of the British fleet went to Albreda and bombarded it on 6 June 1758. Three weeks later, another bombing caused a fire there.24 Albreda fell in the hands of the British. France lost all its possessions in Senegal and the Gambia. The Seven Years’ War gave Britain the opportunity to directly control both Senegal and the Gambia and to monopolize trade there. At the end of the Seven Years’ War in 1763, Britain retroceded Gorée to France in Article 10 of the Treaty of Paris. The article stated: His Britannick Majesty shall restore to France the island of Goree in the condition it was in when conquered: and his Most Christian Majesty cedes, in full right, and guaranties to the King of Great Britain the river Senegal, with the forts and factories of St. Lewis, Podor, and Galam, and with all the rights and dependencies of the said river Senegal.25

 ANOM, C6 14, various documents, 1757.  François Ternat, Partager le monde: Rivalités impériales franco-britanniques 1748–1756 (Paris: Presse de l’Université Paris-Sorbonne, 2015), 9. 23  Nathalie Reyss, “Saint-Louis du Sénégal à l’époque précoloniale, l’émergence d’une société Métisse originale 1658–1854,” Doctoral thesis, University of Paris, I Sorbonne, Centre de Recherches Africaines (1983), 62. 24  Guèye, Sites liés à la traite négrière et à l’esclavage en Sénégambie, 70. 25  Avalon Project, Consulted 19 May 2018. 21 22



We do not know the real reasons that pushed the British to cede to the French the island of Gorée. However, it may be stipulated that the island did not represent a major commercial interest for the British. The trade was not made in Gorée Island. It was made in the states which depended administratively upon it, such as Bawol, Kajoor and Siin. In addition to this, there were difficulties replenishing the island with fresh water and wood. Gorée was a barren island that served as warehouse for captives intended for the plantations of the Americas. Britain had already reached its objective: it controlled the gum and gold trades of the countries of Galam. (Indeed, at the beginning of the seventeenth century, England demonstrated a desire for access to this gold. The mission of exploration of Richard Jobson in 1620 was motivated by the search for gold. In 1689, another mission was led by Cornelius Hodges. He succeeded in penetrating Bambuxu and Bundu, where he stayed several months. He visited the area of Neteko (Nettico), the exploitation of which had begun three years earlier.26 The return of Gorée to France was not unanimously supported in Britain. Sir William Pitt insisted Britain retain Gorée and protested that returning the island was “unworthy of a statesman.” He argued that possession of Gorée gave France a strategic base from which it could act against the British trade, with its base in Saint-Louis and its field of action in the Senegal River valley.27 Even if there were problems supplying Gorée, the island, he argued, remained a highly strategic point for the control of a good part of the Senegal coast. Nevertheless, giving back Gorée to the French and retaining Saint-Louis and its commercial dependencies (including Galam with its gold mines) was the political and commercial strategy most profitable for the British. After the restitution of Gorée to France in 1763, British influence was limited in the Gambia to Saint-Louis and its dependencies, and French influence was limited to Gorée and Albreda. The British relied on the cooperation of local chiefs and committed to paying the debts that the Compagnie des Indes had left in Senegal.28 This reliance on local chiefs often put the British on their back feet. The British had to rely on the support of the king of Bar to fight French commercial ambitions. Mr. Debatk the governor of Fort James, offered the King of Bar a present of 500 bars worth of goods  Bathily, Les portes de l’or, 293.  Léonce Jore, Les Etablissements Français sur la petite côte Occidentale d’Afrique de 1758 à 1809 (Paris: Société Française d’Histoire D’Outre- Mer, 1965), 45. 28  ANOM, C6 15, Senegal 1763. Mémoire on Gorée by M. Andanson. 26 27



with the aim of encouraging this sovereign to chase the French out of Albreda. Having failed to convince the king of Bar, the British complained that the French were able to pay the same king less. To the north of Senegambia, the sovereign of the Fuuta refused to receive the British in his country at all.29 In Waalo, the British were in conflict with the Brack Naatogo Aram, who wanted to continue confiscating the customs of the Kingdom of Kajoor.30 In the Kingdom of Bambouk, the population was reluctant to allow the British to install themselves in the fort. Poncet de la Rivière noted the “fort of Bambouc, which has been established by the Compagnie des Indes near the gold mines, and has been retained by the people of the country for the French; they have not wanted to make this fort for the British and say constantly that they keep for the French.”31 The hostility of these sovereigns toward the British was the fruit of French diplomacy. Beyond the trade, the French forged friendly ties with local sovereigns through a policy whereby they paid the taxes and fees of trafficking, gave presents to local chiefs, and signed peace treaties and alliances with them. In order to rehabilitate British trade, on 1 November 1765, a decree of the king of Great Britain created the province of Senegambia with Saint-­ Louis for capital. Charles O’Hara was appointed governor. The British launched the exploitation of gum arabic and especially of gold from Galam. The French, confined to Gorée, continued to trade with the Kajoor and the Bawol. Elsewhere they signed a treaty with the Damel who assigned them land.32 The British saw this as violating the terms of the 1763 treaty. O’Hara wrote to the governor of Gorée: I have not been a little surprised to learn that you have purchased from the Damel terrain in the continent of this country, Subject 200 bars of annual customs, which you have taken possession by the troops that you have sent and who are currently entrenched to do a new establishment and fortifications. As you do not ignore that this process is contrary to the faith in the last treaty of peace, I do not have to require that you desist from the designs that you have formed relative to the project and that you cancel the purchase of the ground with Damel accordingly.33  ANOM, C6 15, Letter of Poncet de La Rivière 25 May 1764.  Barry Boubacar, Le Royaume du Waalo: Le Sénégal avant la conquête (Paris: Karthala, 1985), 181–182. 31  ANOM, C6 15, Letter of Poncet de La Rivière 25 May 1764. 32  Robert Gaffiot, Gorée capitale déchue (Paris: L. Fournier, 1933), 250. 33  ANOM, C6 15, “Copie d’une lettre ecrite du fort Louis le 11 May 1766 pour M. O’Hara gouverneur du Sénégal à M. Le Cher De Mesnager gouverneur de Gorée.” 29 30



Article 10 of the Treaty of Paris is complex. It stipulates the restoration of Gorée to France “in the condition it was in when conquered.” But it does not mention Gorée’s dependencies. This implied that the French might be limited to Gorée only and did not have the right to build relationships with the states that depended on Gorée for the trade. The governor of Gorée, De Mesnager, however, interpreted things differently: “I have the honor to tell you Sir, that I did not have an army outside of the island, that I did not build any fortification and that I only maintain captives to cut wood or draw water for the needs and the supply of the island.”34 France had no right to grant land nor build forts on the dependencies of Gorée, but, she had the right to trade with these states as mentioned in a “Memorial on the Isle of Gorée,” which confirms that France “has the right to trade from Cape Verde up to the river of Serra Leone exclusively.”35 Meanwhile in the Gambia, the French suffered real difficulty. The British at Fort James prevented the French from dealing within the area around their fort, directed “by a lieutenant who prevented the French traders to deal in the Piram and Gombaunes Rivers located below the fort.”36 The British chased the French off with violence.37 To save French commerce, Le Brasseur, governor of Gorée, undertook steps to reform trade in the Gambia and Saalum. He proposed French authorities develop the trade to Albreda by allying with the king of Bar and, especially obtaining an agreement with the sovereign of the Saalum to create a comptoir in his kingdom.38 Le Brasseur proposed giving the king of Saalum a present and asking hostages from him in return. The British quickly destroyed the projects of Le Brasseur by offering more significant presents to the sovereign of the Saalum. Le Brasseur explains in his letter: “The English who do not consider any expenditure when it is a question of the increase of their commerce made the king of Salum … a present considerable enough to remove us from this branch of trade which the Compagnie des Indes had always done exclusively.”39 34  ANOM, C6 15, “Réponse de M. Le cher De Mesnager à la lettre de M. O’Hara du 11 may 1766. Gorée ce 17 May 1766.” 35  ANOM, C6 16, Mémoire sur l’Isle de Gorée, Senegal 1771. 36  ANOM, C6 16, Gorée 5 June 1772, M. De Rocheblave. 37  ANOM, C6 16, Gorée 4 April 1772, M. De Rocheblave. 38  Charles Becker and Victor Martin, “Détails historiques et politiques, mémoire inédit (1778) de J.A. LE Brasseur,” Bulletin de l’institut fondemental d’Afrique noire, Ser. B 39 no. 1 (1977), 85. 39  ANOM, 17DFC/76: Extract of a memorial of M. Le Brasseur, relative to Gorée, Gorée 1776.



Saalum was a transit zone for caravans traveling to the Gambia. To compensate for the loss of their possessions on the Senegal River and British competition in the Gambia, the French hoped to take advantage of the gold and slave caravans coming from Upper Senegal. Disappointed in his old ally, the king of the Saalum, Le Brasseur let his frustration with the lack of financial means by which to combat the British explode: “We have no friends to the coast of Africa, with the exception of Faudé alquier of Albreda because the Africans in general are beginning to believe that France no longer has neither money nor vessels, and the Project of British is to take advantage of this dulling and of our economy to make it bad everywhere for us.”40 Although France no longer controlled Senegambia, it still continued to benefit from the confidence of the sovereigns of the Bar and of the states of the Senegal valley, especially the Fuuta and the Waalo, who were hostile to the policy of the British at Saint-Louis. Damel-Tenñ Makodu, who was sovereign of the Kajoor and the Bawol, preferred to deal in Saint-Louis with the British and in Rufisque and Gorée with the French.41 He wanted to take advantage of their rivalry and, reasonably enough, trade with whatever nation paid the most for slaves and in taxes. The British mimicked French indigenous policy in order to counteract it. Yet they committed a strategic error: they tried to ruin Arguin and Portendick, where the French might trade gum. These places were not mentioned in the Treaty of Paris as areas from which the French were excluded. In the course of their occupation of Senegal, the British, instead of trying to keep these two posts, chose to ruin them in order to compel the Moors to bring gum to Senegal.42 So the French signed on 5 May 1773 a treaty with the sovereigns of Arguin and Portendick obtaining exclusive rights to trade in gum and any other goods.43 African traders and sometimes Moors carried gum to Gorée. Governor O’Hara tried to prevent the Moors from selling gum to France. But he was not been able to divert the Moors from Gorée.44 In spite of the customs that the British paid, and in spite of the honors and  Ibid.  ANOM, C6 16. Boniface to Minister, 22 Mar. 1773. 42  Gillier, Commandant breveté [Sic], La pénétration en Mauritanie, découverte, explorations, conquête (Paris: Libraire Orientaliste Paul Geuthner, 1926), 26. 43  ANOM, C6 12, “Copie du traité que l’Abbé Demanet a passe avec les souverains d’Arguinn, de Portendic et de la Côte depuis le Cap blanc jusques à la pointe de Barberie,” letter to Havre 5 Aug. 1773. 44  ANOM, C6 16, Gorée 22 Oct. 1773. 40 41



presents they gave to traders arriving in Saint-Louis,45 Moor traders traded with the French, too. British diplomacy in Senegambia was near failure. The French installed in Gorée dealt annually between 350 and 500 slaves, to the detriment of the British of Saint-Louis. As a result of a conflict about customs, British trade was disturbed by the King of Waalo who cut any lines of communication between Saint-Louis and the Kajoor.46 Moors, accustomed to plundering the black populations of the Senegal River, in complicity with O’Hara took advantage of civil war in the Waalo to destroy it by devastating several villages and capturing more than 8000 individuals in 1775. The abandonment of the Fort of Podor by the British proved yet again that they had no ambition or capacity to forge commercial relations with the local populations. There were various factors in the British failure in Senegambia. The inconsistent indigenous policy of Charles O’Hara, the revolution of Toorodo (which occurred among the Fuuta in 1776 and prohibited the sale of slaves to or trade with the British in Galam), the civil war in the Waalo, and the power of the Trarza Moors in the valley of the Senegal River can be considered as factors. In 1779, France, which had never abandoned its claims on the trade of the Senegal River, resumed control of Saint-Louis. The British retained Gorée until 1783. Article 9 of the Treaty of Paris (1783) stipulated: The King of Great Britain transfers in all property, and guarantees to His Most Majesty Christian the River Senegal and its dependencies with the forts of St-Louis, Podor, Galam, Arguin and Portendick; and His British Majesty returns the Island of Gorée, which will be given back in the state it was in when the conquest was made.47

France in Article 10 guaranteed to Britain Fort James and the Gambia River. France accepted that British could trade in gum from the mouth of the river of Saint Jean up to Fort Portendick, but the British would not have the right to build a permanent establishment. This treaty allowed France to  Gillier, Commandant breveté [Sic], La pénétration en Mauritanie 27.  Boubacar, Le Royaume du Waalo, 183. 47  Centre des Archives Diplomatiques de La Courneuve, Database of French Treaties “Traité de paix entre le Roi de France et le Roi de la Grande-Bretagne. Conclu à Versailles le 3 septembre 1783.” Piece number TRA17830002, 45 46



reoccupy Saint-Louis, officially its first facility on the West African coast, as well as Gorée. France had exclusive control of the west coast of Africa between the White Cape and the River Gambia. No European nation had the right to trade there, except France. And France alone had the establishments and military positions to exclude foreign vessels.

Conclusion Relatively pacific at the beginning of the seventeenth century after the decline of the Portuguese monopoly, the Franco-British rivalry grew in the eighteenth century, with each power having a significant capacity to affect the market access of the other. This rivalry became most violent with the Seven Years’ War. This war allowed Britain to put an end to the French commercial monopoly in Senegambia with British occupations of Gorée and Saint-Louis. French trade sharply declined at the beginning of hostilities, hurt by British naval power.48 Relatively little information has filtered out on this turbulent period, particularly on the years of British administration. One of the reasons that may have pushed the British to take possession of Saint-Louis was the legend of the “mountain of gold” of Bambuk. Interested in the gold, the British did not bother to forge friendly or diplomatic ties with the local sovereigns of Senegambia. They neglected the trade of Saint-Louis and its dependencies, building no forts or trading posts. This was not a policy aimed at a longer-term presence and trade. The main innovation of the British was in involving the métis population of Saint-Louis in the political affairs of their city. A “Council of the Governor” composed of nine “inhabitants” and four officers was instituted. This measure and a few others opened political avenues up to Saint-­ Louisians that had been blocked previously under French rule. Métis influence was affirmed in 1764, when the métis Charles Thévenot became the first mayor of Saint-Louis. The Treaty of Versailles ended the British occupation of Senegambia, but it was not the last British occupation in the region, as the same dynamic that had persisted in the Seven Years’ and American Revolutionary wars—Anglo-French rivalry in other theaters spilling over onto the West African coast—happened during the Napoleonic Wars as well. The British occupied Saint-Louis for the last time from 1809 to 1816. 48  Silvia Marzagalli, “Négoce maritime et guerres révolutionnaires (1793–1802),” Revue d’Histoire Maritime 4 Rivalités maritimes européennes (XVIe–XIXe siècles) (2005): 181.



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Secondary Sources Avalon Project. Treaty of Paris, 1763. paris763.asp. Consulted 19 May 2018. Bathily, Abdoulaye. 1989. Les portes de l’or: Le royaume de Galam (Sénégal) de l’ère musulmane au temps des négriers (VIIIe–XVIIIe siècle). Paris: L’Harmattan. Becker, Charles, and Victor Martin. 1977. Détails historiques et politiques, mémoire inédit (1778) de J.A. LE Brasseur. Bulletin de l’instititut fondemental dAfrique noire. Série B, Sciences humaines 39 (1): 81–132. Berlioux, Etienne-Felix. 1874. André Brue ou l’origine de la colonie française du Sénégal. Paris: Librairie de de Guillaumin et Cie. Boubacar, Barry. 1985. Le Royaume du Waalo. Le Sénégal avant la conquête. Paris: Karthala. Boulègue, Jean. 2013. Les royaumes Wolof dans l’espace sénégambien (XVIIIe– XIXe siècle). Paris: Karthala. Centre des Archives Diplomatiques de La Courneuve. Database of French Treaties. Traité de paix entre le Roi de France et le Roi de la Grande-Bretagne. Conclu à Versailles le 3 septembre 1783, No. TRA17830002. Cultru, Prosper. 1910. Les origines de l’Afrique Occidentale, Histoire du Sénégal du XVe siècle à 1870. Paris: Emile Larose, Libraire-éditeur. Dapper, Olfert. 1686. Description de l’Afrique: contenant les noms, la situation et les confins de toutes ses parties... ([Reprod.]) translated from Flemmish by O.  Dapper (Published by the Institut national des langues et civilisations orientales). Delcourt, André. 1952. La France et les Etablissements Français au Sénégal entre 1713 et 1763. Dakar: Mémoire de l’IFAN, no 17.



Desiré-Vuillemin, Geneviève. 1962. Essai sur le Gommier et le commerce de la Gomme dans les escales du Sénégal. Dakar: CLAIRAFRIQUE. Gaffiot, Robert. 1933. Gorée capitale déchue. Paris: L. Fournier. Gillier, Commandant breveté [Sic]. 1926. La pénétration en Mauritanie, découverte, explorations, conquête. Paris: Libraire Orientaliste Paul Geuthner. Gueye, Mbaye. 2005. Sites liés à la traite négrière et à l’esclavage en Sénégambie. Pour un tourisme de mémoire. Paris: UNESCO. Jore, Léonce. 1965. Les Etablissements Français sur la petite côte Occidentale d’Afrique de 1758 à 1809. Paris: Société Française d’Histoire D’Outre- Mer. Ly, Abdoulaye. 1993. La Compagnie du Sénégal. Paris: IFAN-Karthala. Marzagalli, Silvia. 2005. Négoce maritime et guerres révolutionnaires (1793–1802). Revue d’Histoire Maritime, no. 4, Rivalités maritimes européennes (XVIe–XIXe siècles), 181–207. Paris: Presse Universitaire Paris-Sorbonne. Reyss, Nathalie. 1983. Saint-Louis du Sénégal à l’époque précoloniale, l’émergence d’une société Métisse originale 1658–1854. Doctoral thesis, University of Paris I Sorbonne, Centre de Recherches Africaines. Sainville, Léonard. 1972. Histoire du Sénégal depuis l’arrivée des Européens jusqu’à 1850 d’après les documents des archives françaises, première partie 1364–1758. Saint-Louis du Senegal: C.R.D.S. Ternat, François. 2015. Partager le monde. Rivalités impériales franco-­britanniques 1748–1756. Paris: Presse de l’Université Paris-Sorbonne. Van Den Broecke, Pierre. 1725. Voiages de Pierre Van Den Broeck au Cap Vert, à Angola et aux Indes Orientales. In Recueil des voiages qui ont servi à l’établissement et aux progrès de la Compagnie des Indes Orientales IV, ed. RenéAuguste-­Constantin de Renneville. Amsterdam: Etienne Roger.


“Our Anglo-Saxon Colleagues”: French Administration of Niger and the Constraining Embrace of British Northern Nigeria Barbara M. Cooper

The increasing international scrutiny of conditions in French colonial territories in the wake of World War II prompted the French government to attempt to establish credible figures on population size, density, and growth in its West African colonies with a view to calibrating expenditures with needs. I opened a subfolder of materials on Niger held at the French Archives Economiques et Financières with some excitement, anticipating a useful report on “Education: Situation in 1948” for an ongoing research project on population in Niger.1 I was perplexed to find that it held not a report on education in Niger but rather a summary of a British report on education in Nigeria. In the postwar period, evidently, the best way to plan education in Niger was to take a peek over the border into Nigeria. This high-value “intelligence” from an official British colonial document 1  Centre des Archives Economiques et Financières (Paris) (hereafter CAEF) B-0057586/2 Niger 1948–1959, subfolder “Enseignement situation en 1948.”

B. M. Cooper (*) Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, NJ, USA © The Author(s) 2019 J. R. Fichter (ed.), British and French Colonialism in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies Series,




reporting on the growth of education in Nigeria from 1912 to 1948 included projections up to 1953. To the contemporary historian blessed with hindsight, the intelligence report simply confirms what we already know, namely that the British largely provided subventions to mission schools rather than attempt to create a network of government schools. Since these Christian mission schools were not encouraged in the “Muslim” north of Nigeria with the same vigor as they had been in the “Christian” south, significant regional inequity in western-style schooling developed within Nigeria. What is intriguing about the report is not that we learn something new about Nigeria but that we discover the relevance of the British model to French planners in 1948. The British document, the French author noted, “reveals the importance of religious missions by comparison to the government schools, the serious lag of the Northern provinces relative to those of the South, and the relative importance of different missions [significant] and of Islam [minor] in schooling.” The projections showed that the British planned to invest heavily in education in the future, both to bolster salaries against inflation and to train new teachers—including larger numbers of women—in teacher-training colleges. Most of the salaries would be paid to mission teachers. Even with the hindrances facing missions in the north, there were 164 subsidized schools operated by a quite stunning array of missions (Church Missionary Society, Sudan United Mission, Sudan Interior Mission, the Catholic Mission, the Brethren Mission, the Dutch Reformed Mission, United Missionary Society, and a variety of indigenous missions).2 One reason for the relatively large number of schools was that the British were willing to allow vernacular primary schooling in local languages, which was by far the preference of missions in general. The British colonial government could concentrate upon training teachers rather than running primary schools; by 1947 there were six normal schools in the north alone. In all of Niger there were none; the teacher-training-institutions in French West Africa were located only in distant Senegal. Elsewhere, I have written at length about the complex relations between “Anglo-Saxon” Protestant missionaries and French colonial ­administrators in Niger.3 France was very slow to acknowledge the utility of mission  CAEF B-0057586/2 “Enseignement situation en 1948.”  Barbara M. Cooper, Evangelical Christians in the Muslim Sahel (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006). 2 3



financing and staff in French West Africa (known by its francophone acronym, AOF), even by Catholic missions.4 This was due to a sometimes-­ unrecognized anticlericalism at multiple registers of the colonial administration. The preferred approach was to train a small number of the “sons and nephews” of chiefs in French-language government schools with a view to creating a cadre of secular bureaucrats who would at length “evolve” into Frenchmen. Disdain for missions and mission education became a habitual dimension of France’s self-image relative to Britain as an imperial power. The detail with which the contents of this unremarkable 1948 report was transmitted to the Finance Ministry hints at a late-­ colonial unease about the relative absence of mission education—indeed the absence of schooling in general—in the Sahelien zone. Comparative studies of colonial rule in the social sciences have tended to focus upon typologies of French and British rule more or less in isolation. Political scientist William Miles recently produced a useful review of such literature, focusing on the postcolonial implications of French as opposed to British rule by using ethnically homogeneous borderlands as test cases for the implications of different styles of colonial rule. Emphasizing the continuing salience of “the ‘contrast’ school of colonial historiography,” he concludes that “France and Britain coveted territory and resources and viewed indigenous polities as either facilitators or obstacles to those goals. In general the British viewed these polities as facilitators, whereas the French saw them more as obstacles.”5 Anthropologist Bob White examines the language of policy documents to extract the “signposts” of French and British colonial education policy, concluding (unremarkably) that the British model favored mass education and reflects “a strong undercurrent of cultural relativism” while the French model emphasized quality over quantity and “corresponds more closely to the idea of cultural universalism.”6 Historical work, less concerned with typology, tends to be more nuanced. Alice Conklin’s influential A Mission to Civilize calls such typologies into question by offering a compelling study of the evolution of 4  Joseph-Roger de Benoist, Église et pouvoir colonial au Soudan français: Administrateurs et missionnaires dans la Boucle du Niger (1885–1945) (Paris: Karthala, 1987). 5  William F. S. Miles, “Postcolonial Borderland Legacies of Anglo-French Partition in West Africa,” African Studies Review 59, no. 3 (2015): 191–213. These quotes appear on 207–208. 6  Bob W. White, “Talk about School: Education and the Colonial Project in French and British Africa (1860–1960),” Comparative Education 32 no. 1 (1996): 9–25. Quote page 21.



French thinking about its African civilizing mission.7 More recent historiography of French empire in French draws attention to the interactions of French and African agents on the ground. This work is rich in analyses of the mapping of empire, including some very fresh reflections on the ways in which the early interaction between African societies and French interests implied the engagement of sovereign African leaders. Camille Lefebvre argues that the notion that colonial boundaries were utterly arbitrary emerged during the interwar years. She shows that this apparently “humanist” argument emerged out of a revisionist emphasis upon ethnic territoriality that evacuated the history of the region of any African political agency.8 In a similar vein Isabel Surun examines how African signatories of international treaties with French agents expressed and understood the partibility of internal and external sovereignty. She illustrates the gradual and unpredictable processes by which the signification of elements of the treaties (particularly with regard to the use of, control over, or ownership of land) shifted.9 In general, scholars of colonial rule in AOF have focused less on the interactions between French and British colonialists after the Scramble for Africa than on the Scramble itself. This chapter will explore instead how French administrators interpreted their “Anglo-Saxon” neighbors to the south during the period of colonial rule, how the activities of Africans on both sides of the Niger-Nigeria border shaped French perceptions of British colonial administration, and how the differing strategies of the two powers (relative to the hajj, the regulation of Anglophone missionaries, and the extraction of taxes and labor) prompted rethinking, adjustment, and reassessment of French policy, particularly in the postwar era. Debates about the differing French and British colonial approaches generally cast them either as having emerged out of deeply held ideologies implicitly distinctive to divergent national characters or as necessarily parallel responses to the logic of colonial occupation.10 There are elements of truth to both of these arguments. 7  Alice L. Conklin, A Mission to Civilize: The Republican Idea of Empire in France and West Africa, 1895–1930 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997). 8  Camille Lefebvre, “We have tailored Africa: French colonialism and the ‘artificiality’ of Africa’s borders in the interwar period,” Journal of Historical Geography 37 (2011): 191–202. 9  Isabelle Surun, “Une souveraineté à l’encre sympathique?: Souveraineté autochtone et appropriations territoriales dans les traités franco-africains au XIXe siècle,” Annales. Histoire, Sciences sociales 69, no. 2 (2014): 313–48. 10  For an exposition of some of these debates see William F. S. Miles, Hausaland Divided: Colonialism and Independence in Nigeria and Niger (Ithaca: Cornell University Press,



However, drawing upon my observations about the evolution of French rule in Niger, I will suggest that the French colonial style unfolded in counterpoint with British administrative approaches and in response to the activities of Africans “playing” both sides of the Niger-Nigeria border. French administrators posted to Niger generally entered the region via Nigeria, where an encampment was maintained outside Kano to facilitate their rail travel to the interior from Lagos on the coast.11 Administrators who served in Niger were therefore inevitably quite familiar with British indirect rule through the emirs and their staff; they were also exposed to the many Anglophone missionaries resident in that colony. French administrators in Niger were consequently acutely aware of their counterparts across the border. At times their interactions were cordial—their military cooperated in the management of the Satiru uprising, and their doctors and veterinarians worked in tandem to counter animal and human epidemics.12 At other times their relations were more tense, particularly in the context of controlling black-market activities, constraining pilgrims, and surveilling Anglophone missionaries. In other words, French and British colonialisms in the region were not simply contrasting or functionally equivalent, they were also mutually informing and constraining (as they were in the previous chapter). The dynamics among African populations (who seized upon the different options on one or the other side of the border) also affected colonial practice. Here, as elsewhere along the French-British colonial borderlands, colonial subjects tended to prefer British to French rule.13 French administrators, in Niger at any rate, were necessarily constrained to adapt relatively moderate practices in order to retain or attract population. The central problem facing the colonial administrator in Niger was access to labor. Population movements across the border were a matter of acute anxiety to be monitored to whatever degree possible. In other words, administrators were not driven by ideological abstractions. They borrowed from their counterparts, defined themselves in opposition to them, or 1994), 1–19. For more recent reflections on the comparative impulse, see Véronique Dimier, Le gouvernement des colonies, regards croisés franco-britanniques (Brussels: Editions de l’Université de Bruxelles, 2004). 11  Lefebvre (2011, 270–271). 12  Paul E.  Lovejoy and J.  S. Hogendorn, “Revolutionary Mahdism and Resistance to Colonial Rule in the Sokoto Caliphate, 1905–6,” The Journal of African History 31, no. 2 (1990): 217–244. 13  Miles (2015, 195, 202, 205).



accommodated themselves to the preferences of their highly mobile subjects, who tended to vote on colonial policy with their feet.

Mapping Hausaland The Hausa-speaking region of West Africa, which was divided between French Niger and British Northern Nigeria during the six decades of colonial rule, is a particularly interesting space in which to explore how French and British administrators perceived one another as they looked across the border and what they made of the differences they saw. Britain’s portion of Hausaland was home to the largest Islamic state in nineteenthcentury Africa, the Sokoto Caliphate. Northern Nigeria was to become in many ways the model for Lugardian indirect rule via indigenous authority structures. France laid claim to territories that had long been hostile to Sokoto, including Maradi, Tsibiri, and Zinder. In this perhaps unusual instance, the colonial boundary dividing Hausa speakers simply reiterated and gradually transformed already existing precolonial divides.14 The early historiography of the Sokoto jihad interpreted it as an ethnic war, in which pastoralist Fulani Muslims attacked and overcame sedentary Hausa states that had only nominally converted to Islam. This reading of the “Fulani jihad” and of the “Fulani empire” occluded the complexity of coalitions of actors across ethnic lines. Nomadic pastoralists allied with both the jihadists and the resistant Hausa-led armies, while Hausa rebels joined with Tuareg and Fulani jihadists.15 Like many jihads, this war pitted reform-minded Muslims against other Muslims they regarded as impure; the ethnic coloration of the conflict was only part of the story. As in many conflicts, the question of who had the legitimate right to levy taxes 14  For debates on the nature of the Niger-Nigeria border see Derrick J. Thom, The NigerNigeria Boundary, 1890–1906: A Study of Ethnic Frontiers and a Colonial Boundary (Athens: Ohio University Center for International Studies, Papers in International Studies Africa Series no. 23, 1975); Miles (1994); Camille Lefebvre, Frontières de sable, frontières de papier (Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne, 2015). 15  The literature on the Sokoto Caliphate is vast. Places to start include: Murray Last, The Sokoto Caliphate (London: Longmans, 1967); Mervyn Hiskett, The Sword of Truth: the Life and times of the Shehu Usuman dan Fodio (New York: Oxford University Press, 1973); Ibraheem Sulaiman, The Islamic State and the Challenge of History: Ideals, Policies and Operation of the Sokoto Caliphate (New York: Mansell Pub, 1987); Beverly B. Mack and Jean Boyd, One Woman’s Jihad: Nana Asma’u, Scholar and Scribe (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009).



c­ontributed to the tensions that led to violence. Perhaps even more ­important, given the regional raiding and warring of the time, was the question of who had the right to enslave whom. With the Scramble, Britain secured its claim upon the territory that was to become Northern Nigeria by virtue of a phony treaty between the Royal Niger Company and the Sokoto Caliphate.16 By default, in a sense, anything that was not clearly under the suzerainty of Sokoto could be claimed by France—from the very outset the two colonial territories were mutually defined relative to the political circumstances set in train by the jihad of Usman dan Fodio. Immediately following the Berlin Conference France launched three military missions to converge at Lake Chad to secure on the ground its own paper claims to the region. The territory to the west and north of Sokoto consequently became central to securing the route to Lake Chad. The race resulted in some of the bloodiest events of the French adventure in West Africa.17 Once the region was under nominal French control, it became clear that it was of little economic interest; the territory was treated as unworthy of investment, by comparison with other colonies, and was only with considerable difficulty subdued. Lamenting the absence of experienced personnel in this unappealing posting, the governor general of AOF complained to the ministre des colonies that “neither in Dakar nor in Paris is it easy to persuade an officer to return to a Saharan posting” in the Military Territory of Niger.18 Protecting the Saharan trade in this ungovernable region while attempting to collect taxes and raise armies among populations that slipped readily across the border to Nigeria seemed to administrators a thankless task that ultimately benefited Nigeria more than it did France.19 For much of the colonial period, therefore, Niger was quite marginal to France’s West African empire. It was only with the fall of France 16  For a general history, see Finn Fuglestad, A History of Niger, 1850–1960 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983) 49–78. 17  Muriel Mathieu, La Mission Afrique Centrale (Paris: L’Harmattan, 1995); Bertrand Taithe, The Killer Trail: A Colonial Scandal in the Heart of Africa (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009). 18  Archives Nationales d’Outre-Mer (Aix-en-Provence) (hereafter ANOM) FM 1AFFPOL 591 Affaires politiques Niger 1916–1920, Letter from François Joseph Clozel, Gouverneur Général de l’AOF to the Ministre des Colonies, 1 Feb. 1917 “Situation politique du Territoire Militaire du Niger 3ème trimestre 1916.” 19  ANOM FM 1AFFPOL 591 Affaires politiques Niger 1916–1920 Rapport semestriel 2ème semestre 1918, Le Colonel Mechet, Commissaire du Gouvernement Général au Territoire Militaire du Niger, 1 Feb. 1919.



to Germany in 1940 and the subsequent decision of AOF under Pierre Boisson to back the Vichy government that Niger again resurfaced in geopolitical terms. Vichy Niger shared borders with Gaullist French Equatorial Africa, British Northern Nigeria, and Italian Libya. Surrounded on all sides by hostile forces, Niger’s wartime administration imposed a degree of border control and government surveillance rarely seen before or since (for more on wartime Niger, see Eric Jennings’s Chap. 12).20 With the ending of the war France began to gather more information on its neglected colony, such as the report with which I opened this chapter. If Niger was not as wealthy as Ivory Coast or as institutionally significant as Senegal, its proximity to Algeria and Nigeria did attract renewed attention. Furthermore, beginning in the late 1950s Niger’s strategic mineral wealth, particularly its uranium, became the focus of French research and investment. While France failed to prevent Guinea from famously voting “no” in De Gaulle’s constitutional referendum of 1958, it did succeed in preventing Djibo Bakari from leading Niger to immediate independence.21 Ironically, the size of the French population in Niger increased exponentially the closer independence became.22 The effects of decades of neglect could not easily be reversed, however, and Niger is today one of the poorest countries in the world. It is also strategically central to any regional effort to counter al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb to the west and Boko Haram in the east.

The Emergence of a Policy of Association While their approaches to existing indigenous hierarchies were initially rather different, the two colonial powers watched one another closely and occasionally shared information, particularly about movements deemed a threat to European hegemony. French and British attitudes toward the various Sufi orders within the region were mutually informed. The British in Nigeria were naturally invested in the legitimacy of the Qadiriyya broth20  Barbara M. Cooper, “American Missions in War-time French West Africa: Travails of the Sudan Interior Mission in Niger” in Judith Byfield, Carolyn A. Brown, Timothy Parsons, and Ahmad Alawad Sikainga, eds. Africa and World War II (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015) 359–382. 21  For a moving account of the rise and fall of the Sawaba movement in Niger see Klaas van Walraven, The Yearning for Relief: A History of the Sawaba Movement in Niger (Leiden: Brill, 2013). 22  Lefebvre (2015, 467–470).



erhood, to which most of the ruling elite through which Northern Nigeria was governed adhered. For the French it was the Tijaniyya that represented a “safe” version of Islam, in contrast with the purportedly disruptive Islam to the north and south.23 Nevertheless the British and French exchanged intelligence on either side of the border relative to “bad” Muslims regularly, agreeing, for example, that the Sanussiyya were a particular threat to order, despite their small numbers (for which, see John Slight’s discussion in Chap. 4).24 The vast territory of Niger, distant from Dakar and plagued by resistance movements among nomadic Tuareg populations, was ruled as military territory until 1922. The courts were overseen not by trained French judges, as was the case in older and more established colonial cities, but by military officers. In all of French West Africa, the colonial inspector Merly reported in 1926, the court system was “deplorable”—out of fifty-seven employees, fewer than half were actually trained legal professionals, almost all in Dakar or other major cities. Even in Dakar, only one in six judges was a professional. Evidently stung by the implicit criticism in the Merly report, Governor General Jules Carde responded: “This situation has been brought up repeatedly by the Service,” and he went on to quote the most recent telegraph: “I respectfully draw your attention that the dearth of magistrates is such that the normal functioning of the justice system is impossible.”25 It was not until the late 1950s that the first trained civilian judges were posted to the courts in Niger, and only after independence were the courts fully civilian.26 Not surprisingly, local populations continued to have recourse to preexisting modes of dispute mediation in preference to what were in Niger essentially military institutions staffed by military officers.27 In the courts 23  French attitudes toward the Tijaniyya shifted over time but were in general relatively favorable. Christopher Harrison, France and Islam in West Africa, 1860–1960. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 47, 169–181. 24  Jonathan Reynolds, “Good and Bad Muslims: Islam and Indirect Rule in Northern Nigeria,” International Journal of African Historical Studies 34, no. 3 (2001): 609–610. 25  ANOM FM 1AFFPOL/3058 “Mission d’inspection de l’AOF” Merly 1926. Letter from L’Inspecteur des Colonies Merly, Chef de la Mission d’Inspection de l’AOF to Ministre des Colonies, “Service du Personnel” Dakar, 30 Mar. 1926. 26  Philippe David, Niger en Transition, 1960–1964 (Paris: L’Harmattan 2007). 27  Barbara M.  Cooper, “Injudicious Intrusions: Chiefly Authority and Islamic Judicial Practice in Maradi, Niger,” in Richard Roberts, Shamil Jeppie and Ebrahim Moosa, eds., Muslim Family Law in Colonial and Postcolonial Africa (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2010), 183–218.



of recognized regional and village chiefs (known as Sarki) Hausa speakers could handle issues related to marriage, inheritance, theft, minor violence, and so on without the unpredictable and unreliable mediation of the French administration. For their part, colonial military administrators known as commandants de cercle were ambivalent about their own reliance upon the local chiefs in order to administer these territories effectively—commanders had a tendency to replace existing rulers with their own favorites, regardless of their legitimacy within local populations. Such rulers could become a serious liability, like the chef de province of Zinder, a court eunuch of the Sultan Ahmadou whose valuable services in the past gave way to a venality that the commandant resolved by sending him into exile in his “home” of origin, Bagirmi. Colonel Ruef was of the opinion that it would be better to simply eliminate the office of chef de province. His superior in Dakar (Governor General Martial Merlin) disagreed, taking care to pass along to the colonial minister a marginal comment insisting that they continued to need the chiefs.28 As Robert Delavignette was to remark in his personal reflections on the realities of colonial rule, “The Commandant of the Cercle is not truly a commander except in so far as he can understand the chiefs and get a hearing from them,” going on to offer as an example the case of how the French administration in 1923 gained access to land from an autochthonous cultivator in Maradi through the intercession of the Sarki.29 Jules Brévié’s positive experience working with such chiefs in Niger contributed to a shift in  French policy toward chieftaincy that ushered in the major change in thinking that has come to be known in a kind of shorthand as “associationist policy.”30 More fundamentally, the shift reflected the growing recognition of the utility of drawing upon the existing legitimacy of indigenous rulers rather than appointing favored collaborators.

28  ANOM FM 1AFFPOL 591 Affaires politiques Niger 1916–1920, Le Colonel Ruef Commandant le Territoire, “Rapport Politique 1er Trimestre 1921,” Zinder, 14 May 1921. 29  Robert Delavignette, Freedom and Authority in French West Africa (London: Frank Cass & Co. Ltd., 1968 [1946]), 72, 77. 30  On the whole the administrative staff posted to Niger was undistinguished, to say the least, but those few perceptive and able administrators who did work there and found themselves working closely with local chiefs seem to have been among the vanguard supporting the emerging associationist policy. William B. Cohen, Rulers of Empire: The French Colonial Service in Africa (Stanford: Hoover Institution Press, 1971), 100, 115.



Because of its proximity to the British model of indirect rule in Northern Nigeria, which drew explicitly upon customary authority, the territory of Niger was central to the elaboration of the French mode of rule by “association.” Hausa society had a long and highly elaborated institutional chieftaincy that included a court system in which diverse elements of the population were represented. The post jihad emirates modified but did not eliminate that system. Like the British, according to William Cohen, Jules Brevié “wanted to modernize and strengthen the chief-system.”31 If some have seen the shift to association as merely the instrumental co-­ optation of chiefs within the command apparatus, it is by no means clear that colonial subjects saw indigenous rulers in the same light.32 Delavignette commented of the “black peasantry,” “they have already forced us to reconsider the powers of native chiefs,” suggesting that while colonial administrators attempted to co-opt the powers of chiefs as a practical matter, local populations were neither passive nor neutral in influencing how the complex symbiosis of “custom” and empire was to develop.33 Associationism emerged out of both the jostling of French and British administrators, and the preferences of local populations for their own judicial and administrative institutions.

The Use and Abuse of Christian Missions Maintaining a conceptual and administrative distinction between the adaptable Islam noir of such local rulers and the purported religious fanaticism of those resisting French rule made it easier to reconcile the ideal of French secular governance (via the Napoleonic Code) with the realities of association. The fiction of secular governance required hiving off major portions of “family” law into the indigenous legal sphere; that sphere underwent a gradual process of “malikisation” over the course of the colonial period.34 For the British there was surely less dissonance between the doctrine of indirect rule and a metropolitan legal and political culture that reconciled (albeit uneasily) state religion and secular governance. France’s uneven disposition toward religious authority resulted from deep ambiva Cohen (1971, 115).  Cohen (1971, 117). 33  Delavignette (1968, 107). 34  Barbara M. Cooper, “Secular States, Muslim Law, and Islamic Religious Culture: Gender Implications of Legal Struggles in Hybrid Legal Systems in Contemporary West Africa,” Droits et Culture 59, no. 1 (2010): 97–120. 31 32



lence that had  particularly contradictory implications of education. If it was possible to borrow from the model of British rule across the border in Nigeria, testing it out in the context of the strong chiefly rule of Zinder, Maradi, Tessaoua, and Tsibiri, without appearing to concede major elements of the republican ideal, it was less clear whether borrowing the British model of educational infrastructure would work. Even within the Hexagon, the relationship between religious schooling—associated with the Catholic clergy—and public education vacillated radically over a relatively short period of time. The French revolution abolished the Church monopoly on education, but by the time of Napoleon I religion was seen as an essential part of public education and order, to be carefully controlled by the state through the university. During the Restoration, the religious orders hoped to wrest control of education from the university (which had the right to oversee staffing and curriculum). By the Third Republic, Church and university tensions had become so pervasive that an alternative strategy, endorsing freedom and neutrality in public schooling, emerged. By 1904 the religious orders were forbidden to teach altogether. But the threat to the public welfare represented by World War I led to a renewed union sacrée between Church and state, and schools were once again entrusted to the holy orders. With the championing of Catholicism under Vichy, the écoles normales were closed and private religious schools received state subventions. At the close of the war the loi Debré reestablished state control of schools but sustained the notion of subventions. Schools could receive grants so long as they submitted to state regulation. Religious schools could receive grants to help pay salaries and benefits for teachers under a contrat simple. A closer association with the state implying closer state supervision through a c­ ontrat d’association enabled schools to receive assistance per student as well, with staff becoming employees of the state directly.35 Obviously if France was not certain how to resolve the relationship between the clergy and the need for public education within the metropole, then the question of how to handle education in a largely Muslim milieu while at the same time fending off the possible encroachment of the British and of the numerous Anglophone missionaries across the border in Nigeria was even more difficult. In the nineteenth century, the Catholic Church had a monopoly on education, and the French government paid 35  Pierre Erny, Écoles d’église en Afrique noire: poids du passé et perspectives d’avenir (Fribourg: Nouvelle Revue de science missionnaire, 1982).



its teaching staff. Only in the early decades of the twentieth century did France begin to develop the conception of lay education with strong state oversight. Nevertheless it remained difficult to disentangle the cultural, linguistic, and religious strands of French “civilisation” in the name of which colonization occurred. To what degree was Christian training and acculturation via the French language essential to the “evolution” of Africans toward civilization? France could hardly impose Christian schooling upon a Muslim population without generating deep resentment and fomenting rebellion. Furthermore, to be too supportive of missions could expose the hapless administrator to accusations of proclericalism whenever the political winds might shift. The legal status of missions was sufficiently ambiguous before the close of World War I that it was relatively easy for administrators to sidestep these contentious issues by simply denying Christian missions permission to operate. The upshot of this ambivalent support for missions was that even the modest network of schools created by Catholic orders in French Soudan (to the west of Niger) was deliberately sabotaged through competition with newly created French-language public schools in the period from 1906 to 1914.36 The close of World War I changed the political landscape considerably, for the protocol of Saint-Germain (September 1, 1919) obligated signatory powers to give missions of all nationalities and denominations equal access to the African colonial territories in the name of “progress and civilization.” Having consistently thwarted even French Catholic missions in its Muslim territories, France suddenly faced the prospect of having now to tolerate the entry of “Anglo-Saxon” Protestant missions into the vacuum it had created.37 France quickly drew up regulations concerning schooling to enable it to control the activities of any missions that might attempt to enter its territories. By September 3, 1920, a dépeche had gone out confirming that within the colonies the language of instruction in schools would be French, as in the metropole.38 A February 14, 1922, décret further established that no private schooling could be administered without permission. Authorization would require adherence to official educational programs, the exclusive use of the French language, the keeping of formal records, and submission to official inspections. All personnel  Benoist (1987, 209).  Benoist (1987, 256, 281). 38  Benoist (1987, 256). 36 37



would need to have diplomas from officially certified schools. “Private education,” the décret explained, “has the same function as official education and must employ the same instruction methods. Its essential goal is to teach the French language, to give students the basic elements of a general education, to strengthen and refine character, and to enhance the sense of loyalty towards France.”39 For Catholic missionaries (not all of whom were French) the requirement that schooling be conducted in French in the service of French culture was unwelcome—missions had found that their students were regularly absorbed into colonial employment before their spiritual training could be perfected. Catholic missions (like the Protestant missions) overall preferred vernacular instruction. The requirement of an official teaching certification was difficult to surmount, for even Catholic missionaries generally had religious rather than secular training.40 The Catholic educational system had to rely heavily upon teaching staff from the small numbers of female missionaries trained in congregations that emphasized a lay scholarly tradition, such as the Congrégation des Soeurs Blanches. In Niger as well it was this feminine order that staffed the scant Catholic school infrastructure. The network of Catholic schools in Niger, begun only very belatedly in the 1950s, was quite modest at independence, consisting of an orphelinat, (a residential school originally conceived for “fatherless” métis children of French administrators and African women) in Maradi, a primary school in Dogondoutchi, and a collège (equivalent to a junior high school in the United States) in Niamey. To the degree that the French colonial administration could be seen to have supported mission schooling at all, it is true that it preferred French Catholic missions to those from Britain and United States. This tendency was most keenly felt by non-French missions during the Vichy period, when grants and subventions were directed exclusively to Catholic missions. Under Vichy, the Anglophone missionaries in Maradi, next to the border with Nigeria, were assumed to be spying for the British. The French administration prevented them from preaching or leaving their stations, and they were entirely cut off from the exterior.41

 Quoted in Benoist (1987, 281), my translation.  Benoist (1987, 176–177). 41  Cooper (2015, 359–382). 39 40



There seem to have been specific cultural dynamics and political tensions that contributed to this pattern of mistrust of Anglophone missionaries, which were well captured by the French Protestant Jean Keller’s report on his 1942 tournée among Protestant missions in French West Africa on behalf of the French administration in Dakar. Keller suggested that the “attitude of the missions [was] correct” and insisted that they did not in fact engage in politics: “it doesn’t appear that one could argue that these foreigners have conducted themselves any worse than the French themselves.”42 In other words, Keller seemed to be arguing, foreign missionaries were no more likely to spy than the French who were resident in the colonies. So why, he asked, did the heightened suspicion of them persist? First, he suggested, they were strangers; relatively few Protestant missionaries were French, and relatively few French missionaries were Protestant. Administrators assumed that as English speakers all “Anglo-­ Saxon” missionaries were essentially British. In reality in Niger many were not. Furthermore, the Protestant emphasis on evangelism was unfamiliar to most French administrators, who were more comfortable with the more discrete Catholic emphasis on schooling exemplified in the work of Lavigerie and the Pères Blancs. Anglophone missionaries’ evangelical zeal evidently wore thin when combined with their often-weak skills in French. They also, he suggested, had a “ténacité tout britannique”—an undeserved and specifically Anglo-Saxon sense of entitlement—that was irksome to an administration emphasizing hierarchy and acquiescence to authority. Keller went on to argue that despite these cultural m ­ isunderstandings the missionaries did preach submission to authority “in conformity with biblical teaching” and encouraged the payment of taxes. Despite the slow progress of the missions, given their emphasis on evangelism, their work did tend to support, Keller argued, the kind of moral, personal, and familial development that are of the greatest interest for the oeuvre civilisatrice of France in these territories. As if to apologize for the Protestant missionaries’ misguided emphasis on evangelism, Keller claimed that the missions were reflecting upon whether they had missed opportunities to win the sympathy of the indigenous populations, presumably through education and medical work. After World War II the situation was to undergo a sea change, for in the wake of the Brazzaville conference missions of all kinds were given much more latitude to operate in the colonies, precisely in the domains of medi ANOM 17G115 J. Keller, “Rapport de tournée, 12 janvier au 26 mai 1942.”




cine and other social services. However, France’s fundamental commitment to French-language instruction with strong state oversight for its general education program remained in place. The only major Protestant mission in Niger, the Sudan Interior Mission, insisted upon vernacular instruction and was therefore barred from opening approved schools. Anglophone missionaries only rarely earned the French diplôme necessary to teach; it continued to be an easy matter for wary administrators in Niger to thwart the mission’s efforts to set up schools.43 Having succeeded in preventing Protestant “Anglo-Saxon” missions from opening schools, France left Niger with precious little educational infrastructure at the time of independence. Today Niger has one of the least developed educational and medical systems in the world. The report with which this chapter opened encapsulates the stark consequences of the deliberate refusal of France to cultivate missions, despite the model across the border in Nigeria. Interestingly today private schools, many religious, have to a very large degree supplanted the secular school system bequeathed by France. The government system, never adequately financed during colonial rule, required massive borrowing to expand in the postcolonial period. The state system essentially collapsed under the strain of structural adjustment in the 1990s. Ironically, the vacuum has been filled largely by private Islamic or Catholic schools.

Managing the Hajj The case of French colonial approaches to the pilgrimage provides an interesting contrast with the handling of missionaries. If an element of anti clerical republicanism seems to account partially for France’s reluctance to take advantage of the institutional infrastructure missions might have offered, France’s approach to the religious obligation of Muslims to perform the hajj was far from strictly “Republican.”44 Well before colonial rule, pilgrims from across West Africa had made the hajj voyage on foot, sometimes taking years to return—if they returned at all. A necklace of Hausa-speaking communities skirts the edge of the savannah along the route from Hausaland to the Red Sea, populated by the descendants of  ANOM FOM Box 386, folder 77 bis/8 “Rapport Statistique Annuel 1946,” 6.  Gregory Mann and Baz Lecoq, “Between Empire, Umma, and the Muslim Third World: The French Union and African Pilgrims to Mecca, 1946–1958,” Comparative Studies of South Africa and the Middle East, 27, no. 2 (2007): 361–383. 43 44



pilgrims who settled in to work along the way to or from Mecca.45 Other pilgrims were stranded in Egypt or the Hejaz when they ran out of money or fell ill. These pilgrims presented a host of logistical problems for both the French and the British colonial administrations, entailing the development of measures to regulate and channel the traffic. Correspondence between the French Office of Muslim Affairs and the Foreign Ministry suggests that some of the West African pilgrims from French territories who made the pilgrimage on foot did not have enough money to cover the trip home again and that the problem was complicated by the lack of controls on the movements of pilgrims, the lengthy stays some made in the Hejaz, and the general vulnerability of pilgrims to attacks by Bedouins. The administration was concerned that some West African pilgrims were falling into slavery, often along the dangerous route between Mecca and Medina.46 Stranded West African pilgrims, known as Takruri, reportedly lived in desperate conditions.47 Both the French and the British were wary of the potentially radicalizing effects of lengthy stays of their West African subjects in independent Muslim territories during the pilgrimage to Mecca. From the outset French commandants in the Military Territory of Niger mistrusted religious leaders who instead of leading their followers to Mecca actually set up villages in Nigeria out of reach of the administration. Pilgrims returning from Mecca were subjected to close surveillance, their every movement in the territory recorded.48 At the same time, however, it was important to appear to be the protector and champion of Muslim subjects—in effect to take on the allure of a major Muslim power. Britain had very long experience in India with the epidemiological and political risks attached to the hajj among its Muslim subjects; by the early twentieth 45  C. Bawa Yamba, Permanent Pilgrims: The Role of Pilgrimage in the Lives of West African Muslims in Sudan (Washington, D: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1995); John Works, Pilgrims in a Strange Land: Hausa Communities in Chad (New York: Columbia University Press, 1976). 46  ANOM 19G19 Letter from Krajewski, consul general de France at Djeddah to Président du Conseil, Ministre des Affaires Étrangères, 28 Dec. 1922; ANOM 19G19 Letter from Krajewsi, consul general de France at Djeddah to Président du Conseil, Ministre des Affaires Musulmanes, 25 Oct. 1923. 47  F. E. Peters, The Hajj: The Muslim Pilgrimage to Mecca and the Holy Places (Princeton, 1994), 310. 48  ANOM FM 1AFFPOL 591 Affaires politiques Niger 1916–20, Lieutenant-Coloniel Lefebvre, Commissaire du Gouvernement Général p.i. au Terre Militaire du Niger [sic] “Rapport Politique 3eme Trimestre 1919,” Zinder, 17 Nov. 1919.



century, Britain had adopted the stance that it was wiser to engage in systematic surveillance than to attempt to thwart the hajj.49 The British in Nigeria from the late 1920s required vaccinations, a passport, and a sizeable deposit to cover the cost of motor transport; the goal was to simultaneously facilitate and inoculate pilgrims against potential exposure to Mahdist or anticolonial ideas.50 With less experience in managing large numbers of pilgrims, and a highly insecure border with Italian Libya, from about 1906–1920 French colonial officials in Niger exhibited tremendous mistrust of the origins and motives of pilgrims. Muslim scholars were closely watched for signs of anticolonial activities, and the “unsanitary” conditions in the Hejaz were offered as a pretext to refuse to provide pilgrims with passports.51 Relatively few French subjects had official permission to go on the hajj. However, French suspicions probably had little effect on the increasing flow of pilgrims via British territories. One French administrator in Niger, fearful of both Muslim propaganda and British intentions, remarked in frustration that despite his own attempts to thwart the pilgrimage, the “English” across the border give out “any number of passports” for pilgrimage.52 Hausa speakers have been quick to seize upon opportunities made possible on either side of the colonial border. Given the porous nature of the boundary it is hard to see how a pious Muslim in Niger who hoped to join a group of Nigerian Hausa pilgrims could be prevented from at length getting some form of documentation from the British. Mervyn Hiskett observes that British colonial administrators saw facilitating and protecting pilgrims as part of their jobs.53 To redress this problem, by the early 1930s the French Foreign Ministry had developed the strategy of organizing a state-sponsored and -managed pilgrimage trip for North Africans and in particular for Algerian Muslims. In doing so they entered perhaps not fully consciously into the longstand49  Michael Christopher Low, “Empire and the Hajj: Pilgrims, Plagues, and Pan-Islam under British Surveillance, 1865–1908,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 40, no. 2 (2008): 269–290. 50  Reynolds (2001, 611). 51  Éliane de Latour, Les Temps du Pouvoir (Paris: Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales, 1992), 5, 130. 52  ANOM, 200mi AOF 2G12 (18) Niger Rapport Politique 1912, 1er trimestre. 53  Mervyn Hiskett, The Development of Islam in West Africa (London: Longman, 1984), 283–285; see also I. M. Lewis, “Introduction,” in I. M. Lewis, ed., Islam in Tropical Africa (London: International African Institute, 1966), 79–80.



ing tradition throughout the Muslim world that each of the major Islamic political centers would send a highly visible caravan of pilgrims each year to Mecca. Thus, an “official” pilgrimage sponsored by France emerged to “protect” Muslims traveling from the colonies in North and West Africa while simultaneously offering an opportunity to collect useful intelligence about their activities while in Egypt and Saudi Arabia.54 It was also a vehicle for propaganda in favor of French rule. Of course, the very notion of an “official pilgrimage” cast doubt upon France’s own commitment to a laicism that neither promoted nor hampered religious practice. The persistence of the “traditional” hajj on foot, and the availability of alternatives via Nigeria meant that in Niger at least France never entirely succeeded in capturing all of the pilgrims in the officially regulated trip. The inevitable mingling of French and British subjects from across West and North Africa on these lengthy trips and in the Hejaz created opportunities for comparing notes that contributed to the eventual spread of anti-Sufi (broadly Wahhabi) perspectives into West Africa. However, it also facilitated the movement of African religious intellectuals from different Sufi orders across the British and French colonial divide. For example, the expansion of the teachings of Cheikh Ibrahim Niasse out of Senegambia and into Nigeria occurred because of an encounter between him and the emir of Kano, Alhaji Abdullahi Bayero, during the hajj of 1937. Cheikh Ibrahim Niasse provided a formidable bridge between the francophone Muslims oriented toward Dakar and the Anglophone Muslims increasingly drawn into the Tijaniyya-Ibrahimiyya whose center of gravity was in Kano. In 1954, the official AOF trip included pilgrims from the Gambia, Gold Coast, and Nigeria; Niasse delivered a sermon on the meaning of the pilgrimage during the embarkation in Algiers and delivered the key sermon for Aid El Kabir.55 While both France and Britain attempted to channel and control the hajj, pilgrims themselves complicated the notion of colonial territoriality. The two powers competed to project an image of benevolent paternalism—or as Greg Mann and Lecoq term it “aggressive accommodation”— in sponsoring and managing the hajj, but in the end it was interactions 54  For a view of this history as seen from Tunisia see Luc Chantre, “Le pèlerinage à La Mecque comme culture coloniale: le cas du protectorat tunisien (1881–1956),” Mémoire(s), identité(s), marginalité(s) dans le monde occidental contemporain, put online 22 Aug. 2013, consulted 16 May 2016. 55   ANOM 19G16 Chef de Bataillon Amadou Fall, “Rapport du Commissaire du Gouvernement pour le pèlerinage de 1954.”



among and between Muslim subjects that left the more lasting and powerful impression on pilgrims.56 Ironically, by attempting to channel the pilgrims France may even have facilitated interaction among pilgrims of West and North African origin—the very thing colonialists had long feared most. Even more important, the increasing familiarity of Muslim pilgrims across the AOF with Sufi movements, political circumstances, and party politics elsewhere within West Africa complicated the already messy denouement of decolonization. The run-up to independence in Niger surfaced tensions that made it clear that the authorities could no longer rely exclusively on the chiefs to secure an outcome favorable to France. The populist Sawaba movement drew instead upon the moral authority of Muslim clerics; Klaas van Walraven notes that security officers in the early 1960s were convinced that the Tijaniyya-Ibrahimiyya of Niasse was “more dangerous than a political party, which, after all, could be dissolved at any time.”57

Voting with One’s Feet African populations along the border had a vexing habit of choosing their residence and loyalties in light of their distaste for forced labor, military conscription, onerous taxes, and the requisition of grain and animals. Military rule in Niger gave soldier-administrators latitude to use the summary punishments of the indigénat to compel compliance with orders of all kinds, contributing to a perception that French rule was “hot” by comparison with British rule, which was “light.”58 That disciplinary latitude came at the cost of regular departures of populations southward, where the British administration was happy to accommodate them if only to discredit the French. These population movements were embarrassing and had to be accounted for somehow. Jules Brevié, when he was the governor of Niger in 1923, found himself constrained to respond to a query from the office of Political Affairs in Dakar related to the concerns of one M. Forbes, an administrator in the Service des Textiles who had recently visited Nigeria. The explanation offered by British administrators to Forbes about why French subjects were moving into Nigeria evidently depicted French rule in Niger in an unflattering light. An irritated Brévié retorted:  Mann and Lecocq (2007).  van Walraven (2013, 316). 58  Miles (1994). 56 57



The English administration flatters itself when it boasts of attracting our subjects through its benevolent rule; if their administration is neither very severe nor very demanding towards the native populations, the same cannot be said of the powerful chiefs to whom Britain delegates much of her authority and who know very well how to take advantage of it.59

French administrators regularly depicted chiefly rule in Nigeria as atavistic and unfettered, which made it all the more difficult to justify turning over some responsibilities to indigenous authorities in Niger. The habit of disparaging indirect rule in Nigeria, despite some of its clear advantages, placed administrators such as Brévié in a difficult position, for it emphasized the problem of policy over the problem of staffing. Insisting that this population movement was short term rather than permanent, he noted that there were regular movements across the border to sell grain, find pasture for cattle, buy goods sold by Dioula traders in Nigeria, and engage in dry-season labor migration. By spending their earnings in Nigeria, such laborers enjoyed the double benefits of higher wages and less expensive purchases. “This back and forth movement between the two colonies is consequently a normal economic reality” similar to the seasonal movements one sees across the region. While it was surely true that some indigenous chiefs in Nigeria had been encouraged to draw a following from across the border through various incentives, those tax incentives are temporary; once they have to start paying tax such emigrants tend to return because in the end “their contributions are higher in Nigeria than with us.” Furthermore, he remarked: “the collection of taxes is turned over to the indigenous chiefs in Nigeria, who customarily retain a ‘tithe’ for themselves above the normally required taxes. This tithe rises yearly with the appetites of these opportunistic tax collectors.”60 The rapacious “feudal administration of the British colonies,” he suggested, was therefore more extractive than the benign administration of Niger, producing a countermovement into Niger whenever there was recruitment of labor for large public works projects. Taking advantage of the opportunity to foreground his own ameliorative administrative reforms, Brévié noted that he had set a limit of ten days 59  ANOM FM AGEFOM 395 8bis Immigration/Emigration, Letter from Jules Brévié, Lieutenant-Gouverneur du Niger to the Gouverneur Général de l’AOF Jules Carde, “Mouvement de population entre le Niger et la Nigeria,” 23 June, 1926. 60  ANOM FM AGEFOM 395 8bis Immigration/Emigration “Mouvement de population entre le Niger et la Nigeria.”



of forced labor a year according to a schedule agreed upon in consultation with the local Council of Notables, resulting in the return of some who had departed to Nigeria to avoid conscription in the past. He also pointedly used the occasion to express some displeasure toward his superiors in Dakar: Each year, the announcement of the arrival of the [Military] Recruitment Commission produces an exodus out of each district of all the young men of age to be conscripted. The moment they know that the necessary contingent has been raised and that the danger has passed, these young men return. It is clear that if we arrested even a few of those absentees and forced them to serve, it would immediately trigger the mass exodus of not only those draft dodgers, but of their entire families. For the same reason whenever a deserter crosses into Nigeria he is accompanied, for fear of reprisal, by his close relatives.61

This silent protest effectively limited what the French could impose upon Hausa farmers in the productive agricultural districts of eastern Niger. As a result, Niger contributed quite small numbers of soldiers to France’s war efforts, particularly from eastern districts.62 Finn Fuglestad argues that the administration of Niger was constrained at almost every stage by the passive resistance of Hausa speakers who could so readily escape colonial exactions by blending into the Hausa landscape across the border. This penchant of Hausa speakers was particularly acute during the major military-recruitment drives of World War I and World War II. Indeed, one of the reasons for the growing French interest in drawing more directly upon the authority of chiefs was the resounding failure of the recruitment drives among Hausa in Niger during World War I— imposing orders through intermediaries who were not seen as legitimate locally was proving to have little effect and was even counterproductive.63 In the interwar years Albert Sarraut articulated the philosophy behind “association” through which the French and their subjects would engage in a mutually beneficial collaboration—the indigenous command structures would be respected and partially integrated into the hierarchy of 61  ANOM FM AGEFOM 395 8bis Immigration/Emigration, “Mouvement de population entre le Niger et la Nigeria.” 62  Myron Echenberg, Colonial Conscripts, The Tirailleurs Sénégalais in French West Africa 1857–1960 (Portsmouth: Heinemann, 1999), 50. 63  Fuglestad (1983, 94, 101, 109).



colonial administration.64 In theory, such intermediaries would become French administrators, subject to the discipline of the unified hierarchy, unlike the purportedly rapacious and ungoverned chiefs under British indirect rule. Sometimes in the end the distinction had little meaning. Like the British, the French found it convenient to draw upon the existing regulatory institutions of the Sahelian region. These institutions were increasingly articulated in the idiom of Maliki law and were readily adapted to preserve the privileges of the powerful against the pretentions of the weak—primarily younger men and women, former slaves, and nomadic populations stripped of their military prerogatives. The reinforcement of patriarchal indigenous authority produced a corollary system of constraint upon young men and women, whose mobility was recast as a form of delinquency, a dereliction of duty toward traditional authority whether in the form of fathers, husbands, or chiefs.65 The linked problems of the mobility out of AOF to evade exactions and into coastal labor markets in British colonies to earn cash were the source of popular anxiety within France. If labor was regularly drained out of the French territories then perhaps the colonies would never be profitable; the suitability of forced labor, requisitions, and military recruitment were matters of considerable debate in the colonial press.66 Such debate was all the more acute when it was prompted by the unwelcome scrutiny of the League of Nations and the International Labor Bureau, which were unimpressed by the legerdemain through which France represented labor “prestation” as a kind of tax rather than as a form of forced labor more closely akin to slavery. Increasingly, as Jules Carde noted to his lieutenant governors across AOF in 1929, “the great colonial questions are no longer purely national. Like it or not, international institutions increasingly seize upon them; this is a given that can no longer be avoided.”67 The challenge in the future would be to find mechanisms for “redistributing” African labor in the different French territories without giving rise to  Albert Sarraut, La mise en valeur des colonies françaises (Paris: Payot, 1923).  ANOM FM AGEFOM 395 8bis Immigration/Emigration. Ministre des Colonies Albert Sarraut “Rapport au Président de la République Française, March 20, 1923,” Journal Officiel de la République Française, 1 Apr. 1923. 66  ANOM FM AGEFOM 382 Exode navétanes avant 1945. The subfolder contains numerous press clippings related to circulatory labor migration. 67  ANOM FM AGEFOM 382 Travail obligatoire. Circulaire from Gouverneur Général Jules Carde to the Lieutenant Gouverneurs des Colonies du Group, “Travail indigène,” Paris, 11 Oct. 1929. 64 65



objections. Carde frankly anticipated circumventing the problem by drawing increasingly upon the “deuxième portion” of the military— recruits who were not necessary to fill the ranks of the military but who could be deployed (by analogy with the military) as a labor corps for major public works.68 Given the propensity of Niger’s sedentary Hausa farmers to pick up and move under the threat of such recruitment, major public works projects in AOF focused instead on regions where labor could be more easily retained. Such concerns about how to capture mobile male labor inevitably resonated with a sense that it would be important to encourage African women to produce more children in both quantity and quality. The “problem” of male labor was translated into a problem of demography more broadly. By 1938 the Colonial Ministry felt it needed a deeper understanding of the demographic situation. The governor general sent a memo on behalf of the Inspection Général des Services Sanitaires et Médicaux requesting that each of the colonies of French West Africa produce a study of the “causes of the failure of the population to grow.”69 While population was rising elsewhere on the continent, he announced, for some reason it was not rising in AOF. The request was clearly prompted by an essay by two experienced colonial doctors, Cazanove and Lasnet, on the demography of the French colonies. The essay was produced by the Office International d’Hygiene, a precursor of the World Health Organization. In it the authors noted that there were many opinions based on little data about the fertility, birth rates, and mortality of the colonies. The authors appear to have been confident, despite the imperfect data, that the population of AOF was not growing and indeed might be falling. The doctors suggested that it would be useful to study a number of issues of a cultural nature related to marriage age, polygyny, fostering, and infanticide. Additionally, they suggested, it might be worth studying the effects of military service and labor migration—did the absence of men reduce fertility? Were such men more likely to become sterile? Or rather, did their improved food and general conditions of hygiene work in the other direction? Other health-related 68  On the deuxième portion see Frederick Cooper, Decolonization and African Society: The Labor Question in French and British Africa (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996) 38–52, 88–91, and passim. 69  Archives nationales du Sénégal (hereafter ANS) 1 H 122 versement 163 Démographie 1933–1958. Letter from the Gouverneur Général p.i. de l’AOF to the Gouverneurs des colonies du Group, “Enquête démographique en AOF,” 2 Aug. 1938.



causes of a decline in birth rates might include syphilis and gonorrhea, also related to the question of male outmigration.70 Niger, it appears, did not manage to produce much in the way of a direct response to the request for a demographic study. In the months preceding to the outbreak of World War II the beleaguered lieutenant governor of Niger, Jean Rapenne, was chastised by Governor General Pierre Boisson in Dakar for failing to send along the requested studies of birth and death in proper table form to contribute to an overview of demography in AOF. Shortly thereafter Rapenne in turn expressed his dissatisfaction to his own subordinates, some of whom, he observed, did not appear to have made much of an effort to respond to this important matter. He urged his commandants to pressure the doctors in their ambit to produce the requested reports.71 He went on to suggest a variety of ways in which commandants should work to improve birth rates, such as enforcing “a minimum age, below which the consummation of marriage would be forbidden” and setting a maximum level for the key marriage transaction offered by the family of the groom to the family of the bride, known (confusingly) in French as “la dot” (dowry). The idea was that the younger and presumably more fertile men would thereby be in a position to marry and contribute to the growth of the population. These suggestions were marked off with red question marks by at least one reader, probably the chief medical officer. Certainly, the mechanism for enforcing these efforts was not at all clear. He closed his memo with a stirring exhortation: “Our unceasing efforts on the one hand to improve the material conditions and well-being of the natives, and on the other to develop the economy of our beautiful colony, would all be fruitless if our primary concern were not to do everything possible to ‘make Blacks.’”72 Rapenne’s request went entirely unanswered. With the outbreak of the war any policy directed at enhancing the well-being of the African subject 70  ANS 1 H 122 versement 163 Démographie 1933–58 Docteurs Cazanove et Lasnet, “Essai de Démographie des Colonies Françaises,” Supplément au Bulletin Mensuel, Office International d’Hygiène publique 1, XXIIm no. 8 (August 1930). The article was included in the memorandum of 2 Aug. 1938. 71  ANS 1 H 2 10 Maternité: Actes officiels: correspondance général, 1934–1939. Letter from Lt. Gouverneur Jean Rapenne to Commandants de cercles (Niger) Niamey, 13 Apr. 1939. The matter was complicated by the fact that administrative units (cercles) did not necessarily correspond with medical circumscriptions. 72  ANS 1 H 2 10 Maternité.



population fell by the wayside in favor of an energetic effort to provision France during the war. As large numbers of French West African doctors were recalled to serve in Europe, the already understaffed health services shifted into crisis mode. By December Rapenne had been replaced as lieutenant governor by Maurice Falvy, who as a brigadier general was seen as more suited to defending Vichy interests against the encroachments of the “enemy” territories of British Nigeria, Italian Libya, and Gaullist Chad. Falvy closed the borders, prohibited migratory labor, and embarked on a program of increased production, taxation, and requisition with a view to redirecting all of Niger’s production toward Vichy France. His regime’s unvarnished appropriation of labor and commodities (peanuts, livestock, millet, and oils) reduced Rapenne’s lofty colonial enterprise to a business of forcible extraction that contributed to a series of famines across Niger.73

Conclusion This study, drawing primarily from a single setting, can hardly claim to present an exhaustive picture of how French and British colonialism were mutually constructed. I do hope, however, to have shown how situated the emotional responses and pragmatic approaches of French authorities in close proximity to Northern Nigeria were. Attitudes toward indigenous authority structures, Christian missions, the circulation of religious pilgrims, and the mobility of subject populations could be complex and contradictory. On the one hand French career administrators borrowed from the model of indirect rule in Nigeria, which was relatively adaptable to circumstances in Hausa Niger because of its strong chieftaincy tradition. On the other hand, familiarity with Christian missions in Nigeria contributed to a perception of protestant missions as British. Despite their political neutrality and the reality that their origins were often in the United States, missionaries were perceived to contribute to the competing colonial power across the border. Protestant missionaries were thwarted in their efforts to build a vernacular-language school system in Niger. Attitudes toward and solutions for the “problem” of the hajj could be quite different on either side of the border, contributing to friction between the colonial administrations and heightening the sense of mistrust of pilgrims on the part of the French. Neither power was ultimately  Fuglestad (1983, 139–141).




capable of entirely controlling the hajj, although France sought to channel its subjects along formal official itineraries. When it came to the attraction and retention of a viable African population France and Britain engaged in open competition. French colonial subjects were quite mobile between French territories with little disruption. However, where the destination was within the British sphere, the sense of urgency to restrain such movements was acute. At every step the preferences of Africans, whether respected or not, were evident in their choices about where to regulate disputes, how to proceed to Mecca, whether to join the army, and where to go to find work. Those preferences in turn put constraints upon French administrative action or suggested alternatives that might not otherwise have been considered. And on occasion, as in the case of the Vichy period, tensions with British Nigeria could be severe enough to lead to the closure of the border and a prohibition on male labor migration altogether. Over the longerterm currency speculators played the French and British currencies against one another, took advantage of subsidies on one side or the other of the border, and evaded taxes and labor requisitions. Hausa speakers in the postcolonial period continued to seize upon the resource presented by the border, which by its very existence generates a lucrative black market.74 The Hausa region of Niger is regarded with ambivalence in the capital of Niamey. On the one hand, the region is the breadbasket of Niger. On the other, its populations are linked to Nigeria in complex and often contradictory ways. There are more Christian converts among Hausa speakers because of the persistent efforts of the network of “AngloSaxon” missionaries on both sides of the border. Yet at the same time Salafist currents in Nigeria have tended to enter into Hausa-­ speaking Niger along with traders, itinerant scholars, and migrant laborers. If populations along this colonial boundary identified as “faranchi” or “ingilishi” depending upon whether they answered to French or British rule, they were and still are more than anything else creatures of a borderland.

74  Emmanuel Grégoire, The Alhazai of Maradi: Traditional Hausa Merchants in a Changing Sahelian City, edited and translated by Benjamin H.  Hardy (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 1992). For similar processes elsewhere see Paul Nugent Smugglers, Secessionists and Loyal Citizens on the Ghana-Togo Frontier: The Lie of the Borderlands since 1914 (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2002).



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Africa, ed. Richard Roberts, Shamil Jeppie, and Ebrahim Moosa, 183–218. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press. ———. 2010b. Secular States, Muslim Law, and Islamic Religious Culture: Gender Implications of Legal Struggles in Hybrid Legal Systems in Contemporary West Africa. Droits et Culture 59 (1): 97–120. ———. 2015. American Missions in War-Time French West Africa: Travails of the Sudan Interior Mission in Niger. In Africa and World War II, ed. Judith Byfield, Carolyn A.  Brown, Timothy Parsons, and Ahmad Alawad Sikainga, 359–382. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. David, Philippe. 2007. Niger en Transition, 1960–1964. Paris: L’Harmattan. de Benoist, Joseph-Roger. 1987. Église et pouvoir colonial au Soudan français: Administrateurs et missionnaires dans la Boucle du Niger (1885–1945). Paris: Karthala. de Latour, Éliane. 1992. Les Temps du Pouvoir. Paris: Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales. Delavignette, Robert. 1968 [1946]. Freedom and Authority in French West Africa. London: Frank Cass & Co. Ltd. Dimier, Véronique. 2004. Le gouvernement des colonies, regards croisés franco-­ britanniques. Brussels: Editions de l’Université de Bruxelles. Echenberg, Myron. 1999. Colonial Conscripts, the Tirailleurs Sénégalais in French West Africa 1857–1960. Portsmouth: Heinemann. Erny, Pierre. 1982. Écoles d’église en Afrique noire: poids du passé et perspectives d’avenir. Fribourg: Nouvelle Revue de science missionnaire. Fuglestad, Finn. 1983. A History of Niger, 1850–1960. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Grégoire, Emmanuel. 1992. The Alhazai of Maradi: Traditional Hausa Merchants in a Changing Sahelian City, ed. and trans. Benjamin H.  Hardy. Boulder: Lynne Rienner. Harrison, Christopher. 2003. France and Islam in West Africa, 1860–1960. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Hiskett, Mervyn. 1973. The Sword of Truth: The Life and Times of the Shehu Usuman dan Fodio. New York: Oxford University Press. ———. 1984. The Development of Islam in West Africa. London: Longman. Last, Murray. 1967. The Sokoto Caliphate. London: Longmans. Lefebvre, Camille. 2011. We Have Tailored Africa: French Colonialism and the “Artificiality” of Africa’s Borders in the Interwar Period. Journal of Historical Geography 37: 191–202. ———. 2015. Frontières de sable, frontières de papier. Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne. Lewis, I. M. 1966. Introduction. In Islam in Tropical Africa, ed. I.M.  Lewis, 79–80. London: International African Institute.



Lovejoy, Paul E., and J. S.  Hogendorn. 1990. Revolutionary Mahdism and Resistance to Colonial Rule in the Sokoto Caliphate, 1905–6. The Journal of African History 31 (2): 217–244. Low, Michael Christopher. 2008. Empire and the Hajj: Pilgrims, Plagues, and Pan-Islam under British Surveillance, 1865–1908. International Journal of Middle East Studies 40 (2): 269–290. Mack, Beverly B., and Jean Boyd. 2009. One Woman’s Jihad: Nana Asma’u, Scholar and Scribe. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Mann, Gregory, and Baz Lecoq. 2007. Between Empire, Umma, and the Muslim Third World: The French Union and African Pilgrims to Mecca, 1946–1958. Comparative Studies of South Africa and the Middle East 27 (2): 361–383. Miles, William F. S. 1994. Hausaland Divided: Colonialism and Independence in Nigeria and Niger. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. ———. 2015. Postcolonial Borderland Legacies of Anglo-French Partition in West Africa. African Studies Review 59 (3): 191–213. Nugent, Paul. 2002. Smugglers, Secessionists and Loyal Citizens on the Ghana-Togo Frontier: The Lie of the Borderlands since 1914. Athens: Ohio University Press. Peters, F. E. 1994. The Hajj: The Muslim Pilgrimage to Mecca and the Holy Places. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Reynolds, Jonathan. 2001. Good and Bad Muslims: Islam and Indirect Rule in Northern Nigeria. International Journal of African Historical Studies 34 (3): 609–610. Sarraut, Albert. 1923. La mise en valeur des colonies françaises. Paris: Payot. Sulaiman, Ibraheem. 1987. The Islamic State and the Challenge of History: Ideals, Policies and Operation of the Sokoto Caliphate. New York: Mansell. Surun, Isabelle. 2014. Une souveraineté à l’encre sympathique?: Souveraineté autochtone et appropriations territoriales dans les traités franco-africains au XIXe siècle. Annales. Histoire, Sciences sociales 69 (2): 313–348. Thom, Derrick J.  1975. The Niger-Nigeria Boundary, 1890–1906: A Study of Ethnic Frontiers and a Colonial Boundary. Athens: Ohio University Center for International Studies. van Walraven, Klaas. 2013. The Yearning for Relief: A History of the Sawaba Movement in Niger. Leiden: Brill. White, Bob W. 1996. Talk about School: Education and the Colonial Project in French and British Africa (1860–1960). Comparative Education 32 (1): 9–25. Works, John. 1976. Pilgrims in a Strange Land: Hausa Communities in Chad. New York: Columbia University Press. Yamba, B. Bawa. 1995. Permanent Pilgrims: The Role of Pilgrimage in the Lives of West African Muslims in Sudan. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press.


Empire and Islam


Anglo-French Connections and Cooperation against “Islamic” Resistance, 1914–1917 John Slight

Ruling over Muslim peoples and governing their Islamic practices was a shared experience for both the British and French empires. The imperial governance of Islam was common to most other European empires, including the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Austria-Hungary, Germany, and Russia.1 A raft of studies have analysed how these empires governed Muslim populations, although these works have generally focused on a particular empire, individual colonies, or a specific Islamic practice.2 But 1  David Motadel, Islam and the European Empires (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014). 2  Robert D. Crews, For Prophet and Tsar: Islam and Empire in Russia and Central Asia (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006). David Gilmartin, Empire and Islam: Punjab and the Making of Pakistan (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1989). Motadel, Islam and the European Empires. David Robinson, Paths of Accommodation: Muslim Societies and French Colonial Authorities in Senegal and Mauritania, 1800–1920 (Oxford: James Currey, 2001). John Slight, The British Empire and the Hajj, 1865–1956 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2015). Karel Steenbrink, Dutch Colonialism and Indonesian Islam, 1596–1950 (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2006). William E. Watson, Tricolor and Crescent: France and the Islamic world (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2003).

J. Slight (*) The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK © The Author(s) 2019 J. R. Fichter (ed.), British and French Colonialism in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies Series,




empires were not hermetically sealed entities—goods, ­peoples, ideas, and beliefs crossed artificially imposed colonial borders.3 From the 1870s, as European empires greatly expanded their control over areas in Africa and Asia with substantial Muslim populations, multiple lateral connections developed between colonial officials around the topic of governing Islam, generating an extensive and sustained exchange of information.4 In Morocco, for example, French officials and ethnographers closely examined, borrowed, and adapted British approaches and policies toward Indian Muslims.5 Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje, a Dutch Orientalist who specialized in Islamic studies and was an adviser to the Netherlands East Indies colonial government, enjoyed wide acclaim among European colonial officials. His writings were translated into several European languages and republished in journals and magazines devoted to colonial affairs and administration.6 Officers in European armies studied the colonial campaigns of their European peers and were interested in how others combated what was termed Muslim fanaticism. Recognizing how imperial powers enjoyed assistance from each other and learned from the experiences of their peer empires delivers a more nuanced understanding of the mechanics of imperial rule. A study of lateral interimperial connections—alongside viewing empires in a single, interconnected and co-dependent framework—brings into view a more rounded picture of European colonial history and the experiences of Muslim peoples under colonial rule.7 Colonial officials at the time readily acknowledged these lateral connections and avenues of cooperation. One prominent proponent of them was Frederick Lugard, governor of Nigeria (1914–1919). In his influential 1922 text on colonial administration, The Dual Mandate in Tropical Africa, Lugard wrote: 3  Simon Potter and Jonathan Saha, “Global History, Imperial History and Connected Histories of Empire.” Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History 16, no. 1 (2015). Project MUSE, 4  Alexander Morrison, “Creating a Colonial Shari’a for Russian Turkestan: Count Pahlen, the Hidaya and Anglo-Muhammadan Law.” In Imperial Co-operation and Transfer, 1870–1930 Empires and Encounters, edited by Volker Barth and Roland Cvetkovski, 127–149 (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015). 5  Edmund Burke, The Ethnographic State: France and the Invention of Moroccan Islam (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2015). 6  For example, C. Snouck Hugronje, “Le gouvernement colonial néerlandais et le système islamique.” Revue du Monde Musulman 14 (1911), 482–483. 7  Potter and Saha, “Global History, Imperial History and Connected Histories of Empire.” Volker Barth and Roland Cvetkovski, eds., Imperial Co-operation and Transfer, 1870–1930: Empires and Encounters (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015).



As the jealousy and friction between Great Britain and France, which had marked the era of acquisition, gave place to more cordial relations, it became possible to facilitate each other’s task by reciprocal courtesies, such as extradition of fugitive criminals, &c. The need for cooperation is sufficiently patent, and on the whole it may be said that African administrators have been wonderfully successful in avoiding friction, which it is obvious might easily be generated by a thousand incidents, along hundreds of miles of frontiers, where systems of rule and of taxation differ, and communities are apt to migrate over the frontiers on the smallest provocation. There are many directions in which this cooperation might be carried still further.8

Lugard was at pains to put a positive gloss on this relationship, which omitted many of the very real on-the-ground frictions between Britain and France in Africa. But he recognized that cooperation was a vital component of the wider European colonial project. Given the geographical proximity of British and French colonies, contact between British and French officials and soldiers was unavoidable. Interimperial connections and cooperation were an inevitable part of daily governance, given the permeability of colonial borders and the weakness of border controls, which meant that there was a constant traffic of people, goods, ideas, and beliefs across borders.9 Connections between British and French colonies were also desirable to officials; while these empires were rivals, neither had an interest in the other losing control over territories at the hands of indigenous populations, especially in Africa.10 This concern to uphold mutual imperial stability was entirely self-interested; instability and rebellion in one empire might easily affect the other, as seen in numerous episodes in imperial history from the establishment of empires to decolonization.11 Those working for Britain and France approached the common situation of governing Muslim peoples from different sets of values, practices, and experiences, but there were several overarching commonalities. These shared foundations of thought included the idea that Islam was a force to 8  Frederick Lugard, The Dual Mandate in British Tropical Africa (London: Blackwoods, 1922), 28. 9  Potter and Saha, “Global History, Imperial History and Connected Histories of Empire.” 10  The Middle East was a more complex case; see James Barr, A Line in the Sand: The Anglo-French Struggle for the Middle East, 1914–1948 (London: Simon and Schuster, 2012). 11  Martin Thomas, Fight or Flight: Britain, France, and their Roads from Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).



be wary of, essentialist notions of Muslim fanaticism, and the need for solidarity among European powers against militant Islam.12 Of course, Anglo-­ French approaches toward governing Muslims and Islamic practice were far from uniform, and they were contingent on place and time. Nevertheless, cooperation against Muslims who were hostile to colonial power, and who framed this resistance in religious terms, was a near-constant feature of Anglo-French colonial interactions. This often sat uneasily alongside Anglo-French rivalries, jealousies, and the more numerous low-level frictions that characterized Anglo-French relations, whether in the corridors of power in London and Paris or in Africa and Asia. Consequently, James Fichter’s concept of a simultaneous competitive and cooperative relationship with passive-aggressive undertones, can be widely applied to many aspects of Anglo-French relations, including the examples examined in this chapter.13 Rivalry, mistrust, suspicion, and jealousy could and did exist alongside cooperation. British and French colonial policies and practices were informed by exchange and cooperation on a number of levels, official and unofficial, public and private, through administrative, military, and academic channels. This chapter will analyze the connective and cooperative relationship between the British and French empires by focusing on their suppression of challenges to imperial rule in Western and Sudanic Africa that colonial officials believed were motivated by Islam, using the case studies of the Sanussiyya Sufi order and Sultan Ali Dinar of Darfur during the First World War. How were these challenges to imperial rule any different from rebellions elsewhere? British and French perceptions of the importance of Islam in propelling these confrontations were a large contributing factor toward greater Anglo-French connections and cooperation. Officials in both empires saw Islam as a potentially threatening force that paid little heed to colonial boundaries, unlike other emergent forms of anticolonial nationalism that were more territorially bounded.14 Both empires were aware of Islam’s role as a powerful transmitter of ideas through diverse channels such as the mosque, the Sufi 12  Norman Daniel, Islam, Europe and Empire (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1966). 13  James R. Fichter, “British Infrastructure and French Empire: Anglo-French Steam Inter­ dependency in Asian Waters, c.1852–1870.” Britain and the World, 5, no. 2 (2012), 183–203. 14  David Motadel, Islam and the European Empires (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).



zawiya (lodge), the travelling scholar, and printed tracts.15 An analogous study to this chapter would be Anglo-French cooperation around the threat of Bolshevism to their empires after the First World War.16 This chapter’s case studies have several common themes. One is the imbalance between British and French military power. This state of affairs was a long-standing one and was exacerbated by the demands placed on French manpower by the Western Front, which always remained the top French military priority. France asked for military assistance, not Britain. Another theme is the alarmism and paranoia that the First World War officials and officers in both empires were particularly prone to regarding the threat (or “threat”) of militant Islam.17 This had its roots in longer histories of European misunderstandings about Islam and in a failure and unwillingness to understand the complexities and nuances of Islam and the diverse Muslim societies in which the faith was practised. In the ­shortterm, these mindsets were reinforced by the daily pressures of work in understaffed bureaucracies during wartime, which led to misinterpretations of flawed intelligence reports and an awareness that the military forces to combat any large-scale uprising were very limited.18 A sense of personal self-preservation was also apparent: no officer or official wanted to become the next General Charles Gordon, killed by Mahdist forces in Khartoum in 1885. This set of circumstances means that there were advantages to both powers in forging connections and cooperating with each other. Both Britain and France felt their rule over Muslims and their prestige among Muslims was strengthened by such cooperation, however misinformed this view was in practice.19 Despite their enduring rivalries and suspicions of each other, both empires closed ranks against Muslims who challenged their power. In these cases, notions of racial and civilizational solidarity won out against the temptation to support particular persons or groups who might weaken the rival empire. 15  Francis Robinson, “The Islamic World: World System to ‘Religious International,’” in Religious Internationals in the Modern World, edited by A. Green and V. Viane (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 111–135. 16  Tim Harper, Underground Asia: global Revolutionaries and the Overthrow of Europe’s Empires in the East. London: Penguin Allen Lane, 2018. 17  Hew Strachan, The First World War. Volume I: To Arms (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001) 694–711. 18  Ibid. 19  John Slight, The British Empire and the Hajj, 1865–1956 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2015).



The Sanussiyya Sufi Order and Anglo-French Intelligence Sharing, 1915–1916 The Sanussiyya were a Sufi order founded in Mecca in 1837 by Muhammad ibn Ali as-Senussi. The order was opposed by the Wahhabis in Arabia, which led Senussi to leave Mecca and settle in Cyrenaica, now part of Libya, in 1843. The movement grew steadily, based around zawaya (lodges) that provided religious teaching and cultivated gardens in Saharan oases to feed the poor. Sanussiyya success in gaining adherents and support among Saharan societies can be attributed to its religious teachings and the fact it did not challenge existing tribal structures.20 Contrary to British, French, and Italian intelligence reports, the Sanussiyya were never a polity or state, although they assumed a political role from the later nineteenth century in response to the encroachment of European powers across parts of Northern Africa where the order was active. The order’s sophisticated organizational structure was readily turned toward military resistance against external foes, which is why the Sanussiyya were often in the vanguard of resistance efforts against European forces.21 French authorities in Algeria harbored a long suspicion of the order, seen as a potential threat to French rule in their desert fastness. The French had no direct contact with the order; their main source of information on it was members of the rival Tijaniyya Sufi order. Unsurprisingly, the Tijaniyya painted the Sanussiyya in a negative light, which contributed to the myth, widely believed by French colonial officials, that the Sanussiyya were a virulently anti-European militant organization.22 The first direct confrontation between the French and the Sanussiyya was in 1901, when French forces attacked a Sanussiyya lodge during their advance into northeastern Chad, based on the belief that the order was a fanatical anti-­Christian force. French prejudices were seemingly confirmed when the Italians invaded Ottoman Libya in 1911. Tribesmen approached the Sanussiyya to provide military leadership against the Italians. While the order did not 20  Knut S. Vikør, Sufi and Scholar on the Desert Edge: Muhammad b. ‘Ali al-Sanusi and His Brotherhood (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1995). 21  Nicola A. Ziadeh, Sanusiyah: A Study of a Revivalist Movement in Islam (Leiden: Brill, 1958). 22  Jean-Louis Triaud, La Légende noire de la Sanûsiyya: une confrérie musulmane saharienne sous le regard français (1840–1930) (Paris: Perseé, 1995). Knut S.  Vikør, “Religious Revolts in Colonial North Africa,” in Islam and the European Empires, edited by David Motadel, 170–186 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).



eject the Italians, it did halt their advance into the Libyan interior in 1914–1915, a defeat that confined the effective exercise of Italian power to the Libyan coast.23 The order’s wide base of support across French, British, and Italian colonies in Northern Africa meant these colonial authorities desired intelligence on Sanussiyya activities. This demand for information led to extensive intelligence sharing among all three powers; the Italian case is outside the scope of this volume, but equally significant.24 The First World War further complicated the situation between the European powers and the Sanussiyya. The order received aid from their former suzerains, the Ottomans, to prosecute their struggle against the Europeans.25 One outcome of this was Ottoman pressure on the Sanussiyya to attack the British in Egypt. In December 1915, the Sanussiyya invaded the British protectorate of Egypt and took some coastal towns and oasis settlements in the Egyptian Western Desert. The British threw together a force that pushed the Sanussiyya out of Egypt in a short military campaign.26 British authorities in Egypt received French intelligence reports via a French charge d’affaires in Cairo on various matters related to the Sanussiyya.27 The French reports, and the discussions of them among British officials, illuminate one aspect of Anglo-French cooperation regarding this Sufi order. The French reports contained a variety of information. One was a timeline of the Sanussiyya’s actions against the Italians since 1914, which contributed to the Italian decision to abandon the interior to the order and consolidate their forces in coastal towns in August 1915.28 Several reports carried estimates of the strength of Sanussiyya forces, including men, arms, and ammunition. One report  Vikør, “Religious Revolts in Colonial North Africa.” 170–186.  J. C. Hurewitz, ed., “British-Italian Agreement on the Coordination of Policies towards the Sanusiyyah and Related Instruments, 1916,” The Middle East and North Africa in world politics. A documentary record. Volume 2, British-French supremacy, 1914–1945, (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1979) 65–73. 25  John Slight, “British Understandings of the Sanussiyya Sufi Order’s Jihad against Egypt, 1915–17.” The Round Table 103, no. 2 (2014): 233–242. 26  Russell McGuirk, The Sanusi’s Little War: The Amazing Story of a Forgotten Conflict in the Western Desert, 1915–1917 (London: Arabian Publishing, 2007). 27  For the wider context to this activity, see Martin Thomas, Empires of Intelligence: Security Services and Colonial Disorder after 1914 (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2008). 28  Secret intelligence notes on the Sanusi, based on information from French sources, April 1916, 131/9/1–8, F. R. Wingate papers, Sudan Archive, Durham University Library, hereafter FRW-SAD. 23 24



in April 1916 put their total potential strength at over 50,000 men, which was contrasted with 500–2,000 fighters who had participated in recent military actions, most of whom did not possess modern weapons. British intelligence officers pointed out this discrepancy between these two figures and believed it “somewhat doubtful” that the order could produce so many men for offensive actions across such a large geographical area.29 An April 1916 memorandum by the head of French intelligence in southern Tunisia also elicited a skeptical British response. The memo began by restating the principal French misunderstandings about the order, that “one of the cardinal principles of Sanusi doctrine being hostility to all intercourse with Christians” and that the order’s success was due to “religious fanaticism and revival” that had “stirred the native mind.”30 The French believed that Sanussiyya military action during the war was also driven by Ottoman promises of an independent Sanussiyya kingdom. There was no such promise made by the Ottomans. The memorandum went on to cover the “Sanusi state,” which did not exist; the key players in the order; and German and Ottoman interactions with the order. It concluded with a cautious assessment about the order’s diminished status after its military setbacks against Britain: “although the dream of the establishment of a great Senusi kingdom appears to be dissolving into anarchy it would be premature to conclude that all danger has vanished.”31 French beliefs about the order’s innate hostility to Christians meant the French thought the order would always remain a threat. The British responses to these reports, most likely authored by Gilbert Clayton, director of intelligence in Cairo, were muted. In his view, the French information was “not very up to date.” Clayton disagreed with various French interpretations; he thought the French had downplayed the role played by German agents in Libya.32 Overall, Clayton believed, unlike the French, that the course of events in adjacent Libya was as much due to Italian “mismanagement” as Sanussiyya military prowess.33 Clayton took the views that Italian incompetence had led to their abandonment of the  Ibid.  Memorandum by the French Intelligence Service in Southern Tunisia on the Sanusiyyah in Tripoli, 3 Apr. 1916, 131/9/11–16, FRW-SAD. 31  Ibid. 32  Note on information supplied by French authorities on Sanusiyyah activity in Tripoli, 5 May 1916, 131/9/50–51, FRW-SAD. 33  Ibid. 29 30



Libyan interior, which had allowed the Sanussiyya to build up their forces to attack Egypt a mere ten miles from Tobruk, where over 10,000 Italian troops were stationed.34 This analysis was distinctly different from that of French intelligence. The Sanussiyya were perceived as a group of common concern to Britain and France; both powers had clashed with the order militarily, before and during the First World War. Colonial officials sought to assess and analyze the order, a motivation borne out of anxieties around the order’s perceived ability to use jihad as a means to incite tribesmen to military action against the European powers. Anglo-French intelligence sharing was one way in which both empires sought to make assessments about the order. But not all intelligence was considered equal. While British intelligence in Cairo was careful to thank their French counterparts for providing reports and assessments on the Sanussiyya, in private they felt this intelligence had little value and disagreed with French assessments. Sanussiyya activities forged connections between French and British intelligence apparatuses but reinforced ingrained prejudices about each power’s intelligence capabilities. This intelligence sharing turned out to be a precursor to one of the most remarkable cases of Anglo-French imperial cooperation during the First World War, where the Sanussiyya also played an important role.

Nigeria, French West Africa, and Cooperation against the Sanussiyya, 1916–1917 When the First World War began, British authorities in Nigeria were concerned about the supposed vulnerability of the northern Muslim-majority part of the colony to what they termed “Islamic intrigue” from French territories to the north. This “Islamic intrigue” referred to the effects of the Ottoman sultan-caliph’s call to jihad aimed at Muslims in Allied territories, proclaimed on 14 November 1914. Lord Lugard, the governor of Nigeria, launched a counter-propaganda campaign by circulating public declarations of loyalty by other Muslim figures in the British empire such as the sultan of Zanzibar and the nizam of Hyderabad.35 In fact, Muslim emirs and leaders were  Ibid.  Proclamation by the sultan of Zanzibar, 2 Mar. 1915, The War: Muslim feeling; expressions of loyalty, File 4265/1914 Part 2, L/PS/10/519, British Library, India Office Records. Akinjide Osuntokun, Nigeria in the First World War (London: Longman, 1979). 34 35



unlikely to have responded to the Ottoman call to jihad, given that many of them owed their positions to the British and the Germans in adjacent Cameroon were promising deposed emirs their positions back. There were numerous low-level revolts across Nigeria during 1914 and 1915—these were largely unconnected to the war, but they served to heighten colonial anxieties.36 Events in French territory to the north made Lugard and his colleagues even more concerned about Northern Nigeria’s stability: the Italian evacuation of the Libyan hinterland at the end of 1914, fighting between French troops and Sanussiyya forces, and the French policy of military recruitment, which caused intense resentment among colonial subjects.37 The border between Northern Nigeria and French West Africa was permeable—news, people, pilgrims, and emissaries of Sufi orders crossed back and forth, as did Muslim chiefs who had multiple ties with their peers in French territory. In December 1916, Lugard was ordered to send Nigerian forces to fight in East Africa. Once these forces had left Nigeria, the coercive backbone of British rule in the colony rested on three units of the Nigeria regiment, and these were made up of men deemed unfit to travel abroad. In Northern Nigeria, there were no government troops at all.38 Yet, it was the French that required military assistance to keep control of their territory, not the British. On 23 December 1916, the French ­governor general in Dakar reported that northern French West Africa had been invaded by Sanussiyya forces. He requested British help in transporting French troops from Dakar and military aid to stop the Sanussiyya advance.39 The French commandant at Zinder, some sixty miles north of the Nigerian border, told his British counterparts that a Sanussiyya force had besieged Agades, located in present-day central Niger. Perhaps to elicit a swift British response, French officers stressed that the Sanussiyya’s next target was the Northern Nigerian Muslim emirates of Sokoto and Bornu.40 Dakar asked Lugard for facilities to transport a French force through Nigerian territory via Kano to Zinder. The colonial secretary in Dakar informed Lugard that the French commandant in Zinder had been told he 36  Akinjide Osuntokun, “Disaffection and Revolts in Nigeria during the First World War, 1914–1918.” Canadian Journal of African Studies 5, no. 2 (1971): 171–192. 37  Akinjide Osuntokun, Nigeria in the First World War (London: Longman, 1979). 38  Akinjide Osuntokun, “Nigeria’s Colonial Government and the Islamic Insurgency in French West Africa, 1914–1918.” Cahiers d’Études des Africaines 15, no. 57 (1975): 85–93. 39  Ibid. 40  Akinjide Osuntokun, Nigeria in the First World War (London: Longman, 1979).



could ask for British military assistance.41 The French had committed Lugard to their aid; they believed it was in the interests of both powers to stop the Sanussiyya. On 3 January 1917, Lugard declared a state of ­emergency in Nigeria. The British resident of Sokoto thought the city would be the next target of the Sanussiyya. Revolt spread across French West Africa.42 It is important to note that Islam was not a driving force behind the revolt, but significantly, both British and French officials and soldiers believed that it was. The rebels included the Sanussiyya under Shaykh Abd al-Salaam, Tuareg chief Muhammad Ahmed ben Koassen, and the sultan of Agades, who all attacked French forts and outposts.43 The deepening crisis in French West Africa led the French commandant at Zinder in January 1917 to request the active assistance of Nigerian troops to support the French against fighters who were marching on Tawa, Madawa, and Maradi.44 Lugard cabled the colonial office in London for authorization (which came after military operations had actually begun), ordered the construction of a telegraph link between Kano and Zinder to aid military operations, and moved forces from southern Nigeria to the northern emirates.45 On 8 January 1917, two columns moved into French territory. One from Kano under Colonel Coles consisted of two mounted infantry companies, one artillery piece, and one Maxim gun and reached Maradi on 12 January 1917. The other column from Sokoto under Captain Randall consisted of 150 infantry and two Maxim guns and reached Madawa on 10 January 1917. Nigerian troops relieved French garrisons in towns near the Nigerian border so that French troops could join the fight for Agades further north.46 French reinforcements arrived in Lagos and travelled on to Kano and Zinder. Along the way, they received seventeen tons of war matériel from the British, including machine guns, artillery, ammunition, and camels. By mid-January 1917, some 2,000 French Senegalese soldiers along with various pieces of military equipment had been moved from Lagos into French territory in order to advance on Agades.47 A combined French force under Colonel  Ibid.  Akinjide Osuntokun, “Nigeria’s Colonial Government and the Islamic Insurgency in French West Africa, 1914–1918.” Cahiers d’Études des Africaines 15, no. 57 (1975): 85–93. 43  Pierre Boilley, Les Touaregs Kel Adagh: Dépendances et révoltes (Paris: Karthala, 1999). 44  Akinjide Osuntokun, Nigeria in the First World War (London: Longman, 1979). 45  Ibid. 46  Akinjide Osuntokun, “Nigeria’s Colonial Government and the Islamic Insurgency in French West Africa, 1914–1918.” Cahiers d’Études des Africaines 15, no. 57 (1975): 85–93. 47  Akinjide Osuntokun, Nigeria in the First World War (London: Longman, 1979). 41 42



Mourin retook Agades on 3 March 1917, a feat only possible with British assistance. British forces took part in military operations, undertook patrols, and garrisoned French military outposts until 18 May 1917.48 The multiple Sanussiyya military actions in French and British territories caused splits in the order. Ahmad as-Senussi was replaced as head of the Sanussiyya by his nephew, Idris as-Senussi, who subsequently came to a modus vivendi with Britain and Italy.49 Idris also came to terms with the French, sending emissaries to Chad and the Nigerian borderlands that called for cooperation with the Allies. The Tuareg chief ben Kaossen was pursued by the French but remained at large until 1919, although he no longer posed a serious threat to French rule.50 While relations were cordial on the surface, mutual suspicion and jealousies marred daily contacts between British and French personnel during the joint operations. Colonel Mourin told the governor general of French West Africa that he did not want British troops on French territory, and he refused to countenance the use of British planes (suggested by Lugard as a way of keeping more Nigerian forces in Nigeria) for fear that this display of British technology might impress French colonial subjects.51 After the crisis had passed, French officials told their British counterparts that some Nigerian Muslim emirs such as the sultan of Sokoto had aided the rebels. Although no evidence for this emerged, Lugard put the sultan under closer surveillance. The ferrying of troops through Nigeria to French West Africa led the governor general at Dakar to suggest to Lugard that an Anglo-French rail link should be built between Kano and Zinder, although this was never built.52 The main cause of the uprising in French West Africa was resistance to French conscription demands. French colonial control before the war was limited, and the wartime demands on colonial subjects, especially in terms of military conscription, led them to reject French rule.53 The Sanussiyya took advantage of the fragile French position.  Ibid.  Russell McGuirk, The Sanusi’s Little War: The Amazing Story of a Forgotten Conflict in the Western Desert, 1915–1917 (London: Arabian Publishing, 2007). 50  Akinjide Osuntokun, Nigeria in the First World War (London: Longman, 1979). 51  Akinjide Osuntokun, “Nigeria’s Colonial Government and the Islamic Insurgency in French West Africa, 1914–1918.” Cahiers d’Études des Africaines 15, no. 57 (1975): 85–93. 52  Akinjide Osuntokun, Nigeria in the First World War (London: Longman, 1979). 53  Pierre Boilley, Les Touaregs Kel Adagh: Dépendances et révoltes (Paris: Karthala, 1999). 48 49



This extraordinary episode of Anglo-French cooperation has to be seen in its local colonial and wider wartime contexts. France had rudimentary control over West Africa before the war. The war further weakened the French position, as the manpower demands of the Western Front led to troops being withdrawn. Britain was France’s wartime military ally, and it made logical sense for France to ask for assistance against the Sanussiyya, a common enemy. This assistance enabled French forces to brutally suppress the wider revolt in its territory. For the British in Nigeria, although French officials in West Africa had forced their hand, providing assistance in French territory was also a matter of pragmatic self-interest. British officials believed that helping France pacify its territory adjacent to Nigeria would insulate the Muslim-majority northern areas of the colony from the upheaval across the border. Even though Islam was not a motivating factor in the revolt, the fact that both British and French officials believed it to be so prompted the remarkable scenes of British military forces actively supporting their French counterparts in a French colony. This pattern of close Anglo-French interaction was mirrored in this chapter’s final case study, the downfall of the Sultanate of Darfur in 1915–1916.

Britain, France, and Darfur, 1915–1916 From the spring of 1915, Sir Reginald Wingate, governor general of Sudan, became convinced that Ali Dinar, sultan of Darfur, had been influenced by Ottoman agents to join the jihad against the Allies. Wingate’s conviction was supported by very thin evidence.54 Darfur was under a loose form of British suzerainty; the sultan was supposed to pay an annual tribute to the British, and the sultanate was in a British sphere of influence. Wingate wanted a more direct role in the First World War than his position as governor general allowed. Invading and annexing Darfur was one way of writing himself into the war, and he certainly exaggerated the Darfur campaign’s significance to the history of the war.55 However, any British move into Darfur would affect the French, who had a very slim hold over the smaller sultanates on Darfur’s immediate western border. The French learned of British intentions. After consultation with officials 54   John Slight, “British Perceptions and Responses to Sultan Ali Dinar of Darfur, 1915–1916.” Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 38, no. 2 (2010): 237–260. 55  M. W. Daly, The Sirdar: Sir Reginald Wingate and the British Empire in the Middle East (Philadelphia, PA: American Philosophical Society, 1997).



in French West Africa, the French charge d’affaires in Cairo wrote to Clayton, Wingate’s representative there, with apprehensions. The French were worried that if Ali Dinar crossed into French territory in response to a British invasion, they would not have enough troops to capture him and secure their colonial frontier. Nor, they said, did they have enough troops to join in an advance on El Fasher, the Darfuri capital, a statement that showed they were open to cooperating with the British on this matter, at least in theory. The French supported any British operation that would draw Ali Dinar eastward, away from weakly defended French territory.56 Clayton’s regular contact with French colleagues in Cairo was a hub in an information network that encompassed Paris, French colonies in North and West Africa, Sudan and, more rarely, London. Wingate was at pains to express to Clayton that the regular communications between the British and French in Darfur did not mean France held any power over decisions made about Darfur by officials in Sudan. Wingate ordered Clayton to tell the French that while their views would be given “all due regard,” any future operations in Darfur would be “guided by circumstances difficult to forecast and impossible to control.”57 What this meant in practice was that Britain retained its freedom to act against Ali Dinar whenever they chose, a course of action Wingate was determined to follow; in his view, Ali Dinar’s power “must be broken” and “normal conditions” must be restored in Darfur.58 With his closer relationship to French officials stationed in Cairo, Clayton told Wingate that the French were “genuinely nervous” about any British invasion of Darfur and that it was “only fair” for the British to give the French advance notice of any invasion.59 Wingate was baffled as to why France wanted Britain to delay any move against Darfur. Any scenario Wingate envisioned—an outright British victory, the flight of the Sultan, or even Ali Dinar defeating the British—would help the French, as it would limit Ali Dinar’s ability to attack French territory. Wingate believed that French concerns were related to older colonial rivalries; if the British annexed Darfur, they might then take over the adjoining 56  Clayton regarding French disquiet at the prospect of an advance on El Fasher in view of the paucity of French troops available in Wadai, 128/1/23, FRW-SAD. 57  Defrance, Clayton, and F. R. Wingate (hereafter F.R.W.) regarding the French request for a delay in the advance on El Fasher, 128/1/37, 42, 45–46, 83, FRW-SAD; McMahon and F.R.W. to Clayton re: discussions with the French on developments in Darfur, 128/2/62–63, 70–71, FRW-SAD. 58  Ibid. 59  Ibid.



Sultanates of Dar Tama and Dar Masalit, which were ostensibly in the French zone of influence.60 Beneath the exchange of information between the two powers, older concerns and suspicions were never far from the surface. French officials actively aided British preparations for war against Darfur. The governor of Chad sent situation reports to the colonial minister in Paris, who forwarded them onto the French military attaché in Cairo, who gave them to Clayton, who then sent them to Wingate. These reports provided detailed information on Wadai, just across the border from Darfur, and the military disposition of French forces.61 Wingate replied to the French charge d’affaires in Cairo that this i­nformation was sent to the officer commanding the Darfur invasion force; in May 1916, a definite decision had been taken to invade Darfur, and troops were being moved into place. To support the British, French forces under Colonel Hilaire planned to reoccupy the Sultanate of Dar Sila, on Darfur’s western border, and were ready to cooperate with British forces if the need arose, especially if Ali Dinar fled Darfur for Wadai or Dar Sila. Ali Dinar did not realize it, but the noose was tightening around his regime.62 Wingate hoped that when the campaign began French and British officers would be in direct contact with each other “to facilitate and communicate” actions to “secure the final pacification of the region.”63 The French were “pleased to be able to help” Britain against Ali Dinar because of what they saw as the wider implications of his belligerence, which they viewed through the prism of Islamic “fanaticism.”64 In their view, the longer Ali Dinar stayed in power, the more likely it was that Ottoman agents would reach Darfur and organize his forces around the Ottoman call to jihad, a move that would threaten stability and security in both French and British territories. Shortly after British forces entered Darfur, the capital, El Fasher was taken on 23 May 1916 and Ali Dinar fled.65 One week prior to the fall of El Fasher, Colonel Hilaire had moved into Dar Sila and defeated those who resisted this 60  McMahon and F.R.W. to Clayton re: discussions with the French on developments in Darfur, 128/2/62–63, 70–71, FRW-SAD. 61  Clayton regarding intelligence information relevant to Darfur received from the French military attaché, 128/5/19–20, 45–49, FRW-SAD. 62  Clayton regarding support from French troops in Chad for operations in Darfur, 128/5/87, FRW-SAD. 63  F.R.W.’s reply, 128/5/94, FRW-SAD. 64  Lord Bertie to Sir Edward Grey on the attitude of the French government to operations in Darfur, 128/7/64–66, FRW-SAD. 65  J. A. Gillan, “Darfur, 1916,” Sudan Notes and Records 22, no. 1 (1939): 1–25.



French reincursion. Hilaire sent his cordial felicitations to Colonel Kelly, commander of the Darfur force, and congratulations on the capture of El Fasher. He assured Kelly of his cooperation if there were any fugitives from Darfur who crossed into French territory.66 However, quickly after this offer of help, the apparent threat of the Sanussiyya to northern Chad led the French to request the British camel corps in Darfur to cross the border to aid French forces. Wingate ordered Clayton to tell the French that he thought the Sanussiyya were not strong enough to make an offensive into Chad and that any joint plan of action against the order in Chad should be agreed in advance. Wingate did not want to undertake to send British forces into French territory to make up for French troop shortages, especially when British forces across Sudan were stretched so thinly. The governor general conclusion summed up the British perspective on ­Anglo-French cooperation well: “generally, you should show a spirit of accommodation that refrains from incurring obligations that are difficult to discharge.”67 Colonel Hilaire continued to press the British for more active cooperation against the Sanussiyya, with little result. In September 1916, he wrote to Colonel Kelly in Darfur that a strong Sanussiyya force of three columns planned to attack towns in northern Chad, and he asked for British troops to make a demonstration of force along the Darfur frontier while Hilaire’s troops headed north, in order to dissuade tribes on the French side of the border from rebelling.68 British officials in Sudan believed this was a “false alarm” and wrote to Hilaire to explain that British forces were “fully occupied”; the camel corps needed to rest and recover after the invasion of Darfur and were needed to track down the fugitive sultan of Darfur.69 Wingate and other senior officials believed that the French were exaggerating the Sanussiyya threat. In this case, differing interpretations about the order’s intentions marked the clear limits of British cooperation with the French. British reticence to aid the French was underlined in an October 1916 meeting in Khartoum, chaired by Wingate, to discuss future military operations in Darfur and garrisoning the area. A note of the discussion of 66  Kelly regarding information received from Colonel Hilaire of reports of a planned attack by the Sanusiyah against French posts in Tibesti and Borgu, 130/4/75, and F.R.W.’s reply, 130/4/76–77, FRW-SAD. 67  Ibid. 68  Ibid. 69  Ibid.



“contingency of troops being required for cooperation with the French” on the Darfur frontier and in French territory was stark: “out of the question.”70 This conclusion was based on the very limited numbers of British forces in Darfur. However, this did not prevent those at the meeting from noting: “French assistance might nevertheless be required in the event of Ali Dinar escaping and taking refuge in French territory.”71 Wingate directed that this policy should be represented to the French as “showing every readiness to cooperate if required, subject to the necessary limitations of our military position in Darfur.”72 Ali Dinar’s capture remained a priority for the British, and they needed French help if he slipped the British net and escaped to their territory. But any threat to French territory by the Sanussiyya was to be downplayed. Colonel Kelly conceded that, once Ali Dinar was captured, the use of camel corps to help the French “might be considered,” but the limits of British cooperation with the French were clear, even if these were not disclosed to their French counterparts.73 The French man-on-the-spot, Colonel Hilaire, was more enthusiastic about cooperating with the British, especially after October 1916, when he reported that the feared Sanussiyya invasion from the north had not materialized, although it did eventually occur two months later. Hilaire assured the British that they could count on his “full cooperation,” especially as he believed Ali Dinar planned to move against Dar Sila and Dar Masalit.74 Hilaire shared details of his troop dispositions with his British counterparts, and Wingate ordered his officers to give Hilaire full details of the plan to hunt down Ali Dinar and the latest British intelligence about the sultan’s whereabouts, strength, and intentions. Wingate said Britain “would gladly avail ourselves of his generous proffered cooperation” to help intercept Ali Dinar, especially because a portion of troops serving in Darfur had been sent back to Khartoum to recuperate.75 The severely limited forces available to both Britain and France in these areas during this wartime period forced them to cooperate 70  Minutes of a meeting held at the palace, Khartoum, 19 Oct. 1916, 130/6/4–21, FRW-SAD. 71  Ibid. 72  Ibid. 73  Ibid. 74  Cowan and F.R.W. regarding planned cooperation between the French and Sudan Government forces against Ali Dinar, 130/7/14, 17, FRW-SAD. 75  Ibid.



with each other in the broader aim of securing colonial and imperial rule against challenges from indigenous leaders and populations. British forces, without French assistance, hunted down and killed Ali Dinar in southern Darfur on 6 November 1916.76 Anglo-French channels of communication in operation around the Darfur campaign now led in new directions. Flush with final victory over the Sultan, Wingate wrote to his French counterparts that now Ali Dinar had been killed “we will do our utmost to cooperate effectively in any way possible.”77 One example of this was a group of camel corps with Maxim guns who were dispatched to aid a French force conducting military operations near the northwestern Darfur frontier region against tribes hostile to the French. The French officer in command, Colonel Cros, was asked to send his plan for joint operations to the British. In Darfur, the commanding officer Colonel McCowan was ordered to express British pleasure at being able to cooperate with the French on pacification operations that “should be so much to our mutual benefit,” the eventual aim being to “give the tribes a lesson” and “accelerate the permanent settlement” of the area under European rule.78 After these operations concluded, French officials proposed setting up joint frontier posts to police their common border, something that had been discussed by British and French officials on the ground.79 As with other examples explored in this chapter, officials were attuned to the pragmatic, longer-term benefits of cooperation to the overall position of the empire they served. For Wingate, this military cooperation would aid Britain’s position in terms of a final territorial settlement of the boundaries between British and French territories in the Sahara: “mutual cooperation will tend to a friendly disposition on both sides when the negotiations takes place.”80 British and French fears around  the threat of jihad brought the two empires together again in the case of Darfur. Ali Dinar’s declaration of  J. A. Gillan “Darfur, 1916.” Sudan Notes and Records, 22, 1 (1939). 1–25.  F.R.W. to Sir Edward Grey regarding cooperation with the French against tribes on the northwestern borders of Darfur hostile to both governments, 130/7/54–55, FRW-SAD. 78  Kelly regarding movements of troops in Darfur, cooperation with the French against outlaws on the border, and the establishment of a post at Nyala as center for the pacification of the southern and southwestern districts, 130/7/49–50, with F.R.W.’s reply, 130/7/56–57, FRW-SAD. 79  F.R.W. to Stack regarding proposals from the French government for a joint BritishFrench post on the El Fasher road near the frontiers of Wadai, Darfur, and Masalit in order to maintain order, 130/9/61–62, with Stack’s reply, 130/9/63, FRW-SAD. 80  Ibid. 76 77



jihad led to fears that the sultan would join the Ottomans against the Allies and open a new front in the war in a place where British and French control was tenuous at best. These fears drove the British decision to invade and the French decision to assist their wartime ally. British and French officials were united in their assessment that this form of militant Islam could easily cross borders and threaten the stability of both empires in the region. Therefore, Ali Dinar had to be neutralized. While the exchanges between British and French officials and soldiers present the invasion of Darfur in a local context, this case study of Anglo-French cooperation has to be viewed more broadly. The exigencies of wartime, and the diverging interests of each empire, highlighted the limits to such cooperation, at least on the British side. While British officials firmly believed in the wider threat that Ali Dinar posed, they believed that the French were exaggerating the threat from the Sanussiyya, which precluded Britain from providing the support that France had provided during the invasion of Darfur and afterward. Nevertheless, this experience of cooperation showed how both empires saw the benefits of such an interaction in upholding imperial rule.

Conclusion British and French perceptions of Islam’s importance in driving the confrontations examined in this chapter were a large contributing factor toward these cases of greater Anglo-French connections and cooperation. Islam transcended colonial boundaries, and misperceptions around the religion among British and French personnel triggered intelligence, military, and political cooperative endeavours during the wartime period. The turbulent situation across the large geographical area covered in this chapter, combined with the very limited military forces Britain and France had at their disposal in this space, drove the two powers together against what they saw as the common threat of militant Islam. The wartime context to these events was critically important; the wider military situation and the Ottoman call to jihad meant that officials and officers in both empires were particularly anxious about the threat of militant Islam to imperial stability. Ultimately, however, both empires pursued cooperation in order to protect their own interests and advance their own aims, whether that was the maintenance of rule over existing territories or the extension of rule to new areas. Given the weight of existing scholarship on imperial conflict, rivalry, and enmity, the instances of Anglo-French cooperation



analyzed in this chapter seem remarkable and extraordinary. The various proposals for postwar cooperation along the imperial frontiers discussed by British and French officials intriguingly point toward a picture of European imperialism as a common, shared endeavour, a story that demands greater attention.

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Slight, John. 2010. British Perceptions and Responses to Sultan Ali Dinar of Darfur, 1915–16. Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 38 (2): 237–260. ———. 2014. British Understandings of the Sanussiyya Sufi Order’s Jihad against Egypt, 1915–17. The Round Table 103 (2): 233–242. ———. 2015. The British Empire and the Hajj, 1865–1956. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Steenbrink, Karel. 2006. Dutch Colonialism and Indonesian Islam, 1596–1950. Amsterdam: Rodopi. Strachan, Hew. 2001. The First World War. Volume I: To Arms. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Thomas, Martin. 2008. Empires of Intelligence: Security Services and Colonial Disorder After 1914. Berkeley: University of California Press. ———. 2014. Fight or Flight: Britain, France, and Their Roads from Empire. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Triaud, Jean-Louis. 1995. La Légende noire de la Sanûsiyya: une confrérie musulmane saharienne sous le regard français (1840–1930). Paris: Perseé. Vikør, Knut S. 1995. Sufi and Scholar on the Desert Edge: Muhammad b. ‘Ali al-­ Sanusi and His Brotherhood. Evanston: Northwestern University Press. ———. 2014. Religious Revolts in Colonial North Africa. In Islam and the European Empires, ed. David Motadel, 170–186. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Watson, William E. 2003. Tricolor and Crescent: France and the Islamic world. Westport: Praeger. Ziadeh, Nicola A. 1958. Sanusiyah: A Study of a Revivalist Movement in Islam. Leiden: Brill.


Sacred Surveillance: Indian Muslims, Waqf, and the Evolution of State Power in French Mandate Syria James Casey

At the end of November 1919, Captain Ajab Khan the liaison officer between the General Headquarters of the English Expeditionary Force in Syria and Indian troops, penned a memorandum to his superiors that detailed the condition of several Indian Muslim waqf (pious endowments) in Syria.1 He described them as such:

1  This chapter was made possible with a generous dissertation research grant from the Department of History at Princeton University. I am especially grateful to my faculty advisor Prof. Max Weiss for guidance on early drafts and to Dr. Saarah Jappie, Dr. Elizabeth Nugent, and Amos Goodman for sharing their comments, expertise, and support. Any errors are entirely my own. IOR/L/PS/12/358: PZ 1614/40. Wherever possible, I observe the International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies guidelines for transliteration of Arabic and conventions for italicization.

J. Casey (*) Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, USA © The Author(s) 2019 J. R. Fichter (ed.), British and French Colonialism in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies Series,




There are “Wakfs” in Jerusalem, Damascus, and probably at Aleppo for the accommodation of Indian pilgrims. These also have to be protected from being made into private property by the Administrators… Whatever form of Government Syria may have, it will be of great importance to have some protection for the Indian interests.2

These pious endowments were neither isolated exceptions nor forgotten relics. Rather, they constituted integral parts of the fabric of the South Asian Muslim diaspora in the Levant along the pilgrimage route to Mecca and Medina.3 Captain Khan emphasized that they were “held in great respect by Indian Moslems,” and he underscored that they continued to be locations Indians visited.4 Syria has historically been home to a diversity of peoples and faiths owing to commerce, pilgrimage, and political upheaval. In the modern period, this has included the notable presence of Algerian and Circassian communities in the nineteenth century and Armenians in the twentieth century.5 However, the type of long and enduring connection that many people from the Indian subcontinent had with Syria had unique implications for French and British colonial power following the establishment of the French Mandate in Syria in 1920. Historic Greater Syria was part of the geography of movement and exchanges of people between South and Southwest Asia in which Muslims from South and Southeast Asia were integral participants, a trend that was uninterrupted by the start of the French Mandate of 1920 and continued over the duration of French rule to 1946.6 This

 British Library, India Office Records (IOR)/L/PS/11/166 P213/1920.  Karl K. Barbir, Ottoman Rule in Damascus 1708–1758. (Princeton: Princeton University Press 1980), 108–109. 4  IOR/L/PS/11/166 P213/1920. 5  Algerians in Syria by 1945, according to Mandate authorities, comprised a large majority who arrived with the Emir Abdel Kadr, those who stayed on after completing pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina, and about 14,000 to 15,000 members of the Free French Forces. See Ministère des Affaires étrangères français—Centre des Archives diplomatiques de Nantes (MAE CADN) 1SL/V/31/Sûreté aux Armées/Colonie Nord-Africaine de Syrie/10 Mar. 1945; Eugene Rogan, Frontiers of the State in the Late Ottoman Empire: Transjordan, 1850–1921 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 72–76; Keith Watenpaugh, Being Modern in the Middle East: Revolution, Nationalism, Colonialism, and the Arab Middle Class (Princeton: Princeton University Press 2006), 281–283. 6  Damascus was a site of Ottoman power projection at the confluence of major trade and pilgrimage networks. Barbir, Ottoman Rule in Damascus 1708–1758, 161–167. 2 3



chapter presents four cases drawn from the records of the French Mandate civil administration and the British India Office. In these, the disposition of Syrian endowments associated with non-Syrian Muslims and the presence of non-Syrian Muslims in Syria highlight overlapping and diverging Anglo-French security concerns.7 This includes early Anglo-Indian concerns about Indian waqf properties in Syria, a disputed waqf in Damascus, the fraught politics of Indian Ahmadis in Syria, and British Viceroy of India Archibald Wavell’s concerns about the role of Indian Muslim troops in the violent twilight of French rule in Syria and Lebanon. Taken together, these cases necessitate a critical reassessment of the roles of piety and property. They also illustrate the circulation of people relative to the forms, functions, and purposes of state surveillance under colonial rule. Research in this space is fraught with methodological and practical challenges, notably the inaccessibility of relevant local property and legal records from the Mandate period.8 The majority of available sources pertaining to twentieth-century Syria after Ottoman rule, which include  the sources consulted in this chapter, are necessarily filtered through the lens of the colonial archive. Effective analysis of the cases related to a non-­Syrian waqf and the circulation of non-Syrians in the Mandate must not conflate anecdotal evidence (even in plurality) with fact. Notwithstanding, when read critically in terms of the circumstances of their production and assembly into an archive—read against the grain, as historian Ann Laura Stoler has described—novel non-Syrian and non-­ French perceptions of the security landscape emerge. Comparative analysis of these sources recast British and French colonial interests in Syria less as inherently separate and irreconcilable; rather they demonstrate an interwoven espace franco-anglais. Finally, this approach can provide insight into the ways in which noncolonial individuals,

7  British and French sources pertaining to the Damascus waqf invoke a variety of names for South Asian Muslims living under British rule or protection. British sources refer to Indians, Sindis (variously construed), and Indian Muslims. French sources refer to variations of Indiens. 8  The politics of official archives in Syria puts many critical historical sources beyond all but the exceptional (or accidental) access of researchers. See Michael Provence, “Ottoman and French Mandate Land Registers for the Region of Damascus,” Middle East Studies Association Bulletin 39, no. 1 (2005): 32–43.



groups, and local institutions laced this space together as much as (or indeed, in spite of) any particular policies of the colonial powers. In the broadest sense, this chapter attends to the external and internal conditions of borders and circulation and the impact of circuits of movement that predate and intersect with new colonial geographies. Borders and circulation of subject colonial individuals and groups are a shared theme with other authors’ work in this collection, specifically those dealing with the Mandate state and colonial Islam. John Slight’s comparative treatment of British and French administrators’ efforts to adopt one another’s strategies to manage subject colonial Muslim populations illuminates the degree to which the Anglo-French relationship was as defined by mutual interaction as by suspicion or adversity. Scholarship on the Middle Eastern Mandates, the varied roles and functions of pious endowments, and the development of colonial policing and intelligence services provides vital basis for critical engagement.9 Too often, treatment of Anglo-French interaction within the historiography has outsized focus on the tensions between the two powers to the exclusion of other elements of the relationships.10 The case studies in this chapter move toward development of the scholarship on space and circulation within and without the colonial world. * * * Waqf (pl. awqāf) had a profound impact on the development and evolution of state power and authority in twentieth-century Syria.11 A waqf is a pious charitable endowment trust property, which could be formulated as waqf khayrı̄ (public charitable waqf), waqf dhurı̄/ahlı̄ (family waqf), 9  Comprehensive comparative treatments, alas, are the minority but include Nadine Méouchy and Peter Sluglett, eds., French Mandates in Comparative Perspectives/Les mandats français et anglais dans une perspective comparative (Leiden: Brill, 2004). 10  Presumptive and irreconcilable tensions have been a feature of scholarship since the publication of Stephen Hemsley Longrigg’s seminal work, arguably the first comprehensive historical study made of the French Mandate. See Stephen Hemsley Longrigg, Syria and Lebanon under French Mandate (London: Oxford University Press, 1958). 11  I address the dimensions and consequences of this relationship in my forthcoming dissertation, James Casey, “States of Sacred Surveillance: Administration and Governance of Waqf and the Evolution of State Power and Capacity in Syria, 1920–1960,” PhD diss., Princeton University, 2019.



and frequently a hybrid public/private mixed waqf (waqf mushtarak). Endowments typically constituted real property, with outsized shares of the most economically productive agricultural and urban land.12 In the area that is today Syria, waqf were regularly endowed since the midtwelfth century AD and were a historically central component of Islamic societies where endowment revenues supported education, essential social services, and public infrastructures.13 Precise estimates of the volume and value of waqf in Syria in the early twentieth century are elusive, although in 1934 French Mandate authorities approximated the value of waqf in the Mandate territories at ₣500 million, based on a total of 4,000 waqf that directly or indirectly supported 80,000 people.14 As rough context, Mandate state spending in its entirety (civil, military, and debt service) in 1934 totaled ₣236.8 million.15 12  Typically waqf was real property; however, any revenue-generating object from books to horses was sometimes endowed as waqf. See J. O. Hunwick, “Waḳf,” Encyclopedia of Islam, Second Edition, eds. P.  Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.  E.  Bosworth, E. van Donzel, W. P. Heinrichs. (Brill Online 2014). Estimates for the total amount property vary for both urban and non-urban endowments. See Beshara Doumani, “Endowing Family: Waqf, Property Devolution, and Gender in Greater Syria, 1800–1860.” Society for Comparative Studies in Society and History 40, no. 1 (1998): 11–12. 13  On the role of waqf in the history of education in the Islamic world, see George Makdisi, The Rise of the Colleges: Institutions of Learning in Islam and the West (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1981), 35–74; concerning the role of waqf in the provisioning of social services see Timur Kuran, “The Provision of Public Goods under Islamic Law: Origins, Impact, and the Limitations of the Waqf System.” Law & Society Review 35, no. 4 (2001): 841–898 and Amy Singer, Constructing Ottoman Beneficence: An Imperial Soup Kitchen in Jerusalem (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2002). 14  République français Ministère des affaires étrangères, Rapport à la Société des Nations sur la situation de la Syrie et du Liban (Année 1934) (Paris: Imprimerie nationale 1934), 59. NB: statistics and surveys produced by the Mandate administration should be cautiously evaluated. Non-Muslim waqf was left under the supervision of the respective religious communities, and data not collected. 15  République français Ministère des affaires étrangères, Rapport à la Société des Nations sur la situation de la Syrie et du Liban (Année 1934), 177. The reference to Mandate state budgetary expenditure is intended be illustrative of scale and is not a normative or quantitative comparison with valuations of total waqf in the Mandate. Wealth and expenditure are not interchangeable, although in the case of waqf they are deeply intertwined as revenues of endowment properties supported or at least complemented formal state expenditures. In the context of a paucity of complete data in French sources and the inaccessibility of Syrian records, this is the most useful comparison to indicate scale.



The Administrative Framework for Surveillance in the Mandate The French Mandate for Syria and Lebanon was organized at the subregional level and administered through the Services Généraux de l’État.16 The French high commissioner, who was backed by an extensive security and intelligence apparatus, held most real power and authority, which he exercised with broad autonomy from Paris to govern by arrêté (executive decree).17 One, arrêté 753 of 2 March 1921, established executive administration of waqf under the Mandate through the aegis of the Contrôle Général des Wakfs Musulmans, while day-to-day governance of waqf was left to the Conseil supérieur or High Council of the Waqf.18 States, as James Scott argues, promote the administrative and fiscal legibility of resources and property through their agents and institutions.19 In broad strokes this is what Mandate authorities insisted they were doing: surveying the land, registering property, and enumerating the people. Colonial administrators in Bengal, Ranajit Guha argues, identified property as the basic principle of effective government.20 Guha’s framework regarding the colonial evolution of a property regime, as a corollary to Scott, provides essential nuance in describing how a state and its agents apprehend its domains. Guha also helps thread the needle for a comparative 16  This initially took the form of statelets (Damascus, Aleppo, Alawite, and Druze states) alongside the État du Grand Liban. See Jean Luquet, La Politique des mandats dans le Levant (Paris: Aux editions de la vie universitaire 1923), 66–7. Regarding the initial administrative reorganization under French military rule, see Roger de Gontaut-Biron, Comment la France s’est installée en Syrie (1918–1919) (Paris: Librarie Plon, 1923), 101–148; for the implications of waqf in the conditions particular to the Mandate of Lebanon, see Max Weiss, In The Shadow of Sectarianism: Law, Shi’ism, and the Making of Modern Lebanon (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010), 133–149. 17  On the formation of the Mandate security state, see Daniel Neep, Occupying Syria Under the French Mandate: Insurgency, Space and State Formation (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 20–38; Philip S. Khoury, Syria and the French Mandate: The Politics of Arab Nationalism, 1920–1945 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989), 77. 18  Arrêté 753 superseded the military administration of waqf enacted on 1 October 1918 and was itself modified by a series of arrêtés over the course of the Mandate, which Louis Cardon describes in detail. Louis Cardon, Le Régime de la propriété foncière en Syrie et au Liban (Paris: Librairie du Recueil Sirey, 1932), 185–203. 19  James Scott, Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998), 2. 20  Ranajit Guha, A Rule of Property for Bengal: An Essay on the Idea of Permanent Settlement (Durham: Duke University Press, 1996), 9, 100–101.



Anglo-French—or perhaps more accurately, a Syrian-Indian—history of property management combining faith in a defined property regime with security concerns about famine and a zeal for (ostensible) cost-saving technocratic solutions to a crisis of governance.21 Governance of waqf can be understood, pace Pierre Bourdieu, as a field where control and influence over pious endowment property’s cultural capital (as well as economic capital) was contested by individuals that included French administrators, local officials, and others.22 The records relating to the surveillance of waqf and disputes relating to them bring some of the perennial concerns of the Mandate administration, especially the relationship between food insecurity and political instability, into sharper resolution.23 The particular habitus of individuals, particularly administrators, with a stake in governing and administering waqf can nuance our understanding of the interactions and relationships that defined who controlled waqf and how. In this way, surveillance of waqf proved advantageous in efforts to control its attendant forms of capital buttressing the administrative, political, and economic power and authority of the state.

An Anglo-Indian Perspective of Syrian Waqf and Security at the Dawn of the French Mandate At the moment Captain Ajab Khan dispatched his memorandum in late 1919, the French Mandate had yet to come into force, and Syria was variously under the sway of French forces in the coastal cities of Beirut and Tripoli, an Arab government under King Faisal in Damascus, and various British agents across the interior.24 Khan’s full letter merits a close reading because it distills many mutual Anglo-French concerns in that frothy

 Guha, A Rule of Property for Bengal, 11, 91.  Pierre Bourdieu, Language and Symbolic Power (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991), 12–14. 23   MAE CADN/1/SL/251/17 Affaire Village de Zerra 1921–1941. 24  James L. Gelvin, Divided Loyalties: Nationalism and Mass Politics in Syria at the Close of Empire (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998), 88; Masoud Dahar, “Siyasat al-ʾIntidab al-Fransi Tijah al-ʾAwqaf fi Lubnan,” in Al-ʾAwqaf fi Bilad al-Sham Mundhu alFatah al-ʾIslami ila Nihayyat al-Qarn al-ʿAshrin, ed. Muhamad Adnan al-Bakhit (Amman: Munshurat Lajnat Tarikh Bilad al-Sham—al-Jamiʿa al-ʾUrduniyya, 2010), 407–421. 21 22



moment about surveillance and circulation of people that the Indian waqf (and endowments generally) in Syria raised. As one of the thousands of Indian Muslims who fought for and under the British flag in the Middle East, Khan was sensitive to the significance of these endowments.25 Although “the evacuation of Syria by our troops is going to come off soon,” Khan cautioned that British security concerns in Syria would endure.26 While Indian Muslim army officers provided extensive intelligence for the British authorities on the pilgrimage, they tended to focus on Hejaz and Egypt, making Khan’s observations all the more exceptional still.27 Specifically, “The question of guarding the Indian Moslem interests and watching the political moves affecting India, in this part of Asia is an important question which should receive our immediate attention.”28 Before the 1908 completion of the Hejaz Railway Muslims undertook the greater hajj and lesser umrah pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina by sea and land. The Red Sea route was especially prominent for Indian Muslims while the Damascus-Medina route was most frequented by pilgrims hailing from Europe, Asia Minor, and the Caucuses as well as those from Persia and the East.29 The precise figures and regional origins of Indian Muslims transiting Syria during pilgrimage and or subsequently returning there to settle defy neat quantification, but the records allow us to bound our assessment. We know that there was a steady stream of visitors, judging from the presence of more than one Indian-associated waqf into the twentieth century. War brought thousands of Indians like Captain Khan to the region, nearly 10,000 of whom became Ottoman prisoners of war and perhaps 2,300 of whom died in captivity30 (see Fig.  5.1). Khan situates Indian Muslims and their pious endowments within Syria’s physical, historical, and pious geography: 25  98,000 of the 683,149 Indian army recruits during the First World War were combat troops from the Muslim community of West Punjab, many of whom fought in campaigns in the Middle East. David Page, Prelude to Partition: The Indian Muslims and the Imperial System of Control, 1920–1932 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982), 52. 26  IOR/L/PS/11/166 P213/1920. 27  John Slight, The British Empire and the Hajj 1856–1956 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2015), 203. 28  IOR/L/PS/11/166 P213/1920. 29  Conflict, plague, and other disturbances played roles in the relative ebb and surge of pilgrimage on land (or sea). Barbir, Ottoman Rule in Damascus 1708–1758, 177–180. 30  Eugene Rogan, The Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War in the Middle East (New York: Basic Books, 2015), 222–224. The defeat of the British Indian army and capture of thousands of British and Indian soldiers was also a political disaster for the Indian government, which had to account for a military rout and the thousands of Indian POWs deported into the Ottoman interior as far as Dier-a-Zour, where they encountered Armenian genocide victims.



Fig. 5.1  Indian cavalry entering Damascus, October 1918. (James Pinkerton Campbell, “Indian Cavalry Entering the Square in the Town,” 2 October 1918, Australian War Memorial, AWMB00314. Public domain. Accessed 25 April 2018. Thousands of Indian pilgrims after visiting Mecca and Medina used to resort to Jerusalem and Constantinople to Damascus, Homs, Hama, and Aleppo, every year. These places for their sacred Moslem shrines are held in great respect by Indian Moslems. At each of these places Indian colonists are seen even today. Most of these perished during the great war… The overland route from Europe from India passes through Syria and is still used by large numbers of people from the Northern Borders of India and the neighboring countries of Central Asia, Afghanistan and Persia. There is an appreciable number of Pathans and Persian traders [who journey to] the important towns of Syria. In Damascus there are about 800 Persians, 200 Pathans, and about 100 semi-Indians.31

 IOR/L/PS/11/166 P213/1920.




While Khan focuses the majority of his memorandum on the historical, cultural, and pious significance of Indian Muslims’ relationships to Syria, he closes by framing the future in terms of political insecurity and imperial threats. Ominously, he recounts thus Many political undesirables and seditious literature can still find their way over the borders by the overland route to this part of the world without any check on it. Sirdar Ajit Singh, the notorious Punjab agitator, I understand, escaped from Punjab over the borders in this way. Syria is the place where the East and West meet. Our Imperial interests can be very well guarded by an efficient political agency here, and I presume Indians will prove very useful in carrying out the required scheme which will be of great use to India indirectly.32

Khan’s memorandum emphasizes the mutual imbrication of pious significance and security concerns at Indian waqf properties in Syria.33 It succinctly depicts British stakes for the presence of Indians in Syria, following the general pattern of British surveillance of pilgrimage networks.34 His comments also reflect deeper resonances in British and French efforts to control pilgrimage of their respective colonial-subject Muslims.35 Khan’s observations as an outsider about Indian waqf in Syria are illuminating because he perceived Muslim waqf in Syria much the same way the French Mandate representatives did as a source of pious and cultural capital in a site of contested political authority. His conclusion that political authorities in “whatever form of Government Syria may have” would require effective surveillance of waqf was the product of a perspective that was neither Syrian nor French, yet it presaged the kinds of concerns that vexed Mandate administrators.  IOR/L/PS/11/166 P213/1920.  Mandate officials were sensitive to the circulation of individuals from within and without the French colonial space, particularly as it concerns the transit of Muslim pilgrims through Syria to Mecca and Medina. MAE CADN/1SL/5/253/Cabinet politique/Société des nations/Relations exterieurs/Pelerinage aux lieux saints de l’Islam/document #20. 34  Michael Christopher Low, “Empire and the Hajj: Pilgrims, Plagues, and Pan-Islam under British Surveillance, 1865–1908,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 40, no. 2 (2008), 272–274. 35  On the history of France’s more direct interventions in pilgrimage, see Benjamin Claude Brower, “The Colonial Haj: France and Algeria, 1830–1962,” in Venetia Porter and Liana Saif, eds., The Hajj: Collected Essays (London: British Museum Press, 2013), 113. 32 33



Khan prefigured some of the concerns French officials would articulate over the course of the Mandate about the administrative legibility of waqf in Syria and the surveillance of people connected to them. Since the administration and surveillance of waqf was woven into the larger security capacity of Mandate states, the surveillance of waqf became a significant focus of intelligence gathering and exercise of state power. Historiographical treatment of colonial police and intelligence apparatus tends to focus on the hard edge of state power, such as policing urban areas and frontier regions.36 More recent scholarship, however, emphasizes the central roles of technical innovation, intelligence gathering, and a robust security apparatus had in shaping the goals and actions of the colonial state. British Mandate authorities in Iraq were pioneers in this regard with the use of aerial surveillance they complemented on the ground with a new generation of intelligence agents to blend in with and surveil the population.37 In the French Mandate state, intelligence and surveillance capacity were not merely effective tools of control; they in fact shaped the structure of government and the borders of the colonial state.38

Syrian Mud Huts or Indian Pilgrimage Hostel? Divining Nationality(ies) in Circuits of Pious Movement Captain Khan was correct in observing that there were endowments to support Indian Muslims on the pilgrim trail that passed through Damascus. He was also prescient to warn that they were vulnerable to abuse. The seemingly endless investigations into the fate of a small waqf in Damascus endowed by a Muslim from Sind highlighted (at least from the British perspective) the destabilizing potential of matters relating to Indian Muslims in Syria. An initial inquiry passed on by the British authorities in 36  Martin Thomas, “Colonial Policing: A Discursive Framework,” in Martin Thomas, ed., Violence and Colonial Order: Police, Workers, and Protest in the European Colonial Empires, 1918–1940 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 19–20, 41. 37  Toby Dodge, Inventing Iraq: The Failure of Nation-Building and a History Denied (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003), 131–156; Priya Satia, Spies in Arabia: the Great War and the Cultural Foundations of Britain’s Covert Empire in the Middle East (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 4–6, 239–262. 38  Jean-David Mizrahi, Genèse de l’État mandataire: Service des Renseignements et bandes armées en Syrie et au Liban dans les années 1920 (Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne, 2003), 10–11.



India to the British Consulate in Damascus was straightforward: to determine “whether Indian Hostel known as Zawiat-ul-Hanood exists or not.”39 Ostensibly, the deeded purpose of the waqf in question was to provide shelter to Sindi Muslims on pilgrimage.40 Yet, the accusations and counter accusations of mismanagement and expropriation in unfolding dispute sharply differing views of what the endowment actually constituted as well as who legitimately controlled it. The Sindi community in India was convinced the waqf was the repository of vast wealth including hundreds of workshops and houses adjacent to the main minaret of the Umayyad mosque.41 However, initial inquires made by British officials with the Syrian officials of the local waqf administration who had assumed functional trusteeship duties revealed more modest holdings: the total endowment of the waqf was a humble hostel of a handful of rooms for Indian pilgrims, supported with the rents from (but not actual ownership) thirty adjacent mud huts yielding approximately five gold pounds per annum.42 Indian Muslim pilgrims, the British Consul related, “are provided with accommodation in theory but most rooms are occupied by permanent residents (who I am taking steps to evict),” as a result “the only accommodations available for pilgrims at present is in courtyard.”43 Moreover, it appeared that the last living descendant of the wāqif (endower), had married a Lebanese, allegedly did not take care to maintain the property.44 When word reached India, representatives of the Sindi community pressed their case to the Indian government: French authorities or their agents in 39  IOR/L/PS/12/358:PZ 1614/40 Syria, Telegram 15 July 1932 from Foreign, Simla to British Consul, Damascus Syria. A zāwiyya, a term most common in North Africa for a place of learning and associated accommodation, would have identified the “Zawiat-ul-Hanood” waqf in question as the “Indians’ zāwiyya.” 40  IOR/L/PS/12/358:PZ 1614/40 Syria. The perspective of French Mandate officials on the matter may be found in MAE CADN/1SL/1/V/377 Wakf and MAE CADN/1SL/250/83 Service/juridique/wakfs. 41  IOR/L/PS/12/358:PZ 1614/40 Syria, Telegram 19 July 1932 from British Consul, Damascus to Foreign, Simla. 42  IOR/L/PS/12/358:PZ 1614/40 Syria, Page 2 section ii of enclosed report. Ottoman gold continued to be the preferred and often prescribed currency in private transactions in Syria well into the French Mandate due to widespread mistrust of paper notes issued by the French-sponsored Banque du Syrie et du Liban. See Philip Khoury, Syria and the French Mandate, 86. 43  IOR/L/PS/12/358:PZ 1614/40 Syria, Telegram 19 July 1932 from British Consul, Damascus to Foreign, Simla. 44  IOR/L/PS/12/358:PZ 1614/40 Syria, Telegram 19 July 1932 from British Consul, Damascus to Foreign, Simla.



the waqf administration allowed the endowment’s pious character to be perverted by private property and local Syrians humiliated Indian pilgrims who sought to rest at the waqf during their journey.45 French and British officials (working in tacit collaboration) separately sponsored several investigations over at least seven years; none satisfied both colonial powers and their subjects. Eventually, the British consul in Damascus prevailed upon Sayed Izhar Husain, a retired Indian magistrate married to a Syrian woman, who the consul endorsed as “not only a devout Moslem but an educated man with a judicial outlook” to get to the bottom of the matter.46 Husain obliged British authorities perhaps more fully than they had intended, raising more questions and highlighting further ambiguity than his investigation provided answers: the endowment was decrepit and unusable, yet the residents of the neighborhood were hostile to Indian pilgrims, and the best course would be to direct Sindi pilgrims to what he described as the other “flourishing” Indian waqf, located in another part of Damascus.47 Husain also pointedly noted the fact that this was a family waqf and all ­descendants of the  wāqif and the  current mutawalli  (waqf trustee) were now fully Syrian and consequently “have no sympathy with their co-religionists from Sind.”48 The political stakes for some in the Sindi community in India could be cast, in a reformulation of Benedict Anderson’s framework, as an attack on an imagined transnational community. The  intent of French and (especially) British authorities appears more straightforward: close the book on the matter and be rid of it. In their eyes, little in practice could be done to improve the facilities of the waqf whose resources had long been diminished and given that the descendants of the endower of the waqf had fully

45  IOR/L/PS/12/358:PZ 1614/40 Syria, Letter 16 Oct. 1935 from Sir Ghulam Hussain Hidayatallah, K.C.S.I., Member of the Indian Legislative Assembly, to the Secretary of the Government of India, Department of Education, Health, and Lands. 46  IOR/L/PS/12/358:PZ 1614/40 Syria, letter no. 1181/347/71 of 20 May 1936. Letter from HM Consul Damascus to O.K. Caroe, Esquire, Foreign and Political Department New Delhi. 47  The other Indian waqf was indicated to be in the Bab Jabia quarter of the city. IOR/L/ PS/12/358: PZ 1614/40 Syria, letter no. 1181/347/71 of 20 May 1936. Letter from HM Consul Damascus to O.K. Caroe, Esquire, Foreign and Political Department New Delhi. 48  IOR/L/PS/12/358: PZ 1614/40 Syria, letter no. 1181/347/71 of 20 May 1936. Letter from HM Consul Damascus to O.K. Caroe, Esquire, Foreign and Political Department New Delhi.



assimilated into Syria and had little kinship with their Sindi coreligionists.49 Colonial and (elite) Indian Muslim narratives dominate the sources; while important, critical analysis must not presume these voices express every Indian Muslim’s perspective. The differences that colonial officials assigned to Indian Muslims in Syria and the otherness that local Syrians may have inscribed Indian Muslims are as much a reflection of colonial and local Syrian perspectives as they might be representative of how Indian Muslims in Syria perceived themselves. Personality also complicated swift resolution of this issue. One in particular was Mahmoud Hamza, a gadfly who perennially raised the cause of the waqf with influential Muslims in India, directly with French and British officials, or anyone else who would return his correspondence.50 Hamza, the self-styled “accredited representative of sindhi residents in the Zawia at Damascus” appears to have traveled extensively between Syria and India to lobby Indian Muslims about the waqf.51 For several years, he appears to have been successful enough in generating enough public concern to influence Seth Haji Abdullah Haroon, member of the Legislative Assembly, to seek redress from the British authorities through the government of India. Abdullah Haroon acknowledged that Hamza and his allies were likely exaggerating the situation in Damascus and seeking personal gain, cautioning that Hamza “is carrying on agitation in the press, against the reported unlawful possession of Sindhi Zawia, resulting in restlessness in the Muslims of Sind.”52 Despite misgivings by British officials and Indian leaders, Hamza succeeded at least insofar as forcing officials to pay him begrudging attention. The increasing sharpness in the heretofore measured prose of official communications between British, Indian government, French, and Syrian officials suggests that a neat resolution was elusive and frustrating. Spoilers provoked special wrath in an increasingly rancorous dispute: “I am thoroughly tired of

49  IOR/L/PS/12/358: PZ 1614/40 Syria, Letter no. 1181/347/71 20 May 1936. Letter from HM Consul Damascus to O.K. Caroe, Esquire, Foreign and Political Department New Delhi, page 1. 50  IOR/L/PS/12/358: PZ 1614/40 Syria, Letter 23 Feb. 1939 from HM Consul Damascus to Sir Aubrey Metcalfe, Secretary to the Government of India, External Affairs Department. 51  IOR/L/PS/12/358: PZ 1614/40 Syria, Letter 19 Sept. 1935 from Mahmood Hamza to Seth Haji Abdullah Haroon, M.L.A. 52  IOR/L/PS/12/358: PZ 1614/40 Syria, Letter 23 Sept. 1935 from Seth Haji Abdullah Haroon, M.L.A. to The Foreign Secretary, Government of India.



these repeated libelous attacks on the integrity of Mr. Joseph Teen, M.B.E, the Pro-Consul here, and must ask your intervention to see that they cease,” huffed the British Consul in Damascus to the secretary to the government of India, External Affairs Department.53 Hamza left Syria fleeing French justice, while his son fled to Jerusalem out of fear that his father would murder him. Hamza pursued his son to Palestine, going so far as to formally request British authorities extradite him, nevertheless the boy eluded arrest and headed deep into Saudi Arabia, “so anxious was he to keep away from his unbalanced and irate progenitor.”54 Captain Khan’s warnings in 1919 to his superiors about the potential for political blowback in British India for any real or perceived maltreatment of an Indian Muslim waqf in Syria under French rule proved prescient. Disputes involving pious endowments made allies from otherwise far-flung parties, collapsing geography, local specificity, and gave lie to colonial borders. The status of the Hejaz Railway while of a different scale, raised the same specter of destabilizing dynamics as the Indian waqf in Damascus.55 The dispute over disposition of the Hejaz Railway emerged as a cause célèbre embraced by an international audience of Muslims.56 Determining “nationality” of pious endowments was a perennial sticky wicket whereby French officials—literally—asked themselves how to compute the legal nationalité of a train that was also a waqf and that had a constituency that extended far beyond the railway line.57 Mandate officials were likewise flummoxed by a small community of “Malabari” Indian Muslims who had been resident since late Ottoman times in the environment of the Mediterranean city of Latakia.58 British officials would neither countenance them nor would this group submit to French-formed colonial citizenship 53  IOR/L/PS/12/358: PZ 1614/40 Syria, Letter 23 Feb. 1939 from HM Consul Damascus to Sir Aubrey Metcalfe, Secretary to the Government of India, External Affairs Department. 54  IOR/L/PS/12/358: PZ 1614/40 Syria, Document 6. 55  W. L. Ochsenwald, “A Modern Waqf: The Hijaz Railway, 1900–48,” Arabian Studies 3 (1976): 1–12. 56  Ed. Achille Sékaly, “Les deux Congrès musulmans de 1926,” Les deux Congrès généraux de 1926 special issue of Revue du monde musulman 64, no. 3 (1926): 3–25. 57  MAE CADN 1SL/250/13 Chemins de Fer Réseau du Hedjaz Note 5 June 1924. In accordance with arrêté 1820, of 17 February 1928, the Commission des Nationalités the Hedjaz RR is considered an “organisme etranger” and that it would, like the customs regime, be subject to the jurisdiction of the mixed courts. See MAE CADN 1SL/250/13 Chemins de Fer Réseau du Hedjaz Note 4 June 1931. 58  MAE CADN 1SL/251/16 Wakfs Alouties/Dossier 4/3.



for residents of the Mandate.59 What seems to have distinguished the cases drawing attention from Anglo-French authorities (singularly or mutually) was less any specific security concern per se but the degree to which they reflected tensions arising from the limits of colonial authorities’ abilities to contend with the real and perceived (un)governability of their subjects. The disposition of a waqf in Damascus associated with Indian Muslims may have been significantly more important in the political calculus of the British and for the government of India than it was in material, political, or pious terms to the French in Syria. Colonial policing did not end at the colony’s border; state capacities operated across colonial and metropolitan spaces.60 Cooperative Anglo-French surveillance and policing of colonial subjects, particularly Muslims, mirrored broader trends in policing and surveillance between the metropole and the colony. The case of Indian Muslims and their endowments in Syria similarly highlight how surveillance policing not only flowed between metropole and colony but mapped onto established routes of circulation between overlain European colonial empires. Accusations of fraud are ubiquitous across thousands of documents comprising the records of the French Mandate civil administration’s Contrôle Général des Wakfs Musulmans. It is almost a truism that charges of fraud by all parties against each other defined disputes involving pious endowments.61 What distinguishes the case of the Indian waqf in Damascus is that the stakeholders were not exclusively Syrians. Non-Syrians and foreign governments, their soldiers, and diplomats resident in Syria and far beyond it were essential figures in a matter the French could not adjudicate on their own. More than Syrians looked to position themselves and resort to legal and administrative forum shopping, methods that legal historians identify as key strategies of contestation and negotiation.62 Indian residents in Syria made full use of this practice, seeking to try the case in the court of public opinion.63  Ibid.  Clifford D.  Rosenberg, Policing Paris: The Origins of Modern Immigration Control between the Wars (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2006), 109–140, 168–197. 61  One of the more infamous disputes related to an exceptionally large and wealthy endowment in Aleppo that pitted Muslim waqf authorities against Christian landowners. See Fatallah Saqal, Qadaya Waqf al-ʾUthmaniyya (Aleppo: Mut ̣baʿa sabaʿ ʾakhwan, 1936), 4–8. 62  Beshara Doumani, “Endowing Family: Waqf, Property Devolution, and Gender in Greater Syria, 1800–1860,” 11–12; It is fitting that disputes over a waqf, which historically occasioned the contestation and formation of gender in law and society would be a forum to contest claims to membership in local, national, and pious communities. For a detailed analysis, see Judith E. Tucker, In the House of the Law: Gender and Islamic Law in Ottoman Syria and Palestine (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000). 63  IOR/L/PS/12/358: PZ 1614/40 Syria: Indian Wakf property and pilgrimage hostel at Damascus, letter no. 1181/347/71. 59 60



Transnational Sectarian Anxieties across an Unstable Anglo-French Security Landscape In January 1928 French authorities expelled one Jalal al-Din Shams from the territory of the Mandate. It was, they insisted, for his own safety.64 In fact, as an Ahmadiyya missionary, Jalal ud Din Shams was never welcomed in Sunni-majority Syria.65 His (alleged) activities and expulsion reflected that colonial authorities’ apprehension toward the circulation of foreign subject populations included pious people as much (if not more) than pious property. The French administration had little tolerance for accusations that he angered conservative Muslims by proselytizing what they considered a heresy and expeditiously bundled him out of the country.66 The head of Ahmadiyya community in India protested and G. F. Malik, secretary of the Ahmadiyya movement in London, wrote to the ­undersecretary of state for India inveighing upon him to write the British consul in Damascus regarding the need to protect British Ahmadiyya subjects (Syed Zain-ul-Abideen and M. Jalal Din) from what he described as the “unsafe” conditions in the city.67 Jalal al-Din Shams, as a Political Department minute paper sets out, was himself anxious to flee Syria, having been double-crossed by a so-called orthodox extremist and “was only kept at his post by the vicarious zeal of the officials of the sect in India.”68 The expulsion of an Ahmadi missionary underscored the extent to which the surveillance regime in the Mandate depended on explicit and implicit collaboration with local colonial subjects. Whether or not Jalal al-­ Din Shams was a heretic is beyond the scope of available sources, and frankly immaterial. The case indicates how non-Syrian Muslims in the Mandate and their relationship to larger Syrian society were coded within the respective British and French colonial security matrices. This episode exposes the precarity of state surveillance in the Mandate that was premised upon

64  IOR/L/PS/11/263, P 4399/1925: 3 December 1925–3 January 1929 P 4399/1925 Syria. 65  Founded by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835–1908), Ahmadiyyas presented a new challenge to Orthodox interpretations of Islam. Adil Hussain Khan, From Sufism to Ahmadiyya: A Muslim Minority Movement in South Asia (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2015), 134. 66  IOR/L/PS/11/263, P 4399/1925: 3 December 1925–3 January 1929 P 4399/1925 Syria, Letter from G.F. Malik. 67  Ibid. 68  Ibid.



promoting the visibility of individuals and groups largely by fitting them into normative categories of religion and nationality.69 Jalal al-Din Shams’ circumstance might superficially reflect a hapless missionary in over his head. Yet it more substantively reveals some of the ways that British and French authorities perceived potential for cascading perils stemming from colonial circulation and the inherent limitations that this reactive approach would bear out again and again. This was especially true after the 1925–1927 Great Syrian Revolt, with French officials suspicious that the slightest upset in public order could invite another disaster.70

Persistent Anglo-French Security Concerns in the Twilight of Empire A flurry of correspondence between 1943 and 1945 between the viceroy of India, Archibald Wavell, and the Foreign Office revealed concerns on the part of the government of India about the local effects of violence in Syria, echoing the early concerns Captain Ajab Khan voiced in his memorandum two and half decades before.71 Wavell expressed concern that the fate of Syrian Muslims could have serious ramifications in India. Muhammad Ali Jinnah, he noted, had publicly rebuked Charles de Gaulle for attempting to forcibly reimpose French rule over the Mandate territories. Jinnah was also conscious of tacit British approval if not outright assistance in these efforts.72 Indian Muslim troops once again served in the Middle East, where the 10th Indian Division and 21st Indian Infantry Brigade participated in the Allied defeat of Vichy French  forces in Syria.73 This only increased the stakes for British authorities contending with the impacts of a wartime famine in India.74

69  Elizabeth Thompson, Colonial Citizens: Republican Rights, Paternal Privilege, and Gender in French Syria and Lebanon (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000), 73–79. 70  Michael Provence, The Great Syrian Revolt and the Rise of Arab Nationalism (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2005), 144–145. 71  IOR/L/PS/12/876: Ext 6287/43 Levant states: position of Syria and the Lebanon in relation to France; question of independence. 72  Ibid. 73  Srinath Raghavan, India’s War: World War II and the Making of Modern South Asia (New York: Basic Books, 2016), 139–140. 74  Letters from home detailing the increasing famine conditions in India—ignored if not abetted outright by British authorities—reached Indian soldiers in the Middle East in ever greater numbers by the time Allied forced occupied Syria in 1943. See Yasmin Khan, India at War: The Subcontinent and the Second World War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 203.



There was special concern that Indian Muslim troops might be obliged to put down local resistance to French efforts to forcibly reimpose Mandate rule. The British saw this as potentially destabilizing in India. This circumstance also highlighted one of the more complex Anglo-­French tensions in that both Britain and France had pretenses of claiming the mantle of Muslim colonial powers. The struggle between Syrian and Lebanese nationalists and French authorities was front-page news in Muslim regions of India, and Wavell anxiously emphasized to his colleagues in London that this could ignite local tensions in India if Britain were seen to be supporting French efforts.75 Indian Muslims’ presence in a politically charged space outside of British India revealed that the colonial space was not a closed system. Colonized people continued patterns of circulation that transcended colonial spaces that could be neatly surveilled and secured.

A History of Colonial Surveillance through Waqf Waqf was foremost a pious institution; it both influenced and was conditioned by the social, economic, cultural, and environmental context in which it was situated. In early twentieth-century Syria, waqf were at the nexus of new phenomena of public governance, police power, and administrative surveillance that buttressed colonial regimes. Thus, examination of the administration and oversight of local institutions like pious endowments can expose the ineptitude, inequities, and arbitrary exercise of colonial rule. The presence of Indian pious endowments and the circulation of Indian Muslims through Syria illuminate colonial (in)security and subjugation in a new way. Indian Muslims’ presence in Syria exposed the tenuousness of French efforts to shoehorn people into brittle and arbitrary categories of citizenship and religion. Muslims in India were not merely concerned about the fate of their Syrian coreligionists under French rule but were connected to Indian Muslims people and endowments in Syria. While British administrators may have been more concerned about the fate of an Indian waqf than French administrators, they both linked the surveillance of waqf and the increased legibility of people related to it as means to promote colonial security and to control the circulation of populations across new borders. Reading the concerns of British and French officials together provides insight into how authorities in the two colonial states not only perceived one another and their subjects but how the vision of these colonial authorities was often occluded.  Ibid.




Bibliography Archival Sources British Library, India Office Records (IOR) IOR/L/PS/11/166 P213/1920. IOR/L/PS/11/263, P 4399/1925. IOR/L/PS/12/358: PZ 1614/40. IOR/L/PS/12/876.



Affaires étrangères français—Centre des Archives Nantes (MAE CADN)

diplomatiques de

(MAE CADN)/1/SL/251/17 Affaire Village de Zerra 1921–1941. MAE CADN 1SL/250/13. MAE CADN 1SL/251/16. MAE CADN/1SL/5/253/Cabinet politique/Société des nations/Relations exterieurs/Pelerinage aux lieux saints de l’Islam/document #20 MAE-CADN/1SL/1/V/377.

Printed Sources Barbir, Karl K. 1980. Ottoman Rule in Damascus 1708–1758. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Bourdieu, Pierre. 1991. Language and Symbolic Power. Translated by Gino Raymond and Matthew Adamson. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Brower, Benjamin Claude. 2013. The Colonial Haj: France and Algeria, 1830–1962. In The Hajj: Collected Essays, ed. Venetia Porter and Liana Saif. London: British Museum Press. Campbell, James Pinkerton. Indian Cavalry Entering the Square in the Town, October 2, 1918. Australian War Memorial, AWMB00314 Public Domain. Accessed 25 Apr 2018. Cardon, Louis. 1932. Le Régime de la propriété foncière en Syrie et au. Paris: Librairie du Recueil Sirey. Casey, James. 2019. Sacred Surveillance: Administration and Governance of Pious Waqf Endowments and the Evolution of State Power and Capacity in Syria, 1920–1960. Princeton University, Forthcoming. Dahar, Masoud. 2010. Siyasat al-ʾIntidab al-Fransi Tijah al-ʾAwqaf fi Lubnan. In Al-ʾAwqaf fi Bilad al-Sham Mundhu al-Fatah al-ʾIslami ila Nihayyat al-Qarn



al-ʿAshrin, ed. Muhamad Adnan al-Bakhit. Amman: Munshurat Lajnat Tarikh Bilad al-Sham – al-Jamiʿa al-ʾUrduniyya. de Gontaut-Biron, Roger. 1923. Comment la France s’est installée en Syrie (1918–1919). Paris: Librarie Plon. Dodge, Toby. 2003. Inventing Iraq: The Failure of Nation-Building and a History Denied. New York: Columbia University Press. Doumani, Beshara. 1998. Endowing Family: Waqf, Property Devolution, and Gender in Greater Syria, 1800–1860. Comparative Studies in Society and History 40 (1): 3–41 (11–12). Gelvin, James L. 1998. Divided Loyalties: Nationalism and Mass Politics in Syria at the Close of Empire. Berkeley: University of California Press. Guha, Ranajit. 1996. A Rule of Property for Bengal: An Essay on the Idea of Permanent Settlement. Durham: Duke University Press. Hunwick, J.O. 2014. Waḳf. In Encyclopedia of Islam, ed. P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.  E.  Bosworth, E. van Donzel, and W.  P.  Heinrichs, 2nd ed. Leiden: Brill Online. Khoury, Philip S. 1989. Syria and the French Mandate: The Politics of Arab Nationalism, 1920–1945. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Kuran, Timur. 2001. The Provision of Public Goods under Islamic Law: Origins, Impact, and the Limitations of the Waqf System. Law & Society Review 35 (4): 841–898. Longrigg, Stephen Hemsley. 1958. Syria and Lebanon under French Mandate. London: Oxford University Press. Low, Michael Christopher. 2008. Empire and the Hajj: Pilgrims, Plagues, and Pan-Islam under British Surveillance, 1865–1908. International Journal of Middle East Studies 40 (2): 269–290. Luquet, Jean. 1923. La Politique des mandats dans le Levant. Paris: Aux editions de la vie universitaire. Makdisi, George. 1981. The Rise of the Colleges: Institutions of Learning in Islam and the West. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Méouchy, Nadine, and Peter Sluglett, eds. 2004. French Mandates in Comparative Perspectives/Les mandats français et anglais dans une perspective comparative. Leiden: Brill. Mizrahi, Jean-David. 2003. Genèse de l’État mandataire: Service des Renseignements et bandes armées en Syrie et au Liban dans les années 1920. Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne. Neep, Daniel. 2012. Occupying Syria Under the French Mandate: Insurgency, Space and State Formation. New York: Cambridge University Press. Ochsenwald, W.L. 1976. A Modern Waqf: The Hijaz Railway, 1900–48. Arabian Studies 3: 1–12. Page, David. 1982. Prelude to Partition: The Indian Muslims and the Imperial System of Control, 1920–1932. New York: Oxford University Press.



Provence, Michael. 2005. The Great Syrian Revolt and the Rise of Arab Nationalism. Austin: University of Texas Press. République français Ministère des affaires étrangères. 1934. Rapport à la Société des Nations sur la situation de la Syrie et du Liban (Année 1934). Paris: Imprimerie Nationale. Rogan, Eugene L. 1999. Frontiers of the State in the Late Ottoman Empire: Transjordan, 1850–1921. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Rosenberg, Clifford D. 2006. Policing Paris: The Origins of Modern Immigration Control Between the Wars. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Satia, Priya. 2008. Spies in Arabia: The Great War and the Cultural Foundations of Britain’s Covert Empire in the Middle East. New York: Oxford University Press. Scott, James. 1998. Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed. New Haven: Yale University Press. Singer, Amy. 2002. Constructing Ottoman Beneficence: An Imperial Soup Kitchen in Jerusalem. Albany: State University of New York Press. Slight, John. 2015. The British Empire and the Hajj 1856–1956. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Thomas, Martin. 2012. Colonial Policing: A Discursive Framework. In Violence and Colonial Order: Police, Workers, and Protest in the European Colonial Empires, 1918–1940, ed. Martin Thomas. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Thompson, Elizabeth. 2000. Colonial Citizens: Republican Rights, Paternal Privilege, and Gender in French Syria and Lebanon. New  York: Columbia University Press. van Leeuween, Richard. 1994. Notables & Clergy in Mount Lebanon: The Khāzin Sheikhs & the Maronite Church (1736–1840). Leiden: Brill. Watenpaugh, Keith. 2006. Being Modern in the Middle East: Revolution, Nationalism, Colonialism, and the Arab Middle Class. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Weiss, Max. 2010. The Shadow of Sectarianism: Law, Shi’ism, and the Making of Modern Lebanon. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.


Empire at Sea


A Shared Sea: The Axes of French and British Imperialism in the Mediterranean, 1798–1914 John Perry

During the nineteenth century, the Mediterranean transformed from a maritime barrier between three continents into a colonial sea dominated by European imperial powers. The two largest imperial powers, France and Britain, viewed the Mediterranean as a strategic asset to tie their most prized colonial possessions—Algeria for France and India for Britain— into their respective empire-building projects. The axes of these empires crossed in the Mediterranean, north-south for France and east-west for Britain. Through the nineteenth century new industrial technologies like steamships bound Algeria and India to their imperial mother countries, demonstrating the commonality of infrastructure and empire building. Yet France’s and Britain’s transportation networks followed different axes with different results. For Britain, the Mediterranean was fashioned into an east-west line linking Gibraltar, Malta, Cyprus, and Alexandria (later Port Said) en route to India. After the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, the Mediterranean transformed from a closed sea to a passageway—from

J. Perry (*) The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA © The Author(s) 2019 J. R. Fichter (ed.), British and French Colonialism in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies Series,




a lake into a lane.1 Britain’s “highway of Empire” reached India, Australia, and East Asia, with the Mediterranean marking the boundary of Europe. France had important trading interests in the Eastern Mediterranean and an empire in Indochina by the 1860s, which necessitated a steamship line, as discussed by James R. Fichter in Chap. 7. But France’s main focus was the Western Mediterranean. Algeria became its sole settler colony of note, one which, after 1848, enjoyed departmental status. France’s north-south Mediterranean axis, in contrast to Britain’s east-west axis, made the Western Mediterranean appear as a “French lake” (a commonly used term at the time) in which only 700 kilometers of water separated Algeria from mainland France. As French legislation incorporated Algeria (and, implicitly, the Mediterranean) into French national territory, France’s sense of Europe’s boundary shifted from the Mediterranean to the Sahara—the “ocean of sand” that separated North and sub-Saharan Africa and left Algeria and France united. Franco-British rivalry in the Mediterranean predated the nineteenth century. Trade with the Levant played its role. Both countries established trading companies with monopoly rights and both countries policed the Barbary regencies of North Africa against corsair activities, real and imagined. Throughout the nineteenth century, France and Britain jockeyed for position in the Mediterranean and over the Ottoman Empire, Egypt, and the Suez Canal as the independent power of Istanbul and Cairo declined. Both powers used industrial technologies—steamships, railways, and canals—to consolidate imperial transportation networks. Infrastructure in colonial contexts has been interpreted at the time and since as an instrument of imperial rivalry, as reinforcing empires as territorial and national constructs, whether it be overland with rail or at sea with steam navies.2 Britain dominated in shipping tonnage, ability to project naval power, control over Egypt (after 1882), and access to coal. France, in contrast, 1  Valeska Huber, “Connecting Colonial Seas: The ‘International Colonisation’ of Port Said and the Suez Canal during and after the First World War,” European Review of History-Revue d’histoire européenne 19, no. 1 (February 2012), 141. 2  Examples include Clarence B. Davis et al., Railway Imperialism (New York: Greenwood Press, 1991); Freda Harcourt, Flagships of Imperialism: The P&O Company and the Politics of Empire from its Origins to 1867 (Manchester: Manchester University Press); Daniel Headrick, The Tools of Empire: Technology and European Imperialism in the Nineteenth Century (New York: Oxford University Press, 1981); Daniel Headrick, The Tentacles of Progress: Technology Transfer in the Age of Imperialism, 1850–1940 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988).



relied on British coal to power its steamships, a good deal of which were constructed in British shipyards. As a naval power, the area of its greatest interest was the Western Mediterranean. And France’s general naval inferiority did not prevent it from concentrating forces in the Western Mediterranean in order to play a significant role there. More broadly, the French Saint-Simonian movement did much to fashion the Mediterranean into a European lake bound together by French infrastructure. This chapter examines the Mediterranean as a transnational space in European imperialism. While Britain and France sought to reinforce state power in the Mediterranean, the sea was also a shared space where these empires overlapped and connected through infrastructure. Imperial expansion created demand for new transportation networks based on industrial technologies that reinforced both France’s north-south and Britain’s east-west axes. Both empires depended on mutual and transnational use of infrastructure—though France more so. Though rivals, the two states remained at peace (if only barely) after 1815. David Todd refers to this period as a French “imperial meridian,” when France embraced collaboration with Britain, even calling the period, 1815–1870, one of transnational empire building in France, emphasizing the role of Saint-­ Simonian liberal economists such as Michel Chevalier in this process.3 The need for Anglo-French collaboration was greater for France than Britain. This collaboration occurred in various locales—James R. Fichter notes the dependence of French imperial expansion in Asia in this period on British infrastructure—yet in the Mediterranean, because of Algeria’s proximity and importance, France possessed a greater ability to project power than elsewhere.4

Anglo-French Rivalry in Barbary Before the nineteenth century, Britain and France competed in their trade with the Ottoman territories of the Levant, with Egypt, and with the independent Kingdom of Morocco. The Ottoman Regencies of Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli, collectively known as “Barbary” after the sixteenth century, 3  David Todd, “A French Imperial Meridian, 1815–1870,” Past & Present 210, no.1 (February 2011): 156; David Todd, “Transnational Projects of Empire in France, c. 1815– c. 1870,” Modern Intellectual History 12, no. 2 (2015). 4  James R.  Fichter, “British Infrastructure and French Empire: Anglo-French Steam Interdependency in Asian Waters, c. 1852–1870,” Britain & the World 5, no. 2 (September 2012).



also became sites of competition for Britain and France. Spain’s Reconquista and its establishment of outposts in North Africa seemed to be the beginnings of making the Mediterranean a Spanish lake in the early sixteenth century, but the Ottoman Empire halted this after 1515 by establishing North African regencies. After this time, cartographers began using “Barbary” as a blanket term for all of North Africa, as both a geographic and cultural descriptor for the region with a distinct Barbary discourse about North African piracy and Christian enslavement emerging. In the period between the Reconquista and France’s conquest of Algiers in 1830, the Mediterranean appeared as a geographical and civilizational barrier. Later, “Barbary” would also connote an historical era between two European conquests, the Roman of antiquity and the French of 1830.5 For Braudel, English and Dutch attempts to trade in the Levant created a mare liberum (open sea) in the Mediterranean, as opposed to the traditional notion of mare clausum (closed sea) in which states incorporate various portions of the sea into their jurisdiction. Some of this closed-sea discourse was itself propaganda, such as the way colonial-era scholars used the example of the Compagnie Royale d’Afrique, which had enjoyed trading privileges with Algiers since the reign of Louis XIV, as a precedent for or harbinger of French rule over North Africa.6 These sorts of commercial exchanges and political alliances between North African regencies and European powers complicated the Barbary discourse. Expeditions against Barbary corsairs were often pretexts for other military or economic goals. The “Barbary Legend” as used by Daniel Panzac provides an interesting prehistory of Anglo-French Mediterranean relations as both nations conducted naval bombardments against Algiers from the seventeenth into the nineteenth century. Though there were no joint Anglo-French expeditions against Algiers, cumulatively they impoverished the regency. Rejeb notes three English bombardments (1622, 1655, 1672) and four French (1661, 1682, 1683, 1688) against Algiers in the seventeenth century.7

5  Lofti Ben Rejeb, “‘The General Belief of the World’: Barbary as Genre and Discourse in Mediterranean History,” European Review of History-Revue d’histoire européenne 19, no. 1 (February 2012), 15–19, 22, 26. 6  Rejeb, “‘The General Belief of the World,’” 15; Paul Masson, Histoire des établissements et du commerce français dans l’Afrique barbaresque, 1560–1793: Algérie, Tunisie, Tripolitaine, Maroc (Paris: Hachette & Cie, 1903) viii. 7  Lofti Ben Rejeb, “‘The General Belief of the World,’” 19, 25–26.



One of the justifications used by propagandists for the Algiers expedition in 1830 was to eradicate North African piracy. Of course by then, the United States (in 1815) and Great Britain and the Netherlands (in 1816) had gone to war with Algiers, the latter two forcing the dey to cease piratical activities. They were at least partially successful. Nevertheless, according to French propagandists, Corsairs based in Algiers still plundered legitimate commerce and enslaved Christians. By taking Algiers, Jules de Polignac argued the Mediterranean would be free of piracy and slavery and open to “production, civilization, and commerce.”8 Scholars such as Gillian Weiss have noted the propaganda value of slave narratives based on exaggeration and falsehoods about the nature of slavery in the Maghreb. Daniel Panzac and Ian Coller both argue that North African regencies, particularly Algiers, exported foodstuffs to France during the Revolutionary era, abandoning corsairing for “legitimate” commerce. Rather than piratical attacks, it was debts accrued by French merchants to the dey of Algiers that were the crucial casus belli by 1830.9

Algiers and the Rebirth of a “French Lake” The French invasion fleet assembled in Toulon to take Algiers signaled the end of sail and the beginning steam. The fleet consisted of 635 sailing ships and seven steamships, which would transport 34,000 troops to the North African coast. Departing on 25 May 1830, the fleet was delayed by bad weather en route, and arrived at Sidi-Ferruch (today Sidi-Fredj) twenty-two kilometers to the west of Algiers only on 14 June. Once disembarked, the army marched to Algiers, which fell on 5 July. During the crossing from Toulon to Algiers, steamships served an auxiliary role that consisted of dispatching orders between ships. Once the invasion was underway, steamships bombarded the Algerian coastline. A steamship dispatched from Toulon arrived at Algiers, received news of the French victory, and returned to France, making the round trip in five days. Upon its arrival in Toulon, it was 8  Gillian Weiss, Captives and Corsairs: France and Slavery in the Early Modern Mediterranean (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2011), 164. 9  Ian Coller, “Barbary and Revolution: France and North Africa, 1789–1798,” in French Mediterraneans: Transnational and Imperial Histories eds. Patricia M. E. Lorcin and Todd Shepard (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2016), 56; Daniel Panzac, The Barbary Corsairs: The End of a Legend, 1800–1820 (Leiden: Brill, 2005). See also Julie Kalman, “La Maison de Bacri et Busnach et l’impérialisme anglo-français en Méditerranée.” Histoire Économie et Société (forthcoming).



initially assumed the ship had broken down, and people were surprised to learn how quickly it had completed its voyage.10 The French navy recognized the benefits of steamships for consolidating their conquest. Sailing ships could take as little as three days or as long as a month to cross, depending on weather. As one naval report observed, “the most remarkable aspect of [Algeria] is its proximity to France…a colony 160 leagues from the metropole! It must be said, to be more precise: a colony three-days from France, because distance is measured more by time than space.”11 France’s pre-1763 colonial empire was far flung. But its later conquests were often in the Mediterranean: Corsica in 1769, Egypt (and, briefly, Malta) in 1798, Algiers in 1830. To have Algiers so close by offered the possibility of reshaping the Mediterranean. It also, inevitably, evoked Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt. Napoleon had, however briefly, achieved French supremacy in the Mediterranean, and with that, great conquests had suddenly seemed possible. The legacy of the Egyptian campaign fed into the Algiers expedition thirty years later. Propagandist Alexandre Colombel’s proinvasion pamphlet published shortly before the Algiers expedition revived the Napoleonic phrase “French lake.” Colombel’s pamphlet extolled the virtues of a French naval presence on the shores of North Africa that could check British naval movements. The logic of naval rivalry informed French possession of successive coastal cities, each one promising to be the next Gibraltar; abandoning any could leave them open for British occupation. “French lake” as an expression implied a political domination of the sea through control of its bordering lands. The French lake would spring forth from the possession of North Africa and continued French influence in the Levant and Egypt, to the detriment of Britain. For Colombel, the French lake was possible in 1830 even without the geostrategic advantages France held in 1798 because of steamships. The short distance between Toulon and Algiers made the new technology ideal for France to assert power in the Western Mediterranean (steamships, it should be noted were seen as short-distance vessels at this time). Steamships would have harbors to refuel in and protection from hostile forces. France could observe and  Jean-Pierre Dubreuil, “Les transformations de la Marine française en Méditerranée (1830–1860)” (PhD diss., University of Nice, 1975), 61. 11  Archives Nationales d’Outre-Mer (hereafter ANOM) F80 1577, Communications Maritimes: Correspondance par bateaux à vapeur, “Note sur la correspondance par bateaux à vapeur entre la France et l’Afrique (remise à la commission du Budget, le 26 février 1833),” 1. Translation by author. 10



counter British naval movements.12 With these factors in mind, the French navy also established reliable communications between France and Algeria. Between 1833 and 1854, the navy organized a steamship service named Correspondance d’Afrique between Toulon and Algiers, with additional spur lines originating from Algiers and going east-west along the North African coast.13 Apart from the technological manifestation of a French lake through steamships, French maps of the Mediterranean after 1830 displayed both the French and African shores of the sea, in a manner that made it appear landlocked.14

The Birth of Britain’s Overland Route to India For the British, steamships offered better links to India via the Mediterranean and Red Seas. Existing British Mediterranean outposts lay the foundation for the Mediterranean as the gateway to India—Gibraltar was established in 1704 and Malta taken during the Napoleonic Wars. During hostilities, Britain expanded and hardened the defenses of these two posts, which, among others, established British supremacy in the Mediterranean after 1815.15 Historically, there were three routes to India—the all-sea Cape of Good Hope route and the overland routes either via Egypt and the Red Sea or via Syria, the Euphrates, and the Persian Gulf. Of these, the most-used and most-secure route for the British to reach India was via the Cape. After the Napoleonic Wars and with British control of the Cape Colony, East Indiamen had little to fear from Dutch and French naval threats. Unlike overland routes, the Cape route needed no transshipment of mails, passengers, and goods. However, the 11,000-mile voyage by sail could take at best five months, and monsoon winds could extend the voyage by weeks or months. A round trip could easily take over a year, maybe as much as two. Individual travelers 12  Alex Colombel, Du parti qu’on pourrait tirer d’une expédition d’Alger, ou de la possibilité de fonder, dans le bassin de la Méditerranée, un nouveau système colonial et maritime à l’épreuve de la puissance anglaise (Paris: Delaunay, 1830), 43, 85, 97. 13  Dubreuil, “Les transformations de la Marine française,” 333, 344–345, 350. The coastal lines remained under naval control until 1866. 14  Hélène Blais and Florence Deprest, “The Mediterranean, a Territory between France and Colonial Algeria: Imperial Constructions,” European Review of History 19, no. 1 (Feb. 2012), 34. 15  Patrick Louvier, La puissance navale et militaire britannique en Méditerranée (1840–1871) (Vincennes: Service historique de la Défense, 2006), 14–22.



and urgent dispatches did reach India via the overland route, but monsoon winds left this route open for only a few months a year (each way). Poor maps, difficult terrain, and hostile sailing conditions in both the Red Sea and Persian Gulf further complicated transport on these routes.16 Steamships made the overland routes more viable. Debates in the 1830s raged over whether to follow the Egyptian or Mesopotamian overland route, but ultimately the former became the preferred route, with an Alexandria-to-Suez run serving as the Egyptian leg between the Mediterranean and the Red Seas. This was due in part to the Admiralty Packets in the Mediterranean, which, beginning as an England-Gibraltar-­ Malta service in the 1820s reached Alexandria in 1835. The Bombay Marine established a Bombay-Suez steamship service in the 1830s that linked with this.17

Saint-Simonianism The Saint-Simonian movement in France clearly articulated the Mediterranean as a singular space uniting “Eastern” and “Western” civilizations through infrastructure. This movement, led by Claude-Henri de Rouvroy, the comte de Saint-Simon, theorized a peaceful, industrialized society where science and industry would create a “universal association” between all segments of society. The Saint-Simonian movement attracted young romantics and many students from the Ecole Polytechnique. Following Saint-Simon’s death in 1825, Prosper Enfantin continued the movement, and its followers became influential administrators and business magnates in mid-nineteenth-century France.18 One of the most influential Saint-Simonians was Michel Chevalier, who gave Saint-Simonianism a geographic scope in his 1832 publication Système de la Méditerranée, which coinciding with renewed French interest in the Mediterranean after the conquest of Algeria two years earlier. In Chevalier’s work, he theorized that the transformative powers of steamships 16  Headrick, The Tools of Empire, 132–133; Robert J. Blyth, “Aden, British India and the Development of Steam Power in the Red Sea, 1825–1839,” in Maritime Empires: British Imperial Maritime Trade in the Nineteenth Century, eds. David Killingray, Margarette Lincoln, and Nigel Rigby (Suffolk: The Boydell Press, 2004), 68–69. 17  Headrick, The Tools of Empire, 135–136; Blyth, “Aden,” 73; Howard Robinson, Carrying British Mails Overseas (New York: New York University Press, 1964), 162. 18  Helen M.  Davies, Emile and Isaac Pereire: Bankers, Socialists and Sephardic Jews in Nineteenth-Century France (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2015), 42–43.



and railways would extend “universal association” across the Mediterranean, turning the sea into the “nuptial bed of the Orient and the Occident.”19 Chevalier’s later work, Des intérets matériels en France, published in 1838, also spoke of the importance of technology and infrastructure in transforming the Mediterranean into a “French lake.” With Marseille as the pivot point, railway lines to Paris (the Paris-Lyon Marseille line was only completed in 1857) and steamship lines to Algeria and the Eastern Mediterranean would lead to the “rebirth” of civilization in Istanbul and Alexandria and “resuscitate” Algiers.20 Prosper Enfantin himself advocated for the construction of the Suez Canal, the ultimate Saint-­Simonian project, and Ferdinand de Lesseps, the canal’s builder, was influenced by SaintSimonians as well.21

Steamships and Steamship Companies The vital technology in the Saint-Simonian vision and in French and British imperial ambitions for the Mediterranean was the steamship. First appearing in American and British waters in the first two decades of the nineteenth century, steamships then began appearing on the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean by the 1830s. High coal consumption, weak steam engines, and paddle wheels that worked unreliably on open water limited their range to river and coastal waters. In the Mediterranean establishing coaling stations became essential. Civil engineer Samuel Seaward calculated in 1841 that practical application of steam propulsion allowed for a twenty-day range from Europe, given the range and distribution of coal supplies.22 This left the Mediterranean “in range” for France and Britain. Steamships were viable in the Mediterranean. Distances were short enough, and coaling stations could be established. And so British and French imperial transportation links began to intensify in their opposing axes. After 1830, the French navy began operating Toulon-Algiers steamship services while, as noted, the Royal Navy began operating 19  Michel Chevalier, Système de la Méditerranée (Paris: Aux bureaux du Globe, 1832), 34–38. 20  Michel Chevalier, Des intérêts matériels en France: Travaux publics, routes, canaux, chemins de fer, 2nd ed. (Paris: Imprimerie de Bourgogne et Martinet, 1838), 266, 289. 21  Valeska Huber, “Connecting Colonial Seas,” 143. 22  Basil Greenhill, “Steam before the Screw,” in The Advent of Steam: The Merchant Steamship before 1900, ed. Robert Gardiner, Conway’s History of the Ship (London: Conway Maritime Press, 1993), 18–19.



England-­Gibraltar-­Malta-Alexandria services in 1835. The initial qualities of steamships—reliable and predictable schedules independent of weather conditions—first attracted governments and post offices, which financed their operations. Given the importance of transporting the mails to the state, state agencies owned and operated these steamships, too. The Royal Navy’s Admiralty Packet steamers, the French Navy’s Correspondance d’Afrique, and the French mail steamers for the Levant were all state-­ owned operations. Both France and Britain began turning away from this practice during the 1830s and 1840s and contracted this service out to private shipping companies as both a cost-saving measure and a means to develop private commercial enterprise through government contracts. Britain’s switch to mail contracts came roughly a decade before France’s. In 1835, the East India Company received a subsidy for a steamship service between Bombay and Suez. After transshipment across Egypt, the mails would then be transferred to Admiralty steamers to Britain. In 1837, the Peninsular Steam Navigation Company received a mail contract to carry the mails from England to Iberia and on to Malta, with the line later extended to Alexandria. As a result, the Peninsular Company was renamed the more geographically appropriate Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company (hereafter P&O). The P&O’s network extended from Suez to India and then to the Far East by 1850. Other steamship companies followed suit, such as the British India Steam Navigation Company, which largely served coastal Indian Ocean routes.23 Through mail contracts, the P&O replaced the Royal Navy steamers in the Mediterranean and the Indian Navy steamers between Bombay and Suez. France’s state-operated steamship endeavors, the Correspondance d’Afrique between Toulon and North Africa (established 1833) and the Paquebots-Poste du Levant between Marseille and the Eastern Mediterranean (established 1837), lost money like the British state services, and so the state began to look to private enterprise.24 Even before 23  Freda Harcourt, “British Oceanic Mail Contracts in the Age of Steam, 1838–1914,” in Journal of Transport History 9 (1988): 1–2; Headrick, The Tentacles of Progress, 39; J. Forbes Munro, Maritime Enterprise and Empire: Sir William Mackinnon and His Business Network, 1823–93 (Suffolk, UK: The Boydell Press, 2003) 35–67. 24  Marie-Françoise Berneron-Couvenhes, “La concession des services maritimes postaux au XIXe siècle: Le cas exemplaire des Messageries Maritimes,” Revue économique 58, no. 1 (1 January 2007): 261; Marie-Françoise Berneron-Couvenhes, Les Messageries Maritimes: L’essor d’une grande compagnie de navigation française, 1851–1894 (Paris: Presses de l’université Paris-Sorbonne, 2007), 50–51.



the establishment of the Navy’s Correspondance d’Afrique, Marseille merchants had sought government support for shipping lines to Algeria, only to be rebuffed. However, after 1842, the government began subsidizing the Compagnie Bazin to operate Marseille-Algeria voyages and began cutting back on the Correspondance d’Afrique’s Toulon-Algeria itineraries. The navy would not abandon sailings from Toulon until 1854. That same year, a new company, Messageries Impériales (MI), won the mail contract from the Compagnie Bazin. Initially founded in 1851 as Messageries Nationales, MI obtained its first mail contract to take over the Paquebots-­ Poste du Levant, later expanding into Algeria in 1854 and taking over the navy’s Algerian coastal services in 1866. Outside the Mediterranean, MI expanded east through the Red Sea and into India, Indochina, China, Japan, and Australia, and west to Brazil.25 After 1871, MI renamed itself to the politically neutral Messageries Maritimes and was in many ways the French counterpart to the P&O. That same year, though, the Messageries lost the Algerian mail contract to the Corsican company Valéry-Frères, which operated those services until 1880. After 1880, the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique, known as the French Line, operated a Marseille-­ North Africa route. This line ran until 1969. The French Line’s founders, Isaac and Emile Pereire, were Saint-Simonians, too (they also founded Crédit Mobilier Bank). Though the French Line initially operated to Central America and on the prestigious North Atlantic route, their ­business activity in Marseille and North Africa demonstrated the brothers’ interest in the Mediterranean, too. In 1833, Emile Pereire wrote about the potential for steamships and railroads in spreading “universal association” to Algeria in the Saint-Simonian publication Le National. When Emile wrote of the necessity of dotting Algeria with a railway system and good shipping connections to Marseille, he optimistically noted that “in [Algeria], everything is to be made.”26 Quasi official, mail-subsidized steamship companies such as the P&O, Messageries, and French Line reinforced British and French imperial transportation networks. The subsidies supported private commerce that 25  Berneron-Couvenhes, “La concession des services maritimes postaux,” 268; “Historique des services maritimes subventionnées entre la France, l’Algérie, la Tunisie, la Tripolitaine et le Maroc,” in Revue de la marine marchande et des pêches maritimes 2 (November 1915): 139–142. 26  Davies, Emile and Isaac Pereire, 73; Paul Bois, La Transat et Marseille (Marseille: Imprimerie Espace, 1996), 9; Hippolyte Castille, Les frères Péreire (Paris: E. Dentu, 1861), 28–33.



might otherwise have taken longer to develop. Yet despite a framework that would seem to encourage nationalistic rivalries between these companies, areas of informal cooperation existed between British and French companies that served the same regions. The P&O and Messageries, each with bimonthly departures from Marseille, began alternating departures to establish a weekly frequency of sailings after 1871. The arrangement satisfied the obligations of their respective mail contracts, too, yet placed the companies on equal footing in terms of scheduling.27 Steamships, to use the words of Daniel Headrick, stand out as one of the most important “tools of empire” since Europeans used this technology to project and maintain their power in their far-flung territories.28 Indeed, the point that Britain possessed the largest overseas empire and the largest merchant marine at the turn of the twentieth century presumes the link between imperial and naval power. France, though it had the second-largest overseas empire, was a middling merchant and naval power at best and underwent a relative decline versus Britain during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In 1860, France ranked third behind the United Kingdom and United States in total merchant tonnage. In 1910, France ranked sixth behind the United Kingdom, the British Empire, Germany, Norway, and Japan.29 The reasons for Britain’s maritime supremacy lay in a shipbuilding industry that built ships more cheaply than French yards and in the ability of British ships to export coal on outbound voyages before returning with holds filled with merchandise from overseas. France’s limited coal fields and the superior quality of British coal meant that French shipping did not benefit from the same economies of scale.30 Despite France’s relative insignificance in world shipping, its empire provided a protected market of sustained demand for French-flagged ships to serve French colonies. In the case of Algeria, monopolist legislation reserved Franco-Algerian trade to French-flagged ships, which guaranteed shipping companies a market.

 Berneron-Couvenhes, Les Messageries Maritimes, 405–407.  Headrick, The Tools of Empire, 130; Joseph N. F. M. à Campo, “Engines of Empire: The Rôle of Shipping Companies in British and Dutch Empire Building,” in Shipping, Technology and Imperialism, Gordon Jackson and David M.  Williams, eds. (Hants, England: Scolar Press, 1996), 63, 94. 29  Michael S.  Smith, “Unlikely Success: Chargeurs Réunis and the Marine Transport Business in France, 1872–1914,” Entreprises et Histoire (September 1994): 11. 30  Headrick, The Tentacles of Progress, 42–45. 27 28



Transnational Infrastructures Despite claims to a French lake covering the entire Mediterranean, French imperialism and the steamships that plied the inner sea were dependent on British coal. Not all coal was alike, and Welsh coal possessed qualities of greater thermal efficiency and solidity that made it the preferred choice of shipping companies. James R. Fichter has pointed out French dependency on British coal in the Indian Ocean,31 but the same was true even for Algeria—and indeed was even true in Marseille early on. British shipping in Algiers consistently accounted for the second-largest merchant fleet after the French, and what British ships brought to Algeria was coal. In 1842, eighty-five British ships docked in Algiers; two-thirds of their total cargo by value was coal.32 By the end of the nineteenth century and at the turn of the twentieth, coal accounted for over half of Algiers’ imports.33 In addition to the needs of Franco-Algerian shipping, the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 provoked great interest among the commercial elite in Algiers. Placed roughly halfway between Port Said and northern European ports, Algiers became a major coaling station during the last quarter of the nineteenth century, rivaling Gibraltar and Malta.34 The joint Franco-­ British coaling company of Messrs. Burke and Delacroix and the Anglo-­ Algerian Coaling Company became part of Algiers’ lifeblood.35 The Worms Coaling Company also supplied the Algerian ports of Algiers, Oran, and Bône.36 While only a few hundred kilometers from home, French shipping in Algeria proved to be dependent on British coal, but the mutual entanglement went deeper, since Algiers soon rivaled British coaling stations in the sale of British coal. British transport to India was also entangled with metropolitan France, too. Shipping British mails and passengers to India was done most quickly by going overland through France and transferring to a P&O steamer at Marseille. Passengers would thereby avoid the delay and rough seas of the  Fichter, “British Infrastructure and French Empire,” 188–191.  Joëlle Redouane, “La présence anglaise en Algérie de 1830 à 1930,” Revue de l’Occident musulman et de la Méditerranée, no. 38 (1984): 16. 33  René Lespès, Alger: Etude de Géographie et d’Histoire urbaines (Paris: Librairie Félix Alcan, 1930), 688–689. 34  ANOM GGA 1 O 284, Folder Port d’Alger – mouvement des relâcheurs (1901–1904), “Trafic du chabon à Gibraltar et Alger,” 1; Lespès, Alger, 647–650. 35  Redouance, “La présence anglaise,” 26. 36  “Historique Alger (1851–1892),” Worms et Cie, accessed 30 Jan. 2018, http://www. 31 32



crossing through the Bay of Biscay en route to Alexandria. The scheme of the India Mails (Malle des Indes) was born in 183837 and quickened throughout the nineteenth century with the development of railway networks and faster schedules. There were on-again, off-again efforts to switch British mail and/or passengers to India from Marseille to the Italian port of Brindisi, yet at least some passengers continued to embark and disembark in Marseille. The Wagons-Lits sleeping car company (operator of the famed Orient Express) created in 1898 a Calais-Marseille Bombay Express timed to meet with P&O liners in Marseille.38 A move to reroute English passengers to Brindisi instead of Marseille brought out protests as 20,000–30,000 passengers passed through Marseille.39 Here is another example of entangled infrastructure—the quickest way to India was through continental Europe, which required coordination of steamer and train schedules, all happening in their own national and imperial contexts.

Shifting Priorities 1870–1914 After the founding of the Third Republic, French colonial policy and French liberal economists focused on the formal territorial annexations that ultimately cemented France’s north-south Mediterranean axis. Paul-­ Leroy Beaulieu, son-in-law of Michel Chevalier, represented this turn in his 1874 work De la colonisation chez les peuples modernes when he advocated joining Algeria and Senegal by way of the Sahara to civilize North and West Africa. Subsequent editions of De la colonisation advocated territorial expansion as a means to maintain French prestige and counter Germany’s growth after 1870.40 During this time period, the first projects for an often-planned but never built trans-Saharan railway began to be proposed in 1879. The line would connect Algeria and Senegal via Timbuktu, and West Africa would become a “second India” for France.41 As India became the pivot of Britain’s Indian Ocean presence, so too would France try to make Algeria its pivot point between Europe and sub-­ Saharan Africa.  Berneron-Couvenhes, Les Messageries Maritimes, 83.  Louis Laffite, “Simplon et Faucille: Rôle économique d’une nouvelle ligne internationale,” Le génie civil, no. 19 (5 Sept. 1903): 293; Le Matin 16 Feb. 1899, 4. 39  Le Journal, “La Malle des Indes” 12 Jan. 1900, 4. 40  David Todd, “Transnational Projects of Empire in France,” 291–292. 41  Adolphe Duponchel, Le chemin de fer Transsaharien, jonction coloniale entre l’Algérie et le Soudan (Montpellier, France: de Boehm & Fils, 1878), 218. 37 38



The Entente Cordiale of 1904 led to greater cooperation between British and French naval strategists. Germany emerged as a threat to France’s continental defense and Britain’s merchant marine and naval supremacy. Germany forced a change in British naval policy to concentrate defenses in the English Channel and the North Sea to prevent a German naval breakout in case of war. As a result, Britain shifted its fleet to Gibraltar from Malta. The French began concentrating naval forces in the Mediterranean in order to ensure swift transport of the North African 19th Corps to France in the outbreak of war on the continent.42

Conclusion The Mediterranean became a colonized sea over the course of the nineteenth century. Both France and Britain used the sea as the primary conduit to their respective empires in Algeria and India, making the sea a strategic asset. Though on opposing axes, Britain and France used all the available nineteenth-century technologies, most importantly steamships, to create imperial infrastructures that spanned the Mediterranean. As a result, the Mediterranean appeared to the French as a lake that bound metropolitan France to the French departments of Algeria while the British viewed the sea as a highway that linked India to Britain via the Suez Canal. At times both powers found themselves in Mediterranean conflicts that exacerbated their rivalry, yet they never went to war. Often they cooperated, as in the Crimean War and the Entente. One reason for this lies in the fact that Britain’s and France’s overlapping Mediterranean empires were entangled through infrastructure. Each had too much to lose in a conflict to risk one. Anglo-French cooperation existed through sailing schedules, coaling depots, and mail-transport agreements. While Britain was clearly the superior naval, commercial, and imperial power, France’s Mediterranean empire found its place within the Pax Britannica. Its reliance on British coal and shipbuilding and on tacit British support for its North African expansion demonstrates the infrastructural dependency of France even in the heart of its empire. Yet French intellectual developments like SaintSimonianism recognized that transnational phenomena offered the possibility of connected empires. In this way, technology became a unifying feature of European imperialism, particularly in the Mediterranean. 42  Paul G.  Halpern, The Mediterranean Naval Situation, 1908–1914 (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1971), 141–145; Paul G.  Halpern, A Naval History of World War I (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1994), 6.



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A Second “Fashoda”? Britain, India, and a French “Threat” in Oman at the End of the Nineteenth Century Guillemette Crouzet

In a 1905 letter, Frenchman Antonin Goguyer encouraged French Vice-­ Consul Paul Ottavi of Muscat to help him set up what he considered a project of crucial import for Paris.1 Goguyer was a complex character: an arms and pearl dealer with a degree in Arabic, he wanted to end what he perceived to be excessive British domination of the Persian Gulf by establishing a French alliance with a Saudi prince exiled in Kuwait and the Russian czar. Strongly Anglophobic, he judged French imperial policy in Oman and the Persian Gulf to be too timid and conciliatory toward Great Britain. With Russian and Saudi support, he hoped France could gain a foothold in Oman, in the Arab Peninsula, and in Persia, thus destabilizing  The author acknowledges the support of the British Academy, the Royal Society, and the Academy of Medical Sciences through the Newton International Fellowship Scheme in funding this research. Paul Ottavi was the French Vice-Consul in Muscat from 1894 to 1902. 1

G. Crouzet (*) Department of History, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK © The Author(s) 2019 J. R. Fichter (ed.), British and French Colonialism in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies Series,




Great Britain and India.2 One year after the signature of the Entente Cordiale, Franco-British rivalry in Oman seemed a long way from pacified. In their recent work, Martin Thomas and Richard Toye develop the notion of “co-imperialism” concerning the imperial relationship between France and Great Britain from the 1890s on, emphasizing not only the ebbing tension between these two traditional “enemies,” but also the development of collaboration and human, intellectual, and economic circulation between the French and British empires.3 Thus, well before the signing of the Entente Cordiale between Paris and London in 1904, which included several clauses bearing on colonial territories, there would have been an imperial rapprochement between France and Great Britain. Thomas and Toye nevertheless added a slight restriction to their general thesis, pointing out that this collaboration “remained less apparent in Northern Africa and Western Asia.”4 In the light of the coaling-station affair that took place in Oman in 1904, the present chapter will argue that, contrary to Thomas and Toye, France and Great Britain almost went to war in Western Asia and particularly the Persian Gulf5 just as the Entente agreements were on the verge of being signed. The coaling-station affair was an imperial flashpoint, a second “Fashoda,” and a perfect illustration of the fact that in the age of the New Imperialism, France and Great Britain were far from collaborating in Western Asia, a region hotly contested by European powers. The incident bears witness to the absence of coimperialism. France and Britain did not cooperate in Oman or corule the sultanate, despite the signature of mutual agreements in the late 1840s regarding the safeguarding of Oman’s independence. Oman was a site of imperial rivalry between France and Britain. The coal-station incident also highlights the wide autonomy enjoyed by the British Indian Empire, which attempted to directly influence negotiations over the Entente Cordiale. Based on records of Whitehall and the government of India, this chapter argues that Britain’s intransigent policy toward France was based on an imagined French threat to India and its strategic borderland, the Persian 2  Concerning the person of Goguyer, see Guillemette Crouzet, Genèses du Moyen-Orient: Le golfe Persique à l’âge des impérialismes (c.1800–c.1914) (Ceyzérieux: Champvallon 2015). 3  Martin Thomas and Richard Toye, eds., Arguing about Empire: Imperial Rhetoric in Britain and France, 1882–1956 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017). 4  Thomas and Toye, Arguing about Empire, 4. 5  John B. Kelly, Britain and the Persian Gulf, 1795–1880 (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1968).



Gulf. Throughout the nineteenth century, the Indian presidencies and later the government of India justified control of the Persian Gulf by citing repeated threats, both real and imaginary, as well as by employing a “rhetoric of fear.”6 The threat was first incarnated by Napoleon—the disruptor of Europe—as early as the Egyptian Campaign, which he waged in order to claim British possessions in India with the help of his ally, the czar of Russia, and regional assistance from the shah of Persia, the sultan of Oman, and Tipu Sultan. The Wahhabis and both Saudi states were subsequently viewed as threats in the years between 1800 and 1920. During what was known as the Great Game, the czar and his army were considered menacing. During the age of New Imperialism after 1870, France, the Ottoman Empire, and especially Germany incarnated danger. This chapter explores how British imagination of a French threat—that is, the British imaginary—reinforced the Indian imperial presence in Oman in the late nineteenth century. Indeed, Lord Curzon, viceroy of India, lobbied for the inclusion in the agreements surrounding the Entente recognition of a British protectorate over Oman. For Curzon, Indian defense and the exclusion of foreign powers from India’s strategic buffer zone, the Persian Gulf, were of utmost importance. To safeguard India’s interests, Curzon led an autonomous and aggressive policy toward France, motivated by the perception that France was about to set foot in the Gulf and stride into India, just like Lord Mornington had at the beginning of the nineteenth century. British India had a political importance of its own in Western Asia, to the detriment of any amicable division of influence between France and Great Britain and even to the detriment of India’s relationship with London, just when diplomats were trying to take the edge off Fashoda in the early negotiations for the Entente Cordiale between London and Paris.

Oman, a French Pipe Dream: The French-Omani Relationship from the Eighteenth Century Onward France made a noteworthy comeback in Oman at the end of the nineteenth century, but the area had taken center stage in French concerns well before the 1890s. To understand the reasons behind the French comeback, it is necessary to go back a few decades in time. 6

 On this argument, see Crouzet, Genèses.



The first trace of French consular representation in Oman dates back to the Old Regime. But the story of the French in Oman must be placed within the larger framework of French imperialism in the Indian Ocean. The Sultanate of Oman was an integral part of French strategy in the Indian Ocean, and its place in French policy evolved over time. Indeed, France throughout the long nineteenth century regarded Oman as one possible key to power in the Indian Ocean, together with Madagascar, Mauritius, the Comoros archipelago, and the comptoirs in India. Oman’s own political status in the Indian Ocean world also changed during the course of the century and declined rapidly after the 1830s. The newly powerful Imam Abu Hilal Ahmad bin Said,7 the founder of the al-Busaidi dynasty, brought a new assertiveness to Muscat in the 1750s and consolidated Omani footholds in eastern Africa. France decided to institutionalize its relationship with this important partner. Like Muscat, France also had interests spread around the Western Indian Ocean. At the end of the Seven Years’ War, France retained five trading posts in the Indian subcontinent (the comptoirs),8 a few outposts in Madagascar, plus the Seychelles, and also the Mascarene Islands (including present-day Mauritius and Réunion).9 In 1786, Sultan Hamad bin Said granted France the right to appoint an official representative to Muscat. Because of the French Revolution, however, French consular representation in Oman never materialized. Oman regained importance for France under Bonaparte. One must remember how strategic a position the sultanate enjoyed in Bonaparte’s imperial dream in the Indian Ocean and India. After the signature in 1798 of the first British-Omani treaty and the establishment of the British political resident in 1801, France tried to fight off encroachment of the British Indian Empire upon the sultanate. In 1803, Napoleon sent Jean-­Baptiste de Cavaignac as consul to Muscat, but the regent Badr bin Saif refused to receive him. In 1807, the new sultan Sayyid Said bin Sultan10 agreed to sign a French-Omani convention with Captain General Decaen, governor of Isle de France (Mauritius), who sent M. Dallous as a resident agent to Muscat. However, in 1810 France lost its Indian  Sayyid Ahmad bin Said al Busaid, born 1710, reigned 1744–1778.  The Treaty of Versailles 1783 added to this list Balasore, Kasimbazar, Jougdia, Dacca, Patna, Masulipatnam, Calicut, and Surat. 9  Philippe Haudrère, La Compagnie française des Indes au XVIIIe siècle (Paris: Les Indes Savantes, 2005). 10  The future Sayyid Said the Great, who reigned until 1856. 7 8



Ocean fleet and Mauritius.11 Following the setbacks suffered by Napoleon’s armies in Europe, M. Dallous was forced to leave Muscat, leaving Sultan Said in a one-to-one relationship with the British. France would have to wait seventy-four years before having diplomatic representation in Muscat again; with the growth of India’s influence in Oman and the Gulf region from the 1810s on and with the collapse of the Napoleonic Empire, the French presence in Oman largely disappeared. But even as the sultan of Oman fell under British-Indian influence, the French found a windfall. As early as 1830, Sultan Sayyid Said signed numerous commercial agreements and treaties of friendships with various Western powers, and France benefited from this new policy. Following a first convention in 1841, a treaty of commerce and friendship was signed by Oman and France on 4 November 1844. In spite of several failures, as in Zanzibar at the end of the 1880s, this policy illustrated how the French wanted to create a network linking together their holdings and areas of influence—the Comoros archipelago, Madagascar, Réunion—as well as other areas such as Oman and Zanzibar. In the nineteenth century, Oman always held the potential to be included in this group of interests.

The Reopening of the French Consulate and the Evolution of Franco-British Relations Around 1890, French-British rivalry in the Indian Ocean and Oman took a new turn. The French wanted to reenter the imperial competition in the area, and they picked two main tools to achieve this end. One was the “reopening” in 1894 of a French diplomatic representation in Oman, a decision taken by Gabriel Hanotaux, minister of foreign affairs, whose distrust of Great Britain was well known.12 11  Auguste Toussaint, Histoire de l’océan Indien (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1961). 12  Gabriel Hanoteaux (1853–1955) was minister of foreign affairs from 31 May 1894, to 14 June 1898 (except for a few months from 1 November 1895 to 23 April 1896). He was defending the idea of a rapprochement between France and Germany in order to facilitate French colonial expansion. During the Fashoda crisis, his dismissal and replacement by Théophile Delcassé prevented further aggravation of the situation. See Philippe Chassaigne, La Grande-Bretagne et le monde de 1815 à nos jours (Paris: Armand Colin, 2009); Fabrice Serodes, Anglophobie et politique de Fachoda à Mers el-Kébir: Visions françaises du monde britannique (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2010), 33–42.



Thus, Paul Ottavi came to travel to the Sea of Oman and take his post as the French consul in Muscat. Ottavi was a brilliant diplomat, an Arabist well versed in local issues. He had been the French consular representative in Zanzibar on and off from 1887 to 1892. He benefited therefore from inside knowledge of Indian Ocean and Omani affairs. He was quickly able to gain the trust of Sultan Faysal and his successors, and up until his departure in 1901 he enjoyed a privileged relationship with them, much to the dismay of the British (Lord Curzon referred to Ottavi “that little viperish Levantine”). In 1896, Sayyid Faysal bin Turki even offered a beautiful house in the heart of Muscat as a gift to Ottavi, which became the official residence of the French consuls, the “beit firansa.”13 As mentioned earlier, French imperialism in Oman must be understood as one element of a broader Indian Ocean perspective, and the “reopening” of the consulate in Muscat should be linked with the development of French colonization along the Somali Coast from 1884.14 Obock was acquired during Napoleon III’s reign but not put to formal state use until 1884. The harbor of Djibouti was founded in 1888, so as to provide a counterweight to the influence wielded by Great Britain since 1839  in Aden and since 1857 on Perim Island. It should be added that on 26 November 1886, Great Britain had also gained control of the strategically placed Socotra Island,15 and that between July and September 1884, the Indian Empire took over Zeila and Berbera. By 1890, if not earlier, France possessed a limited terrain on the African side of the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, boxed in by other European powers on all sides. With Oman therefore, France was trying to develop a less-boxed­in presence on the coasts of another strait, the Strait of Hormuz, an interface that gave access to the Gulf and to the northern Indian Ocean. Was the sultanate slated to become the spatial twin of Somalia, Djibouti, and Obock, a port of call for the ships of the Indian Ocean squadron and for  Sultan of Oman from 1864 to 1913.  France was able to acquire the Obock territory for 55,000 francs of the time through a March 1862 treaty signed between Edouard Thouvenel, Napoleon III’s minister of foreign affairs, and Diny Ahmed Aboubekr, sultan of Raheita, representing the Danakil tribes concerned by the transaction. After 1884, at the instigation of Félix Faure, minister of colonies, France decided to reorganize its colony of Obock. Léonce de Lagarde was appointed resident, and, through a series of treaties signed from May to December 1884, managed to acquire the entire Somali Coast. He founded Djibouti in 1888 and moved the residency there. 15  R. J. Gavin, Aden under British Rule 1839–1967 (London: C. Hurst & Co. Ltd., 1975). 13 14



French commercial shipping? Was there a view to link it into a network including Madagascar, Réunion, and the trading posts of India? This is the hypothesis we will develop hereafter. Moreover, taking advantage of a deterioration in the British-Omani relationship from 1898 on, the French made clear that they wanted to become more important players in the region.16 With the availability of a vice-consulate in Muscat and a man like Ottavi to run it, it became possible to reinforce French positions in the Indian Ocean and to integrate Oman into the French sphere of influence there. This is what the French tried to achieve with their project of creating a coaling station, which generated grave strains in the relationship between the Third Republic, London, and the government of India. With Lord Curzon’s rise to the viceroyalty of India, the latter played a very important role in the settlement of what came to be known as “the coaling-station affair.”17

The French Coaling Station Affair in Oman: A Budding Second Fashoda? Let us now examine in more detail this crisis, which started in November 1898, less than three months after the Fashoda incident, just as the Franco-­ British rapprochement was beginning. A few lines published in the Journal des Débats made public the grant France had obtained from the sultan of Muscat of a concession at Bandar Jissah,18 five miles south of Muscat, to set up a coaling station. Two weeks later, Théophile Delcassé19 wrote a letter to the British ambassador in 16  Toward the end of the 1890s, the British-Indian government made clear that it wanted to farm out Muscati customs to protected British citizens from India. The sultan, maybe under the influence of Ottavi, tried to oppose what constituted one more step on the road to British-Indian domination over Oman. He made several public gestures demonstrating his hostility to the British-Indian government, and British-Omani relationships deteriorated, leaving the field wide open for Ottavi in the sultan’s court. 17  “Memorandum on the lease to France of a coaling station in Muscat territory – statement of our case. Sir W. Lee-Warner, 7 mars 1899,” India Office Records (IOR) L/PS/18/ B119. 18  “Muscat: opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown on the Bunder Jisseh incident. 8 Mar 1899,” IOR/L/PS/18/B122, 8 Mar. 1899. 19  Born in 1852, a representative from Foix from 1889 to 1919 belonging to the radical group, Delcassé was an active member of the parti colonial and he backed Ferry’s colonizing policy. Minister of the colonies, then minister of foreign affairs, he was one of the architects of both the Franco-Russian alliance and the Entente Cordiale.



which he denied any knowledge of this project and claimed to have asked the French Naval Ministry for an inquiry into this topic.20 Rumors spread despite this denial, distinctly straining the relationship between London and India as well as between France and Great Britain.21 In London, the Times published on 9 February 1899, a claim that a Russian consulate was in the works, raising the specter of a Russian invasion of the Gulf and of India, with the French threat as background. The same paper, however, published on 13 February a second French denial regarding the coaling station. The project did indeed exist. The Foreign Office, however, ordered Calcutta not to intervene directly with Faysal, since its wish was to keep direct control of the management of the crisis in the context of a highly strained Franco-British relationship.22 The goal was probably to avoid hurting French feelings, still raw after the humiliation of Fashoda. For both the government of India and Whitehall, the business was assumed to be a plot by Ottavi, who, they thought, had probably managed to extract some promise from Faysal.23 As for Ottavi himself, he barely mentioned the affair and kept quiet throughout, which does not preclude the possibility that he was behind it, either directly or through third parties. However, according to his successor Lucien Laronce,24 it was the sultan himself who originally proposed to give France “a place in Muscat.”25 Why would France want to set up a coaling station in Oman? One possible hypothesis points, again, to the necessity of rethinking the place of the sultanate in France’s overall Indian Ocean strategy. In 1885  in the midst of France’s war in Tonkin, Great Britain, which had declared that it would remain “neutral,” banned French ships from coaling in Aden (for 20  “Muscat: opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown on the Bunder Jisseh incident. R L Weston and R B Finlay, Law Officers’ Dept, 8 March 1899,” IOR/L/PS/18/B122. 21  “Memorandum on the lease to France of a coaling station in Muscat territory – statement of our case. Sir W. Lee-Warner, 7 Mar 1899,” IOR/L/PS/18/B119. 22  IOR/L/PS/18/B119. 23  See on this point several telegrams from Curzon. IOR/Mss Eur F112/412, Jan. 1899– Feb. 1904. 24  Ministère des Affaires Etrangères (MAE) POO184, t. IV, 1899. Lucien Laronce, born 5 February 1869, graduated from the Ecole des Langues Orientales Vivantes, became drogman-in-training in Damascus, manager of the Jerusalem chancery, then again drogman (July–October 1891); drogman-chancellor in Zanzibar (21 November 1896); manager of the vice-consulate in Muscat (1 July 1901); vice-consul in Muscat (23 March 1902); and second-class consul (12 January 1905). 25  IOR/Mss Eur F112/412, Jan. 1899–Feb. 1904.



more on this see James R. Fichter’s chapter in this volume). The consequences of this decision, clearly hostile to France, had probably made clear in the eyes of Paris the urgent need of acquiring additional coaling stations on the road to Asia, one of which might be placed in the northern part of the Indian Ocean. It is argued here that France wanted a coaling station in Oman, despite its costs, in order to have a foothold in the Persian Gulf. The coaling station was a means for France to project its power in what could be called a “British lake”: the Persian Gulf and the north of the Indian Ocean. However, neither London nor India could condone a French coal station on Omani territory, which as it was not formally a British colony like Aden was a viable place from which France could independently project naval power into the Persian Gulf and the northern Indian Ocean. On 6 January 1899, Lord Curzon entered his new position as viceroy of India and personally took charge of the whole issue.26 The Gulf played a crucial role in Curzon’s “protective” system for India.27 The viceroy thus made the issue of the coaling station his business. He delegated very quickly, at some point in January, Colonel Malcolm J. Meade to settle the matter directly with the sultan, in tandem with Christopher G. F. Fagan, who represented the British-Indian government on the ground. Meade’s intervention had actually been preceded by an initiative from Fagan, who did not await the arrival of the resident—then in Kuwait28—and ordered as early as 18 January, again without referring to the resident, the gunboat Sphynx, stationed in Jask, and its commander, Lieutenant H.  A. Phillips, to proceed toward Oman; at the beginning of February he also  IOR/Mss Eur F112/412.  On Curzon’s geographical defensive system for India, see Crouzet, Genèses, and James Onley, The Arabian Frontier of the British Raj: Merchants, Rulers, and the British in the Nineteenth-Century (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007). One should note that as early as 1890, the British were clearly desirous to establish a protectorate over Muscat but were afraid of a very negative French response. Lord Salisbury was not in favor of such a project, probably because he was mainly focused on the Boer War and was eager to avoid heightening tensions with France at this juncture in time. 28  On 23 January 1899, Colonel Meade signed a secret treaty with Sheikh Mubarak in Kuwait, guaranteeing the latter the exclusive protection of Great Britain; the goal was to prevent a threatened Russian penetration. The treaty was modeled on the one signed on 13 March 1892 with Bahrain, in which the sheikh had undertaken not to negotiate or sign treaties with any government other than the British government, not to allow representatives of foreign government to remain in the territory without being authorized to do so by the British government, and not to give away any tract of his territory except to the British government. 26 27



sent a few men to raise the British flag in Bandar Jissah, where the coaling station was to be set up.29 Luckily, no French soldiers were present when the British-Indian officers executed Fagan’s orders. The French would have been within their rights to strongly oppose the move, and an armed standoff or even an armed conflict could have taken place, since such an initiative constituted yet another violation of the Treaty of 1862. This treaty, cosigned by Britain and France, clearly stated the independence of Oman and its dominions, which had to be respected as a mutual responsibility for Britain and France. Whitehall, in its correspondence with Curzon, tried to find some other solution than the one chosen by Fagan.30 After discussing the matter, Whitehall and the government of India agreed that the viceroy would inform Faysal through Meade that the government of India would reject any Omani request for loans as long as this issue of a potential territorial concession to France was unsettled.31 William Lee-Warner,32 secretary of the Political and Secret Department of the India Office, also suggested Curzon remind Faysal that Great Britain had recognized him as the sultan at the expense of his uncle Abd Al-Aziz as-Sayyid. The latter was imprisoned at that time, but as Lee-Warner pointed out, while Britain would not “interfere” in issues of succession in Oman, it could stop its support of Faysal and help his rival to recover his freedom.33

Curzon at Work through Meade The next stage of our story illustrates the latitude Curzon allowed himself in the settlement of the crisis. The conditions under which the problem of the French coal station was eventually put to rest were set by the government of India alone. Whitehall, in its discussions with the Viceroy, insisted that Faysal should be asked to clarify whether the concession had been granted to the French government or to a French citizen residing in Oman.34 Indeed, under the Franco-Omani treaty of  IOR/Mss Eur F112/412.  Fagan was eventually replaced in September 1899 by Major Percy Cox. 31  IOR/Mss Eur F112/412. 32  IOR/L/PS/18/B119. William Lee-Warner held the position of secretary in the Political and Secret Department of the India Office from 1895. 33  IOR/Mss Eur F112/412. 34  “Muscat: opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown on the Bunder Jisseh incident. R. L. Weston and R. B. Finlay, Law Officers’ Dept, 8 Mar 1899,” IOR/L/PS/18/B122. 29 30



1844, French citizens had the right to acquire properties on Omani soil. If the plot of land in Bandar Jissah had been granted by the sultan to a French individual and not to France, the British-Indian argument would have become much weaker. Curzon, however, gave short shrift to such legal niceties, and adopted a much harsher line, circumventing Whitehall’s caution. Through his political resident, he gave the sultan what amounted to a lecture on “good manners,” writing to Meade, “I think this may afford a good opportunity for reading the sultan a sharp lesson and teaching him his proper place.” Curzon pointed out to the French that they would do well to look in the mirror: “Though Muscat is in theory an independent state, it reminds me a little of the semiFrench kingdom of Cambodia, but over which, nevertheless, the French Government exercise an absolute predominant control and in which they would tolerate no interference.”35 Without explicitly saying so, Curzon made it clear that the sultanate was a de facto protectorate, an integral part of the British sphere of defense in which no foreign “interference” would be tolerated. Over several meetings with Faysal, Colonel Meade recapped the many insults suffered by British power, especially as a result of the proliferation of French-flagged dhows,36 and, after having emphasized once again the crucial place of Oman in British and Indian policy, he demanded from his interlocutor that he confirm the cancellation of the coaling station.37 Curzon also instructed Meade to wield the financial weapon and warn the sultan that the British would stop paying his yearly subsidy. The Gulf was in a state of confusion. Rear Admiral Archibald L. Douglas had been ordered by the Admiralty to set sail toward Muscat on board HMS Eclipse to threaten to bomb the sultan’s palace. This decision was part of a larger plan to show display strength for French benefit. The battle cruiser was in sight of the Omani  IOR/Mss Eur F112/412.  On this issue, see Crouzet, Genèses. The proliferation of French-flagged dhows in the northern part of the Indian Ocean became an issue for Britain at the end of the nineteenth century. Around 1880, France started to issue papers to certain subjects of the sultan of Oman to fly the French flag, who then claimed extraterritorial rights in the territorial waters of the sultan. British archives also indicate that the British believed there was a wider traffic of grants of French flag to Arab dhows in the northern part of the Indian Ocean at the end of the nineteenth century, taking place, for example, in Madagascar. As leaders of an international movement to curtail the slave trade, the British protested the grant of French flags to Arab dhows, whose immunity from search made them valued by the slave traders. The French-flagged dhows became the cause of a long-lasting diplomatic dispute between France and Britain, which was solved in front of the Tribunal of Arbitration in the Hague in 1904. 37  IOR/Mss Eur F112/412. 35 36



capital on 14 February, and two days later it was joined by a second warship, HMS Redbreast, and probably two other vessels. The affair brought into full view Curzon’s independent policy and uncompromising position as soon as “matters of imperial defense,” that is, the perceived security of the Indian Empire, were at stake. On all sides, pressure grew on Faysal, whom Calcutta—and eventually London—held fully responsible for the whole incident because of his equivocations and his attempts at weakening the agreements of 1844 and 1891. The sultan was the target of both London and India, and was truly on the spot. The Admiralty’s instructions to Douglas, as commander of the East Indies Squadron, left him a free hand as long as he avoided direct conflict with the French. But nobody in the Admiralty cared about Faysal: “Coercitive measures against Sultan may be taken if necessary.”38 Douglas summoned Faysal to a meeting on the Eclipse, on which Meade was present. He positioned the naval units escorting the Eclipse to be able to fire on Muscat if needed. Was he bluffing? Maybe, but one should remember there were precedents: in 1819 Bombay’s troops bombarded Ras al-Khaimah for several hours, and the palace of the sultan of Zanzibar had been subjected to artillery fire in a recent incident. There is one more indication that the situation was extremely serious and that Douglas would probably not have hesitated to fire on Muscat: in his letter summoning Faysal on board the Eclipse, the rear admiral asked the sultan to make known in Muscat that the warships of the East Indies Squadron were ready to open fire, probably so that the city people would be warned and able to take cover. It is clear that this staged confrontation was part of a political-military model based on brute strength and thus on a diplomacy of fear. Indeed, as the German consul in Bushire wrote in February 1999 to Chancellor Hohenlohe,39 four British warships had been sent over from India, clearly in order to prevent by any means necessary the founding of a French post near Muscat.  “Mascat ultimatum of Feb. 1899,” IOR/R/15/1/401, 1899, “Coercitive measures against Sultan may be taken if necessary avoiding collision with French,” ibid. 39  Chancellor Hohenhole was in power in Germany from October 1894 to the fall of 1900. On this, see Briton C.  Busch, Britain and the Persian Gulf, 1894–1914 (Berkeley/Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1967), 76. 38



Another Lost Battle Pressure seems to have worked as intended. On the morning of 16 February 1899, Faysal wrote to Douglas that the concession to France was canceled and that consequently he did not see the point of going on board the Eclipse. Douglas then set a new ultimatum to the sultan: either the latter appeared before him by two o’clock in the afternoon or the commander of the Eclipse would find himself forced to execute the orders he had received.40 Faysal then sent his brother to Douglas and Meade, but he was refused access to the ship. Finally, at 1:45 p.m., fifteen minutes before the deadline of the ultimatum, Faysal presented himself to Douglas and yielded to all the demands from London and the government of India. It would be publicly announced, during a durbar, that the French would not have a coal station in Bandar Jissah. The decision would also be posted on all the doors and in the customs offices of Muscat and Mutrah. By the end of February 1899, and almost a century after the Napoleonic project in the Indian Ocean had been first envisioned and the first British-Omani treaty of friendship signed, the French had just lost the second battle for Oman. The mistake France made, if it made one at all, was probably that it did not express much support for Faysal throughout January and February, while Britain dramatically increased pressure on the sultan. Thus, the sultan, probably conscious of the risk he was running, went on board the admiral’s flagship and conceded everything. The same day, Paul Ottavi lodged a complaint against British intervention. Did France really “make a mistake”? Or was it a rational calculation not to support Faysal actively? The sultan’s concession to Britain and India represented a small diplomatic humiliation for France. However, at the end of the nineteenth century, France valued other ports much more than Oman: Obock and especially Djibouti. Djibouti was of great importance for the French empire: it was a vital coaling station for ships and troops traveling from France and Algeria to Indochina and Madagascar, two major French imperial outposts. Therefore, not supporting Faysal and letting go the coaling station in Oman was probably a rational decision: France probably preferred to further develop Djibouti rather than Oman, which would probably prove to be of less strategic value.  “Mascat ultimatum of Feb. 1899,” IOR/R/15/1/401, 1899.




The meeting that took place on 15 February 1899,41 after the publication of the various aforementioned Times articles, between Paul Cambon42 and Lord Salisbury,43 illustrates how little room for maneuver London had because of Curzon’s initiatives. During the discussions, Cambon maintained that France acted within its rights, to which Salisbury answered that while the affair was managed by India since Curzon’s nomination as viceroy, it still seemed to him that “France had gone somewhat beyond her treaty rights.”44 Here Cambon had in mind the Franco-British Treaty of 1844, which pledged both powers to a mutual respect of the Omani sultanate’s independence. For the government of India, however, the agreement of 1891 meant that Faysal was required to reject the French demand of right to have a coal station in the Omani territory.45 Or at the very least, he was not entitled to decide this issue without first referring it to the British. This was not the end of the coaling-station affair, however.46 Meade gave the news to Curzon, who passed it on to London, but the British envoy was compelled to mention in his correspondence with the viceroy a certain clause of the agreement he had forced upon Faysal—a clause he had added without referring to either the secretary of state for foreign affairs or Whitehall. The resident, during the meeting with Faysal on the Eclipse, had demanded the sultan refrain in the future from receiving representatives of any foreign nation besides Great Britain. This meeting  Busch, Britain and the Persian Gulf, 75 et seq.  Born in 1843, brother of Jules Cambon, Paul Cambon read law in Paris before starting a political career as the secretary of Jules Ferry at the Préfecture de police of the Département de la Seine. He then joined the diplomatic corps, holding the position of resident-general in Tunisia, where he was very active especially around the time the Conventions of La Marsa were signed, in 1883. Founder of the Alliance française, French ambassador to Madrid and Constantinople, he became ambassador in London in 1898, and played a significant role in the signing of Entente Cordiale, then of the British-Russian alliance in 1907. 43  Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, Lord Salisbury, a member of the Conservative Party, held various positions in the imperial administration and was three times prime minister. At first secretary of state for India from 1866 on, he was an important actor in the Berlin Conference. He became prime minister for the first time from 1885 to 1886, as a result of Gladstone’s resignation, and then again from 1886 to 1892. He headed a third government from 1895 to July 1902. 44  Busch, Britain and the Persian Gulf, 134. 45  “Mascat ultimatum of Feb 1899,” IOR/R/15/1/401, 1899. 46  IOR/R/15/1/401, 1899 and “Memorandum on the lease to France of a coaling station in Muscat territory – statement of our case. Sir W Lee-Warner, 7 March 1899,” IOR/L/ PS/18/B119, March 1899. 41 42



r­ epresented a major step in India’s imperial policy in Oman, further reducing Oman’s independence and increasing India’s control over the sultanate. Salisbury was deeply annoyed. Meade, with this personal initiative, had disregarded the fact that France and the United States enjoyed a right of consular representation to the sultanate, pursuant to treaties signed with Oman, and he had thus committed a “violation” of several agreements entered into by Faysal’s ancestors throughout the nineteenth century. Both the Foreign Office and the India Office blamed Meade’s attitude, even suggesting that he should be replaced in spite of how difficult it was to find people to fill positions in the Gulf. Things moved too fast for London to be able to exert any control. The final settlement of the affair was rather satisfactory from the British point of view, but there was still France, for which the outcome was far less palatable. On 22 February, Cambon communicated to Lord Salisbury the recriminations of his nation: not only had Douglas won the sultan’s agreement under duress, on top of it all, the clause on consular representation was in violation of the Franco-­ British treaties of 1844 and 1862. Confronted by Cambon, and mindful of an atmosphere still tense with the repercussions of Fashoda, Salisbury adopted an attitude of conciliation with the ambassador and disavowed the actions of the British diplomats in the Gulf, while still reminding his interlocutor of the “number of years of special engagements” of Great Britain with Muscat.47 Did the consular-representative issue really matter to Cambon? Or was his argument of a violation of the Franco-British treaties of 1844 and 1862 a bargaining chip? As we have argued, a vice-­ consulate and a coaling station were small “tools of power” for France, capable of slightly challenging British and Indian power in the Persian Gulf. The coaling station and the vice-consulate were also important for France’s network of influence in the Indian Ocean. Yet again, London had chosen a line of attack on Muscat far more cautious than the one adopted by India, and it was trying to improve the atmosphere in its relationship with France. London had to balance all of French-British relations—not only in the Indian Ocean but in Europe, Asia, Africa, and elsewhere, just after Fashoda, in a period when a rapprochement between Russia and France could happen and when Germany’s influence was growing.  IOR/L/PS/18/B119.




Toward the end of February 1899, Whitehall let Curzon know that from its point of view France should be allowed to gain a coaling station in Oman. And that henceforth the government of India and the Home Government should work more in unison than had been the case in February 1899. In a telegram sent to Salisbury,48 Curzon answered that it was simply out of the question to accede to the wishes of the French. This exchange highlights the fact that in the sultanate, the government of India probably aimed at setting up a protectorate and reinforcing Indian influence, in complete disregard of Franco-British agreements, while Whitehall for its part was much more moderate in its attitude. Curzon’s message amounted to a “lesson” taught to Salisbury on matters of imperial security. Indeed, according to the viceroy, Salisbury and the Home Office were “naïve” in their dealings with Cambon, who was the very incarnation of French “duplicity.” Curzon was unconcerned by the fallout from Fashoda or the necessity London felt to spare French feelings (for French national honor had been badly shaken). He was certain that the only goal the French pursued in Oman was to hurt Great Britain and that France schemed to undermine Her Majesty’s authority, not only in Muscat but throughout a larger area. As often when matters of India’s imperial defense were at stake, Curzon became slightly paranoid. France’s project in Oman, as argued, aimed at gaining a small foothold in the Persian Gulf. Oman was not a priority for France, contrary to Djibouti. Curzon’s obsession with the potential destabilization of Indian power on its west flank is quite interesting. Throughout the nineteenth century, India justified its imperial expansion in the Gulf by citing the existence of repeated threats, both real and imaginary, as well as by employing a rhetoric of fear. India was an anxiety-ridden empire, and Curzon’s attitude toward France is reminiscent of this long history of anxiety, fears, and imperial expansion. Curzon considered the Gulf a British preserve and a central pillar of the defensive system protecting India. To let the French move into Oman was thus dangerous, indeed irresponsible. The road to the Gulf would then lay open to them, and they would take advantage of it to establish political ties with the sheiks, who constituted the real linchpin of British-Indian imperialism in the Gulf region.49 The French influence had never been felt  IOR/Mss Eur F112/412.  IOR/Mss Eur F112/412.

48 49



before in the Gulf, and it was certainly not going to develop now as far as Curzon was concerned. With all that however, the Home Office rejected all the objections made by the viceroy, which led to a difficult moment. Would the government of India be forced to stand down and ask Faysal to reverse his decision? Were the French going to gain a foothold and a coaling station in Oman after all? A somewhat rash declaration by Delcassé tipped the balance in favor of Curzon and India or at the very least brought into public view what was maybe already in the works.50 There had been no official press release in France publicizing the February 1899 affair and the British ultimatum issued to Faysal. Delcassé spoke to the Chambre des Députés on March 7 as Minister of Foreign Affairs, and while reproaching Great Britain for having violated the treaties in Oman, he stated that Her Majesty’s government had somehow been “betrayed” by its representatives in the region.51 Curzon, who heard of this declaration, telegraphed Lord Hamilton immediately52: if the words reported to him had indeed been Delcassé’s, the position of the Home Office became extremely embarrassing.53 Not reacting would mean letting an open criticism stand of the way Meade and Curzon himself had managed the affair, which would certainly generate a lot of resentment in India. In a word, by letting Delcassé speak the way he did, the Home Office was disavowing the government of India. London therefore reacted without delay—and backed Curzon. Lord Salisbury, speaking to the House of Commons a few days later, stated that the British resident, that is, Meade, had acted in conformity with the orders given by London. Curzon had thus won doubly: not only had Salisbury’s government given up on its plan to facilitate the concession to the French of a coaling station, most importantly it had also come to tacitly back Curzon’s overtly aggressive policy in Oman. Thereafter, London and India acted in concert to deftly sidestep the issue. In his book, Britain and the Persian Gulf, Briton C. Busch54 discusses what he calls the “lessons of the affairs.” He reaches a series of conclusions 50  Indeed, as early as 3 March Hamilton wrote to Curzon that if the sultan came to oppose British policy, the viceroy had “the necessary authority to apply further pressure to the sultan and if necessary to depose him.” Ghubash Hussein, Oman, une démocratie islamique millénaire: la tradition de l’imâmat: l’histoire politique moderne, 1500–1970 (Paris: Maisonneuve & Larose, 1998), 148. 51  IOR/Mss Eur F112/412. 52  Lord George Hamilton (1845–1927) was then secretary of state for India. 53  IOR/Mss Eur F112/412. 54  Busch, Britain and the Persian Gulf.



with which this chapter agrees; according to him, throughout January, February, and March 1899 London tried to spare France in Oman, and avoid a new “Fashoda.” The Entente Cordiale had to go through, and London was probably trying to accommodate Paris, which, if offended, could have decided to try and build a continental coalition against Great Britain, then in a difficult position in South Africa. Busch therefore rightly insists on the personal role of Curzon, who probably wanted to turn Oman into a British protectorate—but such a historical analysis is nevertheless too narrow in focus, since it glosses over the fact that when the viceroy of India adopted this line of behavior toward the sultanate, he was merely continuing a policy developed by Bombay as early as the beginning of the nineteenth century. Curzon was defending a legacy in his policy of protecting India, with the Gulf playing a leading role, and what was at stake was made quite explicit by him in his various writings.55 From the point of view of the government of India, France indeed was a threat in the territories, which had been “conquered” at the beginning of the nineteenth century. One had to react, and Curzon did so in 1899, in a violent manner. Thereafter, the sultanate slid toward what could be called an “informal” protectorate, one lacking institutionalization and similar to the one governing Zanzibar. The coaling-station affair was eventually settled, albeit with a slight humiliation for France. A new Fashoda was avoided, in a region where France and Great Britain, as in Sudan, seemed ready to go to war “for a few acres of sand.” After this affair, Franco-British relations in Oman remained strained, particularly because of French-flagged dhows and in spite of all the diplomatic efforts made on a national scale back in Europe. Our discussion, by detailing the role of India in Oman during the coalingstation affair, has thus shown how difficult it was to entertain the idea of a coimperialism of France and Great Britain being set up in some areas of Western Asia. Curzon and India did not fulfill their ultimate goals however; the issue of Oman was not included in the final agreements kicking off the Entente Cordiale, in spite of the Viceroy’s demands. For most of the twentieth century, the French kept their representative in what was a British protectorate in all but name. After 1918, relations between France and Great Britain became more pacified maybe because the center of 55  For instances, George N.  Curzon, Persia and the Persian Question, 2  vol. (London, Longmans, Green & Co., 1892) and IOR F 111/531, “Summary of Lord Curzon’s Administration: Foreign Department, vol. IV, Persia and the Persian Gulf.”



­ ravity of both French and British imperialism had moved toward the g Mandates and those areas that were oil rich. Once a series of problems related to potential French sovereignty over Mosul had been solved, France and Great Britain initiated a new form of coimperialism within the framework provided by the Iraq Petroleum Company. This new imperial collaboration again went through some rocky patches, and it would probably deserve a separate study.

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Kelly, J. B. 1968. Britain and the Persian Gulf, 1795–1880. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Onley, James. 2007. The Arabian Frontier of the British Raj: Merchants, Rulers, and the British in the Nineteenth-Century. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Serodes, Fabrice. 2010. Anglophobie et politique de Fachoda à Mers el-Kébir: Visions françaises du monde britannique. Paris: L’Harmattan. Thomas, Martin, and Richard Toye. 2017. Arguing about Empire Imperial Rhetoric in Britain and France: 1882–1956. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Toussaint, Auguste. 1961. Histoire de l’océan Indien. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.


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

The French state relied on British colonies—Aden (in present-day Yemen), Galle (in Ceylon, present-day Sri Lanka), Singapore, and Hong Kong—to conquer Indochina and/or to maintain its navy in Asian waters. This reliance is not well known. In 1857, at the outset of the conquest, the French navy had no base of its own in Asia, and so based itself in Hong Kong, where it coaled and supplied in order to maintain the attack on Tourane. Singapore was a vital stop on the Indian Ocean crossing to Europe. When France conquered Saigon in 1859, it continued to use Hong Kong and Singapore to communicate with the outside world. Its navy maintained coal yards in Singapore and Hong Kong in the 1860s. In that decade, the coal French naval forces used came from Britain or Australia, carried on an

Thanks to François Dremeaux and Bert Becker for reading and commenting on earlier drafts of this chapter. J. R. Fichter (*) European Studies, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, Hong Kong © The Author(s) 2019 J. R. Fichter (ed.), British and French Colonialism in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies Series,




Anglo-dominated collier network. French ships in Asia repaired in Hong Kong.1 The telegraph connection between Saigon and France was a spur off the Singapore-Hong Kong line, which opened in 1872, and which was part of broader global British imperial telegraph network linking London and Asia. Both the Peninsular & Oriental (subsidized by the British state) and the Messageries Imperiales/Maritimes (MM) (subsidized by the French state) packet services used Aden, Galle, Singapore, and Hong Kong as major stops. Commercial freight, official and even secret communiqués, private mail, telegrams, warships, troops and troop transports, passenger steamers, and their civilian passengers leaving Saigon used British ports to get where they were going.2 So much so that Saigon sometimes receded into the background: Hong Kong was the major stop for the Messageries line coming from Marseilles to Asia. The Messageries relocated the end of its packet service from Saigon to Hong Kong in 1868 (much to the complaint of the Saigon Chamber of Commerce) because that city was the Messageries’ “principal souci.”3 Hong Kong was a better port than Saigon for the MM’s connecting services to China and Japan,4 which pointed to a more basic fact: Saigon was a secondtier, inland river port. Its days as a major Asian city were far off, and it was not a commercial destination like the major seaports of Singapore and Hong Kong. Saigon was unable to project commercial influence even to Tonkin— leading to French fears throughout the 1870s and 1880s that Northern Vietnam would fall under British control. These fears were not without reason, for Northern Vietnam was under British commercial influence. In 1879, most shipments from Tonkin to Saigon passed through Hong Kong en route.5 Pulling Hanoi into Saigon’s orbit—and out of Hong Kong’s—was a major reason for the Sino-French War (1883–1885) and the implementation of the Indochinese Customs Union in 1887–1888—acts taken to bolster French economic power in Asia, a power which started from a small base. 1  Some French naval ships were built in British shipyards; shipbuilding was transnational in the 1860s. 2  James R.  Fichter, “British Infrastructure and French Empire: Anglo-French Steam Interdependency in Asian Waters, c. 1852–1870” Britain and the World 5, no. 2 (2012): 183–203. 3  Etienne Denis, Bordeaux et la Cochinchine sous la Restauration et le Second Empire (Bordeaux: Delmas, 1965), 323. 4  Chambre de Commerce (Saigon), Compte Rendu des Travaux de la Chambre depuis sa Création. Situation Commerciale Pendant l’Année 1879 (Saigon, 1880), 10–11. 5  Cochinchine, État de la Cochinchine pendant l’année 1880 (Saigon: Imprimerie Nationale, 1881), 26.



Singapore likewise remained a vital communications point for Saigon—so much so that in the decade before the opening of the Saigon-Singapore telegraph link French governors in Saigon contracted with British Jardine Matheson and American Heard & Co, both based in Hong Kong, to maintain regular Saigon-­Singapore packet services on top of what the Messageries offered. In the 1880s, the Saigon government, still sensing this need, subsidized additional Messageries runs between Singapore and Saigon as well.6 Despite French efforts to aggrandize Saigon, Hong Kong and Singapore remained the great East Asian entrepôts, and most of Saigon’s trade passed through them. In 1885, three-fourths of Saigon’s imports came from those two ports, while a paltry one-sixth of Saigon imports came from France itself.7 At this time, three-fourths of Saigon’s major export, rice, was carried by British-flagged ships (and much of the rest by Germans); five-sixths of this rice went to Hong Kong.8 Pace the Saigon Chamber of Commerce, for Saigon, and Saigon business, this was a good thing.9 Saigon benefited from its links to Singapore and Hong Kong—links that birthed the French colonial presence in the city. Thus in 1860, Rear Admiral François Page, commanding a French force in Saigon besieged by Vietnamese troops and having no immediate hope of relief or resupply, declared Saigon a free port—a move aimed to draw Hong Kong and British merchants to the infant colony. Page traveled to Hong Kong to fight the Second Opium War two months later, bringing the news of Saigon’s status with him. Saigon began exporting significant amounts of rice to Hong Kong that year.10 Like the racer who 6  Denis, Bordeaux et la Cochinchine, 323–324. Paul Bois, Le Grand Siècle Des Messageries Maritimes (Chambre de Commerce et d’Industrie Marseille-Provence, 1991), 59. 7  Cochinchine, État 1884, 38. 8  On exports to Hong Kong: Cochinchine, État 1882, 31. On flags of carriers see: Cochinchine, État 1881, 34–35. By 1888 the situation was only more severe: 90 percent of Indochina’s imports came from Hong Kong and Singapore. Indochine Française, Administration des Douanes et Régis, Rapport sur les Statistiques des Douanes pour 1888 (Saigon, 1889), 12–13. 9  The Chamber’s argument was not so much that Saigon did not benefit from links to Singapore and Hong Kong but that the French state’s subsidy of the Messageries should redound to more directly benefit French business in Saigon. It was an argument about benefits—the chamber wanted the MM to do more for them without the chamber having to pay for it—not an argument about economic utility. 10  Pierre Brocheux and Daniel Hémery, Indochina: An Ambiguous Colonization, 1858–1954 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009), 130. Saigon was declared a free port on 2 Februrary 1860. There was probably a preexisting junk trade in rice to build off of here as



drafts—cruising just behind the leader to avoid the pressure of being in front—France benefited from following Britain into Asia. Saigon could turn to already-operational British shippers to carry off Cochinchina’s rice to already-established commercial entrepôts in Singapore and Hong Kong. This allowed the Cochinchina colonial economy to grow more rapidly than would have been the case if Saigon’s merchants had needed to develop export markets themselves and build their own ships. In 1860 the French merchant marine was small, none of it was based in Saigon, and few vessels were even in Asia; if the export of rice had been restricted to French ships, Saigon would have been unable to export much at all. Likewise, the paucity of French capital in East Asia meant that foreign shippers brought otherwise unavailable sources of capital for shipbuilding and trade financing  with them, which could greatly increase exports from Saigon. Saigon’s foreign shipping got noticed. The Third Republic—more protectionist than the liberal Second Empire—voted a surtax on foreign shipping in 1872, but, faced with the very real need for shipping in both the metropolis and the colonies, the tax was repealed the following year.11 Foreign shippers in Saigon did not really harm French shipping. French tonnage arriving at Singapore in the 1870s and 1880s was, unsurprisingly, less than British tonnage arriving there (between five and ten times less). But the French tonnage was growing, and it grew at roughly the same rate as British tonnage—allowing British vessels to carry the lion’s share of Saigon’s exports to Singapore was not harming the capacity of French shippers to thrive and grow on the same route (see Fig. 8.1). In the mid-­ 1890s, shipping at Saigon was still heavily foreign: only 38 percent of Saigon’s shipping tonnage was French flagged, the rest was German or British.12 French shippers thrived along with their foreign rivals, but they did not overtake the foreigners, and any policy to systematically discourage these foreign shippers would have done real harm to the Indochinese economy (at a time when France was still struggling to mise en valeur this colony) (Fig. 8.1). The Messageries, its French passengers, and the French customers who sent mail and cargo aboard it benefited too. The Suez-Hong Kong steamer well. By its nature, the free port declaration invited contemporary comparison with Singapore and Hong Kong. 11  Bois, Le Grand Siècle, 55. 12  Chambre de Commerce (Saigon), Situation Commerciale: Statistiques Importations et Exportations (Saigon, 1897), 77.

350 300


250 200 150 100





















1800 1600 1400 1200 1000 800 600 400 200 0




Fig. 8.1  Tonnage (in thousands) of French and British vessels arriving in Singapore. (Straits Settlements Blue Books (1870–1885), Government Printing Office, Singapore. National Archives of Singapore (NAS).)

line connecting Cochinchina to France was expensive, but the Messageries packets stopped at Aden, Galle, and Singapore on the way. They carried British passengers and mail from Europe to India, Singapore, and Hong Kong, which defrayed the cost of servicing the French colony in Saigon. Foreign traffic was a substantial part of the Messageries’ customer base. When Raoul Postel boarded a Messageries steamer at Marseilles in 1873 en route to Saigon, he found French, but also Belgian, Dutch, British, Spanish, and German passengers aboard. Had the Messageries stopped at French posts like Obock and Pondicherry in addition to Aden and Galle (thereby extending travel time) or instead of Aden and Galle, they would have lost some of these passengers.13 British customers in turn reduced the subsidy the French state paid to maintain the Messageries’ regular postal service (neither the P&O nor the MM would have been able to operate without state subsidy) and the ticket price French passengers paid. Without British cargo and men, the French packet services would have been significantly more expensive and would probably have ceased operation.

13  Raoul Postel, De Marseille à Saïgon: Notes et journal de voyage. (Caen: Imprimerie de F. le Blanc-Hardel, 1874), 10. British passengers may have outnumbered French ones, if only because there were so many more Britons in Asia. Galle linked passengers on the AdenSingapore route to a spur line coming down from Calcutta. Even after the opening of the Bombay-Calcutta rail link in 1867, Galle was an important stopover for British passengers traveling to Calcutta and, therefore, an important source of revenue for the Messageries.



Passengers to Saigon certainly benefited from this arrangement. In 1878, to take one year, only 20 percent of passengers (whatever their nationality) arriving at Saigon came on French-flagged vessels (1,749 out of 8,842 passengers). The rest came in on foreign ships, mostly British vessels (3,967 passengers) or German vessels (2,724 passengers). These passengers were of all nationalities, meaning that French passengers traveling to Saigon arrived on British and German ships, and that Germans and Britons arrived on French ships. (These numbers exclude French naval and military personnel brought in on French troop transports and people arriving by junk.) But since most passengers took foreign shippers to reach Saigon, we can see that these foreign shippers increased the facility for French and foreign travelers to get to and from the city and greatly increased the city’s connectivity to the outside world, benefiting the city’s residents, businessmen, and visitors tremendously.14 Saigon’s links to the British colonial world were especially pronounced with coal. Coal linked French Asia to Britain in three ways: (1) where the coal was mined, (2) who carried it, and (3) where it was stored. France favored French over British colliers and ensured that much, but not all, of its coal was carried by French merchants. Yet in the Second Empire and early Third Republic, the uses for coal at sea expanded rapidly among coal-­ powered and mixed vessels (i.e., those which were both sail- and coal-­ powered). The French state, French colliers, French packet services, and French merchants thus increased their links to Britain and the British Empire as places where their coal was mined and where their coal was stored, even if France managed to ensure that much of that British coal was shipped in French hands. These French actors used greater amounts of British- and Australian-sourced coal and deepened their use of Singapore and Hong Kong, among other British ports, for coaling. This did not mean dependency on Britain. The French navy chose to buy and maintain stocks of British coal in Aden, Galle, Hong Kong, Saigon, and Singapore. It could buy other coal, and it could store that coal elsewhere (and sometimes it did), but in the 1860s Cardiff gave good coals and Galle gave a good port. France had posts in India. But they were farther off the main Aden-Singapore route than Galle and would necessitate lengthy and costly travel delays (and extra fuel) to use them. To store inferior French coal from the Gard in a port like Pondicherry, with its impossibly shallow coast, would waste money on bad coal in an inaccessible port. The choice to buy  Cochinchine, État 1878.










1866 1867 1868 1869 1870 1871 1872 1873 1874 1875 1876 1877 1878 1879 1880 1881 1882 sailer tonnage

steamer tonnage

Fig. 8.2  Tonnage entering Saigon, 1866–1882, long cours vessels. (Cochinchine, État 1882, 34.)

British coal and store it in British territory would be questioned several times, first in 1870 and again in 1885, as France struggled to escape the geopolitical constraints Britain imposed on French use of the British carbon system. Coal gradually became an important part of the Saigon economy in the nineteenth century. Coal was not important when Saigon was conquered in 1859. In 1870, coal was economically important but not vital: Saigon had no railroads or trams, it was served largely by sailing vessels, not steamers, and few factories or workshops in the colony used steam power.15 In 1872, however, steamer tonnage surpassed sailing tonnage at Saigon, increasing thereafter (see Fig. 8.2). By 1880, over 80 percent of the rice (Cochinchina’s principal export in the nineteenth century) was shipped abroad by steamship.16 Other uses of steam power were limited to a few facilities: in 1879, there were three rice-processing plants, two brickworks, a saw mill, a steam laundry, an ice factory, a sugar factory, and various irons works.17 Yet this was enough to make coal the colony’s principal import, according to the chamber of commerce.18 And its use was growing. By 1901, coal use had  Chambre de Commerce (Saigon), Compte Rendu 1879, 13, 49.  Cochinchine, État 1880, 26. 17  Cochinchine, État 1879, 3. There was a second steam sawmill in Phnom Penh. Chambre de Commerce (Saigon), Compte Rendu 1879, 49. 18  Chambre de Commerce (Saigon), Compte Rendu 1879, 52. 15 16



radically expanded: there were fifty-seven machines with eighty-nine boilers in private use—steam was even used to make electricity—though most of the engines and boilers were used in rice processing.19 Other uses grew, too: the colony subsidized a growing system of inland river packets that used steam (fifteen steam engines on inland river navigation in 1883).20 On land, the Saigon-Cholon tram began operating in 1882,21 and the Saigon-andMytho line began running in 1885.22 By 1901, there were eighty-seven steam engines working on coastal and riverboats and thirty-seven engines operating on trains, trams, and train-line construction works (growing with Governor General Doumer’s rail-building campaign).23 By 1901, coal was deeply integrated into the Cochinchinese economy: activities, like exporting rice, which required no coal in 1870 were increasingly carbon intensive and effectively coal dependent by the start of the twentieth century (Fig. 8.2).24 Yet before coal was economically vital, coal was already strategically vital. Communication between France and Cochinchina required coal. As early as 1866, coal comprised 41 percent of the Messageries’ costs on its Indochina service.25 Defending Cochinchina by sea required coal, and navies, as the Messageries, found coal a major budget item. The British navy sought to economize on coal throughout the 1870s, and navies, packet services, and other maritime coal users found coal such a major cost that they could afford only the most economical bunker fuel. In 1871, the French government at Saigon went through 50,000 kg of coal a month just to fuel its gunboats.26 Naval attack (fueled by coal) was a serious concern in Saigon: French defense plans in the 1870s considered a British naval attack accompanied by a local uprising the most dangerous threat— thus the interest in defensive works along the river leading to Saigon and a naval force capable of defending the seas approaching it.  Cochinchine, État 1900 et 1901, 24.  Cochinchine, État 1883, 6. 21  Cochinchine, État 1882, 131. 22  Cochinchine, État 1890, 20. 23  Cochinchine, État 1900 et 1901, 24. 24  This is not meant to imply dependency on the part of some actors on others (i.e., whether steamers needed the rice as cargo more or less than the rice sellers needed the steamers to reach their market) but simply to indicate the reliance on a stable coal supply became increasingly economically important in general. 25  Marie-François Berneron-Couvenhes, Les Messageries Maritimes: L’essor d’une grande compagnie de navigation française, 1851–1894 (Paris: PUPS, DL 2007): 170–177. 26  Archives Nationales d’Outre Mer, Aix-en-Provence, France. Archives Centrales de l’Indochine. Gouvernement Général de l’Indochine (henceforth, INDO). 12,441 Charbon consommé par les Cannonieres de guerre pendant le 2e trimestre 1871. 19 20



Reacting to both the Franco-Prussian War and the New Imperialism of the 1880s, French colonial and naval officials sought carbon independence from Britain in Asia, but the budgetary imperative of immediate, cheap, and convenient coal (which meant buying British and storing in British territory) often conflicted with the strategic imperative of carbon independence and the ideals of resource nationalism. This conflict intensified over time, since the growing importance of coal required it to be both cheap (British) and secure (French). In the end, French officials never achieved carbon independence but settled for carbon interdependence instead, finding themselves intertwined with Singapore and Hong Kong all the more even as they sought to leave the British coal system.

1870: Coal and the Franco-Prussian War in Asia Coal emerged as Saigon’s Achilles’ heel in the Franco-Prussian War (begun 19 July 1870). Japan and the Netherlands, neutral states, allowed belligerent warships to coal in their ports. Britain, however, which held more important ports for France, passed the Foreign Enlistment Act (receiving royal assent 9 August 1870), which prohibited “Ships of War of either belligerent from using Her Majesty’s Ports … in aid of warlike purposes.” Crucially, no “Ship of War of either belligerent should be permitted to take in supplies, except provisions & so much coal as would carry her to the nearest Port of her own Country.”27 Hong Kong and the chain of British ports between East Asia and the Mediterranean and Atlantic (Singapore, Galle, Aden, Malta, Gibraltar) were largely off-limits to French and Prussian warships. Coal was the French navy’s Achilles’ heel in the war generally. The French navy was tasked with maintaining a blockade of German ports in the North and Baltic Seas and with landing troops behind Prussian lines. This required significant amounts of coal, and British neutrality cut off the main supply. It was ultimately the French army, not the navy, which lost the war—due to poor planning and organization—but the navy bore the brunt of the budget cuts afterwards (the squeaky wheel gets the grease). The navy of 1870 had represented a significant part of the French state’s expenditure on armed forces, expenditures which could not be brought to bear effectively since it did have a sufficient wartime coal reserve. Perhaps, 27  National Archives, Kew, Britain. ADM 12/850 51. Neutrals and Contraband of War. War between France & Prussia. Queen’s Proclamation of Neutrality. Hereafter, ADM.



believing in Britain’s claims of free trade in coal, the naval minister had not believed he needed one; perhaps the cost was prohibitive. Either way, in the crunch of war, perfidious Albion proved it could not be trusted. The blow from British neutrality fell unevenly in Asia, too, where it affected France more than Prussia. Prussia had only two warships in Asian waters in 1870 and no Asian colonies at all.28 The French navy in Asia, however, was vast and used British Asian ports extensively. France had built a modern (i.e., coal-using) navy under Napoleon III; it maintained two naval divisions in the Far East: the Cochinchina division and the China Seas division, as well as the colony of Cochinchina (which was administered by the navy). The normal, peacetime rotation of ships to and from these stations required coaling in Singapore. The normal, peacetime rotation of solders in and out of the colony (several thousand a year, carried on troop ships between Saigon and Suez) required the whole chain of British Indian Ocean ports. Wartime maneuvers or deployments beyond this—to defend Cochinchina or to pursue Prussian/North German shipping— required additional coaling in Singapore and Hong Kong as well. But now, the French navy’s coal yards in Singapore and Hong Kong, with bought-and-paid-for supplies of coal, were off-limits—whether they were to be used for the regular maintenance of the colony and the regular rotation of ships or wartime operations. Among the posts to be hit was the French navy supply at Ceylon, which provided a vital mid-Indian Ocean coal stop (in later years French naval vessels could make the crossing from the Red to South China Seas without stopping, but not in 1870). The French consular agent suggested alternative depot locations: Cheikh Saïd in Yemen (bought by a French merchant house but retaken by the Ottomans while France was fighting Prussia, this was a point of desultory interest for France, as it was uncomfortably close to the British guns at Aden and Perim),29 or perhaps the Maldives, which was as yet unclaimed. Without such steps, “our ships will find themselves without fuel from Port Said to Saigon and maybe even at Toulon.”30 In August 1870, the French naval and colonial minister, who was already considering 28  SMS Medusa and SMS Hertha. Additionally, Prussia had two gunboats for use on Chinese rivers. Together these comprised Prussia’s “East Asian Station.” Helmut Stoeker, Deutschland und China im 19: Jahrhundert (Berlin, 1958), 66–67. Thanks to Bert Becker for this reference. 29  P.  Pollacchi, ed., Atlas Colonial Français: Colonies, Protectorats et Pays Sous Mandat (I’Illustration, 1929), 196. 30  INDO 14310.



the problem, ordered the French governor of Pondicherry to establish a new coal depot “for the use of our Cochinchina hospital transports.” The governor put up depots in French India in Pondicherry and Mahé. The Pondicherry depot grew from 800 to 1,500 tonnes of coal. The Mahé depot grew to 3,000 tonnes of Cardiff and Newcastle coal. Mahé had no resources of its own, and had to bring in supplies to support the coal yard form the neighboring British Indian town of Tellicherry (indeed, most of the concession was landlocked). Nevertheless by November the Mahé depot, put on the small part of the territory that did face the sea, had been expanded to 6,000 tonnes, with the aim of servicing both the naval fleet and transports, and with fresh provisions on hand for invalids returning to France.31 Mahé was not ideal: It had a good harbor, but access was “nearly blocked by a rocky bank at low tide.” The coal was badly stored, took a long time to load, and as an emergency supply, probably cost a fortune to buy.32 Moreover, permanently relocating coaling facilities to French India hardly secured French sea lanes against Britain—the main strategic rival to French ambitions in Asia. The French outposts at Mahé and Pondicherry, and any French naval vessels coaling there, were so vulnerable to British attack that there was little point trying to defend them: if the British attacked, they would win, and if anyone else attacked, Britain would help defend them. It made more sense to keep French maritime investments in the Indian Ocean to a minimum (to reduce losses in event of a British attack) and remain friendly with Britain (to prevent such an attack)—the cheapest, and only, way to maintain a presence in Asia. Nor did Mahé help France escape the British carbon system; since the coal stored there still came from Britain and British colonies, Britain could block exports to Mahé if it desired. But it had not done so yet, so the French navy used Mahé for the time being. The Mahé depot was thus a wartime-only measure; the depot at Galle and the depots in British ports generally were better provisioned with food and were proper coal entrepôts in their own rights (meaning that coal was already being brought there anyway; coaling at Mahé required the added cost of transshipping coal to Mahé that would not otherwise be shipped there). In peacetime, Galle and other British ports supplied not just French naval ves31  INDO 10757, “Lettres du Gouverneur des Etablissements français dans l’Inde au sujet des dépôts de charbon à Mahé.” Emphasis original. INDO 14310. NB: French coal records are in metric tonnes, British coal data in imperial tons, specified as tonnes and tons, respectively, in the text. 32  Pollacchi, ed., Atlas Colonial Français, 201.



sels, but also the French and British packet services and the British navy, and so the French navy could buy coals from other yards in a pinch. The French and British often found themselves crediting and reimbursing each other for small amounts of coal loaded from the other navy’s yards, rather like neighbors borrowing a cup of sugar. If the alternative to Ceylon was Mahé, the alternative to Singapore was Batavia. The corvette D’Assas, arriving in Singapore from Aden, found it could not coal, water, or feed there before going to Saigon (despite the Foreign Enlistment Act allowing ships to take on enough coal to reach the nearest French port). The Singapore master attendant indicated the corvette, on its return to Aden, would “not be permitted to take any supply of coals” at Singapore for the Indian Ocean crossing. Even the request that she take on coal to get to Pondicherry was declined.33 The D’Assas coaled in Batavia instead.34 The Singapore government was not pleased— it preferred cooperation with Saigon, with which it had various common interests.35 The lord chief justice in Singapore, whom the French consul considered friendly, suggested pressing the issue of coal access.36 There was no uniformity in how British officials implemented the neutrality order with respect to coal: local governors interpreted the provisions differently at different times and differently from one another. This is understandable, given that the main focus of the act was the prohibition of British subjects from enlisting in the French or Prussian militaries. The precise limits on economic assistance British subjects could provide to the belligerent powers, and their consequences, were not worked out enough ahead of time for local governors to have a clear idea how to implement the law. Thus, while some vessels were turned away from Singapore, other French naval ships at least partly coaled there.37 The Alma coaled at  INDO 14161, Colonial Secretary, Singapore, 29 Sept. 1870.  INDO 14162. As the Dutch East Indies was unable to produce enough coal for its own use, it could not supply France sufficiently to give her independence from British coal or coaling stations. Mike C. Friederich and Theo van Leeuwen, “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 (2017): 56–73. Pierre van der Eng, “Mining and Indonesia’s Economy: Institutions and Value Adding, 1870–2010,” PRIMCED Discussion Paper Series, no. 57 (2014), 7. 35  INDO 14161, Singapore. French Consul to Governor Saigon, 27 Sept. 1870. 36  INDO 14162. 37  INDO 14164, French Consul, Singapore to Governor Saigon, 17 Oct. 1870. INDO 14168, French Consul, Singapore to Governor Saigon, 20 Oct. 1870. INDO 14263, Gérant du Consulat, Singapore to Gov Saigon, 6 Nov. 1870. 33 34



Singapore but was refused coal at Simon’s Bay, Southern Africa.38 The French government managed to import coal from Malta (rather than loading it on naval ships in Malta itself).39 And France in turn complained of rumors that Prussian vessels had coaled in Ireland.40

Saigon and the East Asian Coal Environment The French fleet and packet services used coal from British mines on eastern stations in the 1860s. This grew out of earlier practice—the coal the Messageries used in the 1850s to ferry troops to the Black Sea in the Crimean War or to steam to South America had come from Britain, too.41 British coal was not cheaper than French or Chinese or Australian coal at first glance. On a per-tonne basis, it cost more. But many French, Chinese, and Australian coals were inferior. What mattered was not the price per tonne (which was how coal prices were quoted), but the price per unit of distance: how far could a ship go if it spent the same amount of money on one kind of coal versus another? Engineers measuring coal quality assessed its caloric content (the amount of energy released when it was burned), and the impurities in it; these two points, and practical considerations related to them, showed that coal quality varied considerably. Chinese, Australian, and much French coal crumbled, requiring the dust to be re-­ formed into briquettes (“patent fuel” in British English or “agglomerated” coal in French). Coal mined in Britain came in solid chunks and sustained a higher heat when burned (thereby releasing more energy) than the crumbly varieties dug up elsewhere in the 1860s—a result of the superior quality of the coal itself and of more-advanced coal mining technology, which was able to extract good coal in bulk without losing too much to dust and debris.42 British coal also had fewer impurities. Its superior quality more than made up for its higher price per tonne—while it cost 38  ADM 12/850 51. Neutrals and Contraband of War. War between France & Prussia. Coals. 39  ADM 12/850 51. Neutrals and Contraband of War. War between France & Prussia. Purchase of Coals at Malta. 40  ADM 12/873 51. Neutrals and Contraband of War. War between France & Prussia. Coaling of belligerent Vessels on the Coast of Ireland. 41  Bois, Le Grand Siècle, 22, 34. 42  Industrial mining techniques could mine deeper quicker than purely manual methods, and superior coal was often found buried under a layer of inferior coal (which had endured less geological pressure).



more by tonne, it cost less by distance. Adding to that, British coal mines were accessible to industrial-scale transport, whereas many Asian coal sources were far from ports or inefficiently mined, increasing extraction and transport costs. Saigon officials did not favor French-sourced coal.43 French coal sellers would have needed a subsidy to supply coal to Saigon. Early on, the town was not, as M. Larrieu explained to Captain Bigrel in 1871, “a market where coal can be sold” profitably often. This was not helped by the fact that coal shipped from France was usually dregs—unsaleable in the metropole and old (exposure to the elements degraded coal); it was, Larrieu explained, “much more expensive” than coal from other places, once its reduced propulsive force was taken into account.44 As the Saigon coal market grew, the potential cost of any subsidy grew, too, and so Saigon became more and more deeply tied to a preexisting global network of coal mines, colliers, and coal depots. This network favored British and Australian coal mines to such an extent that when the Saigon Chamber of Commerce printed a price list in 1881, it gave Newcastle, Cardiff, and Australian coal prices only—and not one type of French coal.45 Looking at the statistics for 1881, this seems odd, given that the majority of the coal imported in 1881 (4,497 out of 8,027 tonnes) came from France, and that there is no entry for either British or Australian coal in the import records at all.46 But this “French” coal is misleading. It was transshipped from French ports, but it did not come from French mines. As the Chamber of Commerce explained a few years earlier: only some of Saigon’s British coal came from Britain directly; most was transshipped through Le Havre.47 This practice favored French coal carriers: if France had to give business to British coal mines, at least the coal would come on French ships. French Cochinchina’s accounting of where its coal came from is deceptive in other ways as well: the 600 tonnes of coal imported from Singapore in 1881 was not mined there, either; it was simply bought on the Singapore market: it came from Australia or Britain.48 All the rest  Fichter, “British Infrastructure and French Empire.”  INDO 12441, Saigon 12 July 1871, M.  Larrieu to M.  Bigrel, Capt of Frigate, Chef d’État-Major. 45  Chambre de Commerce (Saigon), Bulletin de la Chambre de commerce de Saïgon (Saigon: 20 June 1881). 46  Cochinchine, État 1881, 26. 47  Chambre de Commerce (Saigon), Compte Rendu 1879, 52. 48  Much of the “Singaporean” coal imported in 1883 came from Antwerp. Coal mined in Southern Belgium was exported via Antwerp. It is unclear how much Antwerp coal was mined 43 44



20000 15000 10000 5000 0

1879 France

1880 European ports

1881 Singapore

1882 China

1883 Various

Fig. 8.3  Metric tons of coal imported at Saigon by port of last transshipment. (Cochinchine, État 1878, 1880–1885, 1894–1895. Chambre de Commerce (Saigon), Statistiques Commerciales de la Cochinchine Française: 1879 (Saigon).)

of the coal imported in 1881 is listed as coming from “various” countries, which, when we recall the Chamber of Commerce’s advice, meant transshipment points for coal coming originally from Britain and Australia, or perhaps Britain and Australia themselves (which do not otherwise appear as sources of coal in this period). Coal also arrived from nondescript “European” ports, probably Belgian, among others (see Fig. 8.3). Almost all of this coal imported “from” France in 1881 was for state use—imported either on commercial vessels or on warships that had last coaled in France, which made sense, since French warships did not routinely run from Saigon to Sydney or London for coal.49 But of course the coal that came from French ports and French naval coal yards in metropolitan France did not have to originate in French mines. The value of British coal in Asia is borne out by the Hong Kong blue books, which give detailed data on coal imports into that colony for the decade 1846–1855.50 Hong Kong officials recorded nearly 100,000 tons (NB: not tonnes) of coal and patent fuel imported into Hong Kong over in Belgium and how much was transshipped from elsewhere. Cochinchine, État 1883, 32. 49  Eighty-four percent of the coal imported “from” France was for state use. In 1880 and 1884, the other years when we can make such comparisons, the figures were 99 and 96 percent, respectively. The comparison is made in piasters (rather than tonnes). 50  Unfortunately, the blue books cover only this decade, and since British authorities did not maintain a customs house there in the nineteenth century, this data is not terribly exact, nevertheless it can be used to suggest relative proportions of imports.

166  800000 700000 600000 500000 400000 300000 200000 100000 0













1902-1906 average


Fig. 8.4  Coal imports to Singapore 1870–1889 and straits settlements 1902–1909 (tons). (Straits Settlements Blue Books (1870–1909), Government Printing Office, Singapore. NAS.)

that decade, 80 percent of which came from Britain and much of the rest from Australia and Labuan (a British colony off Borneo).51 This occurred not from a tariff favoring British coal, but from the simple fact that British coal mines were already established. The Singapore blue books show the dominance of British-sourced coal in later decades, which accounted for roughly 90 percent of the colony’s coal between 1870 and the late 1880s. The British imperial tariff system did not keep out other coals: British coal fell to only 10 percent of Singapore’s supply in the first decade of the 1900s, when Australian, Indian and Japanese coal pushed out British supplies. Among these, Japanese coal, the least likely to be favored by imperial tariffs, was the largest source, supplying between one-third and one-half of the total.52 What kept British coals prominent in Singapore was also what brought Japanese supplies in: price (see Fig. 8.4). In Ceylon, coal came predominantly from Britain, too. There were major coal sources closer to hand in Australia and India, but British coal dominated the Ceylonese market. Only in 1895 did Indian coal begin to appear in bulk in Ceylon. Before then, the coal brought to Ceylon was almost entirely from Britain (Indian coal was either too inferior to use or 51  Blue Book (Hong Kong Government Printer, 1844–1859), Hong Kong University Library. Also cited as National Archives, Kew, Britain. CO 133/1–16. NB: These are British imperial tons, not French metric tonnes. 52  Straits Settlements Blue Books (1870–1909) (Government Printing Office, Singapore. NAS).



350000 300000 250000 200000 150000 100000 50000 0




1865 Britain







British colonies

Fig. 8.5  Coal, coke, and patent fuel imported into Ceylon by place of origin (tons). (Ceylon Blue Books (1850–1895), Department of National Archives. Colombo, Sri Lanka.)

too costly to extract and ship before this), with a smattering from Australia. In 1860, 1870, and 1875 roughly a third of the coal brought from Britain was brought on foreign ships: this probably included French colliers such as Worms & Cie, which made their fortune carrying and supplying British coal to French users in foreign ports (see Fig. 8.5). Not even China, which holds some of the world’s largest coal reserves, could serve as source of bunker fuel in the nineteenth century. It took modern coal-mining and -processing technology and rail lines to get inland Chinese coal to coastal markets. In the nineteenth century, the first (and only) Chinese mine to accomplish this was the Kaiping mine, which began to supply the Tianjin market meaningfully from 1885 but took several decades to outcompete Japanese coal in ports down the China coast.53 British naval officials encouraged the development of Chinese mines. They did not want to maintain the British Empire’s monopoly on coal production out of economic nationalism. They preferred to open up mines in foreign countries if this could lower their fuel bills and thereby free up more of their naval budgets for other use. But pre-Kaiping Chinese supplies were not enough. Shanghai imported an annual average of 53  Ellsworth C. Carlson, The Kaiping Mines, 1887–1912 (Cambridge: Harvard East Asian Monographs, 1971), 26. Tim Wright, Coal Mining in China’s Economy and Society, 1895–1937 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984).



107,000 tons of coal between 1868 and 1872,54 and China as a whole continued to import coal from abroad in the following decades, taking 253,009 tons in 1882 and 369,994 tons in 1891.55 As the Singapore data suggest, Japanese coal mines were the major new suppliers to the East Asian bunker-fuel market. Beginning in the early 1870s, Japanese mines used modern extraction and transportation methods to end British-Australian dominance in fueling Far Eastern steamers. The British Navy began using Australian and Japanese coal around 1873. Coal from Japan, Labuan, and Australia continued to push out British coal through the decade across the East Asian littoral. In the 1870s, Japanese mines were the only mines from outside the British Empire that could possibly meet French needs.

The Sino-French War, 1884–1885 Faced with the dominance of British or British imperial coal in Saigon, French officials in Cochinchina labored to find new sources of coal, mainly from abroad. They tested coal from Bencoolen in the 1860s,56 and tried Japanese coal as early as 1870,57 and considered or tested Borneo, Japanese and Chinese coal in 1878.58 But what they really wanted was local coal. Samples taken in 1867 and 1874 from Phu Quoc on the Cochinchina-­ Cambodia border were not promising.59 The real prizes were Tonkin and, to a lesser extent Annam, from whence reports of abundant coal already being mined manually by Chinese and Vietnamese miners reached French ears in the 1870s.60 By the early 1880s, French businessmen were demanding mining concessions. As J.  Talon, one such aspiring concessionaire, explained to the French governor in Saigon in 1882, “the aim” was to establish at the Hongay mines in Tonkin “the manufacture of agglomerated coals to compete more surely with British coal in all of the Indies.” (Note his use of the term “agglomerated.”)61 These mines seemed to  China, Trade Statistics of the Treaty Ports, for the Period 1863–1872 (Shanghai: Inspectorate General of Customs, 1873). 55  China, the Maritime Customs: Decennial Report, 1882–1891 (Shanghai: Inspectorate General of Customs), xxv. 56  INDO 12530, 10382, 10388. 57  INDO 12440. 58  INDO 12528. 59  INDO 12121, 12122. 60  INDO 12712, 12714, 12788 (which last concerns coal in Annam). 61  INDO 12713, Marseilles 16 Sept. 1882, J. Talon to Gov Cochinchina. 54



promise carbon independence and constituted one of France’s objectives in the Sino-French War by which Tonkin was conquered. Indeed, the New Imperialism of the Sino-French War, and of the 1880s generally, attempted to achieve French independence from British “good” offices. The British occupation of Egypt in 1882 and the British declaration of coal as a contraband of war in 1870 had proved to many that France needed a capacity to act separately from Britain (in the case of coal this entailed both economic and naval separateness). Fearing that Britain would, as in 1870, block the French navy from using its bought-and-paid-­ for coal in British-controlled coaling station at Aden, Galle, Singapore, and Hong Kong, France sought out an alternative to British Aden in Obock. Obock was the last in several desultory colonial projects along the Red Sea mouth. It was transformed into a coaling station for naval vessels and troopships going through the Suez Canal to Cochinchina (and probably Madagascar). The seizure of the mines in Tonkin and Annam were similarly inspired by a desire to have Asian mines under French control. And yet in the Indian Ocean the New Imperialism seemed to mean that France had to already be independent from British good offices to operate freely in the Sino-French War. The renewed interest in Obock was well and good, but it did not provide an independent source of coal in the Southern Indian Ocean, where France was fighting the First Hova War, 1883–1886. Though few troops were dedicated to this war, naval operations along the eastern, northern, and western Madagascar coasts necessarily demanded coal. Nor did Obock resolve the need for coaling stations in East Asia. By the 1880s, improvements in steam technology meant that many French vessels could make the run from Obock to Singapore non-­ stop (cutting out Galle), but they were usually unable to make it all the way from Obock to Saigon. Coal supplies and loading points were thus of vital strategic concern in the Franco-Chinese War, 1884–1885, which included not only British Indian Ocean ports but ports supplying French operations in Tonkin and along the China coast (at Fuzhou and Ningbo) and on Taiwan, where Admiral Courbet occupied Keelung and attempted to blockade the island. Britain reimposed the Foreign Enlistment Act in February 1885. This was intended at the time, and has been seen since, as a way to hobble French warfighting abilities and bring France to the negotiating table with China. The end of the war, a mere two months later in April, suggests it succeeded. But this is too simple. The first lesson the French had learned from Britain was the virtue of economic warfare. Shut out of British ports (at Chinese



request), Courbet retaliated by blockading Saigon’s supply of rice to China. Nor did the Foreign Enlistment Act prevent French troopships from steaming from Atlantic and Mediterranean ports to Saigon with tens of thousands of troops in early 1885, reinforcing precarious French positions on land and effectively salvaging the French war effort and negotiating position. They made the voyages, with or without British ports (though how they did so requires further research). These reinforcements were crucial to the French war effort. The Act did prevent Courbet from conducting additional naval maneuvers against China, or from obtaining the coal in Hong Kong necessary to effectively blockade Taiwan—blockade patrols required far more coal than he had on hand, and Chinese reinforcements were able to slip by him onto Taiwan easily. Courbet was unable to seize coal mines on Taiwan, but the French victory on the Vietnamese mainland, and the consequent French control of Tonkin and the Hongay mines, seemed to provide relief to France’s carbon problem.62 Because the Foreign Enlistment Act was lifted shortly after the war, coal figures from 1885 cover months before, during, and after the Act was in effect, so it is difficult to make too many assumptions about coal data from that year. Worse, the French reports from 1885 are internally contradictory—showing in a list of all coal imports to Cochinchina in 1885 that no coal came from France and showing, in a list of coal imported for the use of the state printed in the same document, that most of the state coal came from France. It is unclear which figure is correct, but whichever figure is, France was clearly able to obtain coal that year63 (See Figs. 8.6 and 8.7).

French Coal, British Ports: Tonkin and Hong Kong And yet if the conquest of Tonkin and the allocation of coal concessions there were intended to end dependence on foreign coal and foreign coaling stations, they failed. As the anonymous French author of a note on the subject wrote in the early 1890s, “one of the reproaches” one could  Eugène Germain Garnot, L’ expédition française de Formose, 1884–1885 (1894). M. Loir, L’escadre de l’amiral Courbet (Paris: 1886). L.  Eastman, Throne and Mandarins: China’s Search for a Policy during the Sino-French Controversy (Harvard University Press, 1984). A. Thomazi, La conquête de l’Indochine (Paris: 1934). A. Thomazi, Histoire militaire de l’Indochine français (Hanoi: 1931). 63  Again, French coal could be transshipped from Britain or mined from French soil, and European coal could come from neutral states that would either transship or sell their own coal to Indochina. Source: Cochinchine, État 1885. 62



350000 300000 250000 200000 150000 100000 50000 0


1883 France



All other sources

Fig. 8.6  Indochina coal and coke imports (in piastres). (Cochinchine, État 1882–1885.)

make of the French colonial administration was that it did not use French colonial ports and “looked too frequently abroad.” The French fleet in the Gulf of Siam grew but still coaled at Singapore, not Saigon. As the French fleet in the China Seas grew, it coaled at Hong Kong or in Japan, not Haiphong. Ships in the Gulf of Siam were “nearly forced” to coal at Singapore and Hong Kong, since those ports had such large coal stocks.64 This “enriched” British ports and did nothing for Saigon. Why not enrich French colonial ports instead? Japanese or Australian coal could be kept in depots on the Vietnamese coast (Tonkin did not produce sufficient coal for the squadron yet). What the “British did at Hong Kong,” the author suggested, “which does not produce any coal at all, we can do at Tourane and Halong Bay.” It was only politique to have provisions for the fleet in French domains, in case “the port of Hong Kong is closed to us” again. Why not, he suggested, have another Djibouti at Tourane?65 As implied (and carefully never stated) in the above letter, a major reason the French navy avoided coaling in Indochinese ports was the initially poor quality of Indochinese coal. Early efforts to extract coal from the 64  Saigon’s place twelve  hours upriver deterred naval ships from coaling there as well. Likewise, in 1894 French engineers were still designing a canal to allow large ships to come in close at Haiphong, making that port still far from ideal, unlike Hong Kong. INDO 14326. 65  INDO 24734.












1881 France

1883 Australia




Fig. 8.7  Sources of coal imported for use of the state at Saigon. (Cochinchine, État 1880–1885. Re-exported coal was sent from Saigon to Taiwan, Tonkin, and Annam.)

mines at Hongay and Kébao (Hongay was first exploited in 188866) produced coal serviceable for the boats of the Tonkin protectorate67 but not the French navy, which refused to use coal from the Société Française des Charbonnages du Tonkin because its briquettes were too crumbly. In 1894, the navy conducted new tests and found the briquettes improved.68 And yet these Tonkin coals were still drawn to the Hong Kong market by the same logic that pulled in Australian and Japanese coals: Hong Kong was where the buyers were. The Société, controlled by Crédit industriel et commercial (CIC), a metropolitan French bank founded to promote industrial development, purchased a Kowloon property in 66  Pierre Brocheux, Une histoire économique du Viet Nam 1850–2007 (Paris: les Indes savants, 2009), 93. 67  Indochine Française, Rapport sur les Statistiques des Douanes pour 1892, 86. 68  INDO 6289.



1895 and was represented in Hong Kong by Jardine Matheson & Co., which sold coal on its behalf. The Société’s Hong Kong administrators included Sirs Paul Chater and H. N. Mody—Bombay merchants who had migrated to and found success in Hong Kong. The firm Chater and Mody was a major banking and industrial concern in late-nineteenthcentury Hong Kong. The two men were among the Société’s founders and their financial and industrial ties aided the Société’s success: Hong Kong would provide the lion’s share of the Société’s sales (not least because of the demand created by Hong Kong Electric, which Chater also helped found). Chater received a knighthood in the Légion d’honneur for his work and remained interested in Tonkin business opportunities for the remainder of his career.69 The Société tried selling in Tonkin and along the China coast, but, hoping to become large miners, they needed a large market: and so even when the French did dig their own coal in Tonkin, if they wanted to sell a lot of it, Hong Kong, not Haiphong, would have to be the main point of sale. In 1895, the Société sold over 80,000 tonnes of coal in Hong Kong. That year it sold barely 4,000 tonnes in Tonkin. The users in the latter were few, and many preferred wood.70 Separate mines at the isle of Kébao saw similar results and were similarly drawn to export markets. Coal mined in French Indochina quickly came to rely on exports to British markets, which meant that far from making France carbon independent on the maritime routes to and from Saigon, Indochinese coal mines changed 69 Letter of Gougal to Foreign Ministry, 28 Oct. 1922, French Foreign Ministry, la Courneuve, Affaires politiques, Série E, Possessions Britanniques. Chater would join the Hong Kong legislative and executive councils, and Mody was a major philanthropist in the city. Thanks to François Drémeaux for this reference. British interest in investing in French Cochinchina was longstanding. Denis, Bordeaux et la Cochinchine, 322. However, the implication that Chater and Mody founded the Société on their own (as opposed to being among the founders) and that because of their involvement it was “the only successful business ever to be established in French Indo-China” is an Anglocentric overstatement of their roles in the Société and Britain’s. May Holdsworth and Christopher Munn, eds., Dictionary of Hong Kong Biography (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2012), 80, 322–323. The Kowloon property was sold in 1901. Indochine Française, Bulletin économique de l’Indo-Chine 39 (Sept. 1901), 820–821. Thanks to Bert Becker for this reference. On the role of CIC see Pierre Brocheux, Une histoire économique du Viet Nam 1850–2007 (Paris: les Indes savants, 2009), 93. 70  Cf. Indochine Française, Rapport sur les Statistiques des Douanes pour 1894, which sees exports of coal from Tonkin of roughly 100,000 tonnes in 1894 and local usage of 10 to 13,700 tonnes.



the nature of Anglo-French carbon interdependency.71 By the early twentieth century, a good proportion of Indochinese coal was used domestically, but exports remained dominant. In 1910, 480,000 tonnes were mined, the majority of which were exported. The mass production of coal kept unit costs low enough to make Indochinese use of Hongay coal economically worthwhile, but the Indochinese market was not large enough to keep the Hongay mines running at such scale—the coal mines had to export the majority of their coal if they wanted their mines to provide coal cheaply in Vietnam. Moreover, Vietnamese coal was poor in oil, which required it to be mixed into briquettes with European pitch and Japanese coal (which was oilier). Mass Vietnamese coal production was thus dependent upon export markets outside the French colonial empire and upon Japanese coal and other supplies imported from outside the colonial empire as well. A look at the valuations of the coal mined in 1894 (the first year in which Tonkin was a net coal exporter, see Fig. 8.8) reveals the importance of these briquettes. The majority by weight of coal exported in that year had been small coal (charbon menu, or pieces smaller than 3 cm). They comprised 60,400 tonnes out of 99,700 tonnes exported, but valued at 4 francs a tonne, this was the least valuable coal and, though two-thirds by weight of the coal exported, it made up only a quarter of the total value of coal exported (see Table 8.1). Screened coal (charbon criblé, rocks larger than 5 cm) was more valuable. These comprised a third of the export volume for that year, but two-thirds of its value. Briquettes, made from charbon menu fin (superfine coal, or dust and pebbles smaller than 1 cm in size), were the most valuable, but to move up the value chain with this product—which would both secure the coal miners a handsome profit and provide the French navy with the coal it needed—required moving into a global market for both the inputs needed to manufacture it and for the buyers who wanted it.72 And that is exactly what the Société did, setting up a factory in Hong Kong to transform its cheap small coal into much more valuable briquettes (Fig. 8.8).73 71  Compare the Hongay mine, which produced 112,574 tonnes in 1894 and exported 97,247 tonnes. INDO 22961. This data varies slightly from that in Indochine Française, Rapport sur les Statistiques des Douanes pour 1893, (1894). 72  Pierre Cordemoy, Les Anthracites Français du Tonkin (Paris: Agence Économique de l’Indochine, 1933), 10. 73  It is unclear when the factory was built. The land it was on was bought in 1895 and sold in 1901; the factory relocated to Hongay. Indochine Française. Bulletin économique de l’Indo-Chine 39 (Sept. 1901), 821.



1.2 1 0.8 0.6 0.4 0.2 0 -0.2 -0.4 -0.6 -0.8 -1












Net exports

Fig. 8.8  Tonkin, estimated coal net exports (francs). (Indochine Française, Rapport sur les Statistiques des Douanes pour 1888–1895.) NB: Exports given as estimated because between 1889 and 1893 exports data did not break out coal but included all marbles, stones, earths, and combustible minerals as one category. That data is inserted here, assuming it was largely coal (metals were listed separately). Some of this material was not coal, so this is an estimate that overstates coal exports from 1889 to 1893 by an unknown amount. Export data from 1894 and 1895 include all forms of coal (coal, briquettes, coke) but not other stones or earths. Pitch is excluded. A separate 56 francs worth of coal exported is given for 1889. No import data for 1890.) Table 8.1  Coal Exported from Tonkin 1894 Coal exported from Tonkin 1894




Charbon menu (small coal) Charbon tout venant (coal all comers) Charbon criblé (screened coal) Charbon briquettes

60,434 1580 34,140 3600 99,754

242,000 15,800 644,000 90,000 991,800

4.004368 10 18.8635 25

Indochine Française, Rapport sur les Statistiques des Douanes pour 1894

This points to a broader contradiction in France’s economic policy toward Indochina, even as the protectionist Méline tariff (1892) sought to draw France and her colonies closer economically by making the colonies a place for French grain and industrial exports, Indochina’s gover-



nors, particularly Doumer, sought to make Indochina profitable, or at least economically tenable, for the first time. They tried to do this not by making Indochina a great consumer of French exports (it had little use for French grain anyway) or by making Indochina a great seller of colonial products back to the metropole (they could not make the economics of shipping rice or coal all the way back to France work) but by increasing exports outside the French colonial economic system to neighboring Hong Kong and China, adding to the old export trade of rice the export of coal and various metals.74 In a sense, this was supposed to be how colonialism worked: Indochina served France’s economic needs, and areas outside the colonial empire served Indochina’s. But the sale of coal and rice from Indochina to Hong Kong was hardly exploitative of the latter. Ironically, just when the Méline tariff sought to increase French economic domination of its colonies, Indochina became more economically outward looking.75 French Indochina’s coal existed in an international coal market if not quite an Anglo-dominated one.76 It remained vital for the navy, shipping lines and the broader empire: Tonkin and Annam were the only French possessions east of Suez to produce coal until after World War I. Madagascar began exploration in 1908 and production in 1928/9, and New Caledonia, even though coal was discovered there in the 1840s, was not exploited until after the Great War, by which point the shift to petrol was well under way.77 In their search for carbon independence from Britain, French officials ended up with a new carbon interdependency.

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10382 10388 10757 12121 12122 12440 12441 12528 12530 12712 12713 12714 12788 14161 14162 14164 14168 14263 14310 14326 22961 24734

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

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Brocheux, Pierre. 2009. Une histoire économique du Viet Nam 1850–2007. Paris: les Indes savants. Brocheux, Pierre, and Daniel Hémery. 2009. Indochina: An Ambiguous Colonization, 1858–1954. Berkeley: University of California Press. Carlson, Ellsworth C. 1971. The Kaiping Mines, 1887–1912. Cambridge: Harvard East Asian Monographs. Cordemoy, Pierre. 1933. Les Anthracites Français du Tonkin. Paris: Agence Économique de l’Indochine. Denis, Etienne. 1965. Bordeaux et la Cochinchine sous la Restauration et le Second Empire. Bordeaux: Delmas. Eastman, L. 1967. Throne and Mandarins: China’s Search for a Policy During the Sino-French Controversy. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 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. 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. Garnot, Eugène Germain. 1894. L’expédition française de Formose, 1884–1885. Paris: Librairie C. Delagrave. Gougal to Foreign Ministry, 28 Oct 1922. French Foreign Ministry, la Courneuve, Affaires politiques, Série E, Possessions Britanniques. Holdsworth, May, and Christopher Munn, eds. 2012. Dictionary of Hong Kong Biography. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press. Loir, M. 1886. L’escadre de l’amiral Courbet. Paris. Pollacchi, P., ed. 1929. Atlas Colonial Français. Colonies, Protectorats et Pays Sous Mandat. Paris: L’Illustration. Postel, Raoul. 1874. De Marseille à Saïgon: Notes et journal de voyage. Caen: Imprimerie de F. le Blanc-Hardel. Stoeker, Helmut. 1958. Deutschland und China im 19. Jahrhundert. Berlin. Thomazi, A. 1931. Histoire militaire de l’Indochine français. Hanoi. ———. 1934. La conquête de l’Indochine. Paris. van der Eng, Pierre. 2014. “Mining and Indonesia’s Economy: Institutions and Value Adding, 1870-2010” PRIMCED Discussion Paper Series, no. 57. Wright, Tim. 1984. Coal Mining in China’s Economy and Society, 1895–1937. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


French Kwang-Chow-Wan and British Hong Kong: Politics and Shipping, 1890s–1920s Bert Becker

The Sino-Japanese War of 1894–1895 ending with the defeat of China was a turning point in the history of modern Asia. The Qing Empire appeared to be on the brink of existence, suddenly becoming the playground for a “scramble for concessions” of foreign powers. “There was rarely a war that had as many winners as the one of 1894–95,” states German historian Jürgen Osterhammel. Japan’s victory threw the Far East into a decade of imperialist rivalries among the powers that aimed to be economically and politically active in China. The major global powers did this through the economic development and exploitation of China and the fostering of political goals concerning national prestige and status (present and future). In the period following the Sino-Japanese War, France, Germany, Russia, Britain, and Japan demanded from China various concessions, privileges, and preferable treatments. In 1898, all powers occupied or claimed spheres of interest, usually consisting of a major port as a naval base, a railway through its hinterland, and mines to develop alongside it.1 1  Morse (1913, 26–27), Fairbank and Goldman (2001, 220–221), Hsü (2000, 344–350), Osterhammel (1989, 202–207; the quote: 203).

B. Becker (*) Department of History, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, Hong Kong © The Author(s) 2019 J. R. Fichter (ed.), British and French Colonialism in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies Series,




In the scramble for concessions, France, in April 1898, acquired the lease of Kwang-chow Bay (Guangzhouwan or Kwang-chow-wan, presentday Zhanjiang), China’s agreement to the nonalienation of the provinces of Yunnan, Guangxi, and Guangdong, and also railway-building concessions. The leased territory of Kwang-chow-wan  (officially: KouangTchéou-Wan), which was only 210  miles southwest of Hong Kong, prompted Britain to seek the lease of the New Territories to Hong Kong. Imperial rivalry among Western powers and commercial competition between France and Britain in China were the driving forces behind the scramble for concessions in South China. The specific way in which Kwangchow-wan and the New Territories were acquired in 1898 demonstrates the mutually reinforcing and fundamentally entwined French-British imperial relationship in southern China. Co-imperialism strongly enhanced by political and economic interests on both sides created leased territories that were somewhat similar in size (with 842 square kilometers, Kwang-­ chow-wan, including the bay, was slightly smaller than the 953-squarekilometer New Territories) but also fundamentally different in their geopolitics. While the New Territories were geographically and administratively linked to Hong Kong, Kwang-chow-wan remained a far-away outpost of French Indochina run by a French official, holding the title of chief administrator, and appointed by the governor-general of Indochina. Kwang-chow-wan was located halfway between Tonkin, the northern part of French Indochina, and Hong Kong and was around 500 km from Haiphong, the main port of Tonkin. However, in terms of merchant steam shipping, Kwang-chow-wan was much faster to reach from Hong Kong than from Haiphong. For the maritime route from Fort Bayard (the chief town of Kwang-chow-wan) to Hong Kong, a passage of 233 sea miles, a steamer needed around twenty-two hours, whereas the route from Fort Bayard to Haiphong, 320 sea miles, was serviced in about forty-eight hours. Kwang-chow-­wan’s geographical location was one of several factors that made it closer, economically, to Hong Kong than to Indochina, even as it remained formally attached throughout its nearly fifty-year existence (until 1945) to Indochina as a French leased territory (Fig. 9.1). Seizing on Kwang-chow-wan’s location, Indochinese Governor-­ General Paul Doumer wished to develop the territory into a naval and military hub and a springboard for penetrating southwest China. This prompted the creation of the subsidized Kwang-chow-wan postal-steamer service between Haiphong and Kwang-chow-wan and later to Hong Kong. Since its launch in 1900, the service, operated by the Tonkin



Fig. 9.1  Detail of a map of China, showing the Gulf of Tonkin, early twentieth century. (The Hundred and Twentieth Report of the London Missionary Society, 1915.)

Shipping Company, served economic and political aims. These fluctuated during the first ten-year subsidy contract. The unexpected and sudden abandonment of Kwang-chow-wan as a French naval base in East Asia and a military outpost for Indochina in 1904 had severe consequences for the Tonkin Shipping Company and its brief successor, the French East Asiatic Company. Even with the support of a huge subsidy from the French-­ Indochinese government, the postal steamers encountered the general problem suffered by transport services operating on fixed schedules: a greatly reduced flexibility to efficiently react to market conditions. The highly competitive shipping market in the Gulf of Tonkin further added to the service’s difficulties. It was contractually required to frequently call Kwang-chow-wan, a commercial port where economic activity was only in its infancy and where the French presence was merely upheld for honor and prestige. The postal-steamer service reflected France’s changing imperial attitudes in the Far East and also high dependency of Kwang-chow-wan on Hong Kong—to which it remained attached as a kind of economic satellite throughout its existence. Competitive and cooperative connections between the French and British empires in southern China are clearly



reflected in the uneven economic relationship between the two colonial entities and consequently also in the somewhat tragic history of the French postal-steamer service providing frequent but increasingly less important links between them. In this respect, private shipping companies providing state-subsidized postal-steamer services between empires demonstrate the high dependency of local actors on colonial governments and commercial institutions and also on short-term changes.2

Acquiring Imperial Leaseholds in China (1898–1900) On 22 April 1898, at 15:00, a flagstaff was set up on the old Chinese fort Xiying (Hoitow, later the French chief town Fort Bayard) on the right side of the Maxie River in Guangdong. The tricolor was hoisted by Rear-­Admiral Lucien-Pierre-Jean-Baptiste Gigault de La Bedollière, commander of a division of France’s Far Eastern Naval Squadron,3 to the music of a ship’s band and amid hurrahs and cheers from crews of the flagship Pascal and of the cruisers Lion, Surprise, and Alouette anchoring in the river’s estuary. Present at the ceremony was also Camille-Gaston Kahn, French vice-­ consul in Qiongzhou (Kiungchow), the principal city and administrative center of the nearby island of Hainan. No Chinese official attended the ceremony, but a considerable number of Chinese locals watched the event. In the nearby town of Maxie, French naval soldiers posted the “very urgent special proclamation” (in Chinese) issued in the name of French Vice-Admiral JeanOlivier de la Bonninière, the commander of France’s Far Eastern Naval Squadron.4 In the English translation, it reads as follows: 2  The bulk of material used for this chapter came from the Archives of the French Foreign Ministry  in Paris  (abbreviated as MAE), from the French National Archives of Overseas Territories in Aix-en-Provence (abbreviated as ANOM), and from the Vietnamese National Archives One in Hanoi (abbreviated as VNA1), which houses records of the governor-general of Indochina, containing correspondence from the colonial administration and private companies in French Indochina. Important evidence was also found in the Political Archives of the German Foreign Office in Berlin (abbreviated as PAAA) and in the British National Archives in Kew/Surrey (abbreviated as TNA). 3  Lucien-Pierre-Jean Baptiste Gigault de La Bedollière (1838–1901) became rear-admiral and second in command of the French navy’s general headquarter in March 1893. In 1898/99 he was commander-in-chief of one division of the Far Eastern Naval Squadron. Dictionnaire de Biographie Française (1982, vol. 15, 1501–1502); Dictionnaire des Marins Français (2002, 212). 4  Jean-Olivier de la Bonninière, Comte de Beaumont (1840–1906) was commander of the French man-of-war Kersaint during the Sino-French War (1883–1884). In 1887, he was



At the present time China and France are on terms of friendship, and trade together very peacefully. When China had trouble with a foreign country two years ago France devised means to assist her, and now there is peace. As the French merchant navy increase daily the French Minister and the [Chinese] Minister recently consulted together and it was agreed that coalmines should be started here. Hence … France has specially sent a man-­ of-­war hither to hoist the French flag. The people in this locality must not be alarmed, but must all live on peacefully together as in ordinary times. You also constantly notice our men-of-war visiting this place; but everything is done with peaceful intentions. Henceforth your trade will be more and more prosperous every day. The hoisting of our flag is intended for your protection and you people must not dare to touch it, as this will be considered a punishable offence. It is highly necessary that you should be careful.5

The French proclamation seemed to have aroused little interest among the local population. No proclamation was posted by the Chinese. Shortly before the French occupation took place, Pierre Essex O’Brien Butler, British consul in Qiongzhou, had observed suspicious behaviour of his French counterpart. On 20 April 1898, the day before boarding the Pascal, Consul Kahn, accompanied by his Chinese writer, had taken great care to let everyone know that they would depart for Hong Kong. “No one, however, believed that Hong Kong was the real destination,” claimed O’Brien Butler. Convinced that Kahn had instead left for Kwang-chow-­ wan, the British consul engaged the friend of his Chinese writer to undertake an observation mission to the place. When the messenger arrived, he discovered the aforementioned proclamation and also observed the French men-of-war anchored at Maxie, as he reported to O’Brien Butler.6 Another distant witness of the scene was German consul Dr. Wilhelm Knappe in made commander of the Tonkin Naval Squadron and was appointed to rear-admiral in 1895 commanding the Far Eastern Naval Squadron. He was appointed to vice-admiral in March 1898, with the Vauban as flagship. In this position he ensured the occupation of Kwangchow-wan before returning to France in 1899 where he was made maritime commissioner (préfet) of Toulon. Dictionnaire de Biographie Française (1994, vol. 18, 1361– 1362); Dictionnaire des Marins Français (2002, 37). 5  British National Archives (TNA) FO 228–1289: Enclosure no. 1 in Acting Consul Pierre Essex O’Brien Butler’s dispatch no. 11, dated Kiungchow (Quiongzhou), 3 May 1898: “A Proclamation issued by the French Admiral Po (Beaumont), published on 22 April 1898” (English translation from Chinese). 6  TNA, FO 228–1289: Consul Pierre Essex O’Brien Butler (Qiongzhou) to British Minister Sir Claude M. Macdonald (Beijing), 3 May 1898.



Guangzhou (Canton), charged with observing France’s activities in southern China. In his report to Berlin, he pointed out that “the [occupation] act has been performed with certain secrecy, and the Chinese authorities [in Guangzhou] were not informed.”7 Indeed, only four days later, on 26 April 1898, after having received telegraphic instructions from the viceroy in Guangzhou, two Chinese officials of neighboring districts arrived in Maxie charged with formally handing over the place to the French naval forces.8 In the proclamation of 22 April 1898, recent developments of Sino-­ French political relations were explicitly mentioned to justify the occupation of Kwang-chow-wan by France. Hinting to the friendly relationship between the two countries was a clear referral to the situation in the aftermath of the Sino-Japanese War. With the victory of Japan, the Chinese were compelled to accept the terms of the Treaty of Shimonoseki, which included the payment of an indemnity of 200 million taels (ca. 150 million US dollars) to Japan.9 Since the Chinese government, with an annual revenue of 90–100 million taels, was unable to meet such an enormous demand, Russia and France offered support. Since the conclusion of the Franco-Russian alliance (1893), the two countries closely collaborated in political, military, and economic matters and were eager to exploit the situation in China. The result was a loan of 400 million francs provided by a combination of Russian and French banks, formally concluded on 6 July 1895. French Foreign Minister Gabriel Hanotaux informed the French minister in Russia that France would try to obtain from Beijing concessions for buildings railways in southern China in exchange for this loan and wished to gain Russia’s support for this approach. The loan resulted in the introduction of a Russo-French political-financial combination seeking privileges in China in exchange for Chinese gratitude.10 7  Politisches Archiv des Auswärtigen Amts, Berlin (PAAA), Peking II-13: Consul Dr. Wilhelm Knappe (Guangzhou) to Chancellor Chlodwig Prince zu Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst (Berlin), 8 May 1898. The letter has an attachment with the proclamation of 22 April 1898 (German translation from Chinese). 8  TNA, FO 228–1289: Consul Pierre Essex O’Brien Butler (Qiongzhou) to British Minister Sir Claude M.  Macdonald (Beijing), 14 May 1898. Le Courrier d’Haiphong, 28 April 1898; Herriou (1994, 121–122); Fourniau (2002, 532–533); Vannière (2004, 75–76). 9  This is apart from the additional indemnity of 30 million taels to be paid in return for the strategically important Liaodong Peninsula. 10  Joseph (1928, 133–136), Langer (1960, 186–189), Guillen (1985, 374–375), Brötel (1996, 398–405), Hsü (2000, 344–348).



France’s new expansionist policy in China was embodied in the diplomat Auguste Gérard, who arrived in Beijing in April 1894 to begin a vigorous, sometimes even aggressive, term as French minister in the Chinese capital. In his memoirs, Gérard wrote that his first obligation was to preserve and maintain all rights, concessions, advantages, and privileges that France had acquired since her first treaty with China in 1844.11 Apart from his important economic mission, the French minister also proved to be the most active supporter of the idea of acquiring the island of Hainan for France. This, the second-largest island of China, closes the eastern side of the Gulf of Tonkin. It was seen as strategically important for French interests. Under the impression that Germany was at the time actively searching for a place for setting up a naval station on the China coast, Gérard repeatedly urged the Chinese government not to hand over the island to any other power.12 His endeavours to secure a territorial foothold in China found vivid support after Félix Faure, formerly subsecretary of state for navy and colonies, was made French navy minister in July 1894. Faure and Hanotaux pushed for a more offensive policy towards China. To achieve results, Faure instructed rear-admiral Jean-Olivier de la Bonninière, Comte de Beaumont, the commander-in-chief of the French Far Eastern Naval Squadron, to organize the naval defense of Indochina and also to actively contribute to the balance of power in the Far East by supporting Gérard’s initiatives towards the Chinese government. His concrete mission was to search for a suitable location for the planned French naval station on the China coast that would provide the chance to increase the action range of French warships in the region and to reinforce France’s influence. On 7 February 1895, Beaumont reported about his findings to Paris proposing Kwang-chow Bay and describing it as anchorage of good size, with deep 11  Gérard (1918, xxi–xxiii). Even with minimal influence on the negotiation of the Treaty of Nanking (1842), France was able to get a similar treaty as Britain, the Treaty of Whampoa (24 October 1844), signed by Thédose de Lagrené. The main reason for the Chinese concession, equally granted on demand to the USA, was their interest in preserving the dynastical system and stirring the struggle for profits and consequently the potential for conflict between the foreigners. The treaty gave France a fixed tariff, extraterritoriality, the mostfavoured-nation treatment, the right to maintain churches and hospitals in the five newly opened so-called treaty ports, and the privilege of free propagation of Catholicism. The British, French, and American agreements laid the base of the “unequal treaties” system imposing on China a semicolonial status for the next century—Cady (1967, 29–38), Hsü (2000, 189–192). 12  PAAA, R 19417: German Minister Baron Edmund von Heyking (Beijing) to Chancellor Chlodwig Prince zu Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst (Berlin), 17 February 1897.



water, “a kind of Asian Bizerte” [large naval harbor in French-controlled Tunisia]. It was little known and had not attracted much attention, he noted. If occupied it should provide the navy “with a superb closed-up port at the China Sea” commanding the entry of the Hainan Strait. His report also hinted to the later possibility of creating a territorial link between Kwang-chow-­wan, the Leizhou Peninsula, and the Chinese provinces of Guangxi and Guangdong that “would establish an uninterrupted line of seacoast turning the Gulf of Tonkin into a French lake.”13 Beaumont’s idea was taken up by Foreign Minister Hanotaux, a strong promoter of France’s colonial expansion. As a follower of Jules Ferry, Hanotaux was deeply impressed with the need for empire. In contrast to Ferry, he was less interested in the economic profits of colonialism, instead regarding colonial expansion as necessary for enhancing the French greatness. His distrust of Britain, frankly stated in his later literary works, made him use the Franco-Russian alliance for imperial purposes.14 Hanotaux’s role as leading French expansionist and also his interest in Indochina explain his political attitudes toward China. On 29 May 1896, Hanotaux, in a letter classified as very confidential, wrote to Naval Minister Armand Besnard that “instead of focusing our view on the central coasts of China … it would perhaps be better to concentrate on the southern region and especially on the bay of Kwang-chow which high strategic importance your ministry has several times pointed out.”15 Yet Hanotaux’s idea met little interest when soon after Captain Boutet, commander of the man-of-war Alger, visited Kwang-chow Bay and explicitly warned of the sand bar situated at the entrance of the main passage. In his expose of 18 December 1896, Boutet stated that a naval port for refuge and resupplying could not be established because many men-of-war would have no access to the bay; he also turned down the notion that the Kwangchow-wan had any economic value for France. In March and April 1897, another exploratory mission of the French Far East naval squadron along the Guangdong coast and around the island of Hainan strongly recommended instead to occupy Hainan.16 To prevent suspected German designs on the island, Gérard, in his ongoing negotiations to acquire railway and  Quoted in Vannière (2004, 56).  The Encyclopaedia Britannica (1910, vol. 12, 923: Hanotaux, Albert Auguste Gabriel), Langer (1968, 394, 796), Martin (1990, 37–39), Guillen (2007, 193–195). 15  Quoted in Herriou (1994, 120). 16  Centre des Archives Diplomatiques du Ministère des Affaires Étrangères (MAE), CPC193: Reports of Commodore Jean-Olivier de la Bonninière, Comte de Beaumont, 7 February 1895, and of Captain Boudet, 18 December 1896, as quoted in the note of the French foreign 13 14



mining concessions in southern China, claimed a formal a­ ssurance that the Chinese government “would not alienate to any other Power under any form and in any case the Island of Hainan and the Kwangtung [Guangdong] coast opposite it.” The Tsungli Yamen, on 15 March 1897, finally agreed. With the French sphere of influence demarcated by that declaration, it seemed obvious to observers like the Hong Kong Weekly Press “that the French intend to annex the Island of Hainan sooner or later.”17 In the meantime, German naval troops occupied Jiaozhou Bay in China’s northern Shandong province (November 1897). Germany sought Chinese acceptance of a German naval station in the adjacent territory and railway concessions and coal mines in the hinterland. Encouraged by German efforts, the Russians had followed, claiming Port Arthur and Dalian on Liaodong Peninsula and adjacent areas. This got French attention. On 5 February 1898, Hanotaux stated in the French parliament that France’s diplomats in China were on alert with the goal to increase the nation’s influence and to defend her rights.18 The foreign ministry had set up a memorandum in which the possible annexation of Hainan Island was evaluated but finally rejected because of Hainan’s large size, which promised to make permanent control difficult. Instead, Kwang-chow-wan was recommended as a fine and good defendable harbor that should be made France’s center for expanding into the China Seas and into the hinterlands of western China.19 Strong support for immediate French action came from Paul Doumer, the governor-general of Indochina, who, in his telegram of 17 February 1898 to French colonial minister André Lebon, offered to send Indochinese troops in the case that the government decided to occupy Hainan, Kwang-chow-wan, and also Beihai (Pakhoi). In the accompanying letter he explained that taking possession of Kwang-­ chow-­wan would only be worth doing when also adding “the entire Gulf of Tonkin and at least a part of Guangdong into France’s exclusive sphere-­ of-­interest.”20 However, Doumer’s far-reaching plan met strong ­opposition

ministry of 28 March 1898; MAE, CPC-217: Report of Commodore Gigault de La Bedollière, 18 April 1897. 17  The Hong Kong Weekly Press, 19 February 1898; Joseph (1928, 185). 18  Guillen (1985, 382). 19  MAE, CPC-217: Anonymous note to minister, 20 January 1898: “On the subject of Hainan.” 20  MAE, CPC-208: Telegram from Paul Doumer (Hanoi) to Colonial Minister André Lebon (Paris), 17 February 1898; Archives Nationales d’Outre-mer, Aix-en-Provence



among French policymakers in China and was openly criticized in the Hong Kong press.21 On 7 March 1898, Hanotaux instructed Georges Dubail, the new French minister and Gérard’s successor in Beijing, to present France’s demands to the Chinese government. Apart from claiming certain concessions and privileges in China, Hanotaux demanded the “freedom of France to install on the southern coast of China a coal depot under the same conditions as a most-favoured nation,” arguing that this would not harm the integrity of China and constitute the minimum compensation to France for advantages already granted by China to other countries. Despite France’s comparatively limited demands and modest tone, the Tsungli Yamen reacted negatively and indifferently, which prompted Dubail to insist that China handle the issue seriously.22 Meanwhile in Paris, Hanotaux repeatedly discussed the territorial question with his counterpart in the naval ministry, finally reaching agreement with Besnard on acquiring Kwang-chow-wan for France. It was obvious that for Hanotaux political factors such as upholding France’s position in the imperialist rivalry in China mattered more than carefully evaluating the economics or geography of the territory. Relying on the optimistic comments in Beaumont’s report of 1895, he pushed aside the warnings in Boutet’s memorandum of 1896 about the bay’s limited accessibility and the low economic value of the hinterland. Dubail was instructed to convey to the Chinese government France’s desire to establish herself at Kwang-chow-­ wan.23 After three rounds of negotiations, it was agreed that, as Dubail wrote in his report, “the bay of Kwang-chow-wan is ceded to us on bail for 99 years. We have the right to establish there a naval s­tation with a coal (ANOM), INDO-GGI 21849: Paul Doumer (Hanoi) to Colonial Minister André Lebon, 17 February 1898. 21  British opposition to French designs on Hainan was clearly expressed in The Hong Kong Weekly Press of 19 February 1898, which in case France would annex Hainan Island threatened with British claims on the valley of the West River (Xijiang, Sikiang). In their competition to control the lines of communication in southwest China, the West River, and also the city of Nanning—the major distributing center for eastern Yunnan and western Guangxi (Kwangsi)—had been an objective for both France and Britain. Since 1895, Britain pushed China to open up the West River inland traffic, which was opposed by France, interested in attracting the trade of southwest China to Tonkin. Young (1970, 88–89). 22  MAE, CPC-193: French Minister Georges Dubail (Beijing) to Foreign Minister Gabriel Hanotaux (Paris), 16 March 1898. 23  MAE, CPC-193: Telegram of Gabriele Hanotaux (Paris) to Georges Dubail (Beijing), 31 March 1898.



depot. (…) It allows us to take the entire bay, what means we establish ourselves on such a point we judge as convenient.”24 Great Britain, France’s major competitor in southwest China, with a two-third of share of China’s total foreign trade, seemed initially less enthusiastic for imperialist expansion. However, the scramble for concessions of the Western powers was regarded by London as severely threatening the stability of China and the Far East. On 19 March 1898, the British government was informed about France’s demands. Three days later, the British Minister at Beijing, Sir Claude Maxwell MacDonald, was instructed to warn the Chinese government that Britain and other powers may make similar demands should China agree to the French claim.25 The Hong Kong Daily Press, on 23 March 1898, severely criticized the French foreign minister for his claim on Kwang-chow-wan, which it interpreted as “preliminary step towards the acquisition of the whole of the [Leizhou] Peninsula, in order to control the trade of the West River.” The article, which the French consul in Hong Kong, Léon-Guillaume Leroux, sent to Hanotaux, warned that if “France endeavours to insist upon the cession of a great strategic port of Kwangtung to herself and makes a further condition that no other Power is to have a similar concession, Great Britain will be obliged to oppose such a condition in toto.”26 It also indicated that Britain would demand a similar compensation from China should France succeed in acquiring Kwang-chow-wan. Pointing to the hostile tone of the press article, Leroux regarded the matter as an expression of FrenchBritish rivalry for dominating southern China.27 After the British government had failed to reach agreement with any of the other powers and failed to convince China to revoke the concessions granted to Germany, Russia, and France, MacDonald was instructed to request compensating concessions. Apart from Weihaiwei in the Chinese province of Shandong, chosen as counterweight to Russian Port Arthur, the minister, on 2 April 1898, also asked for an extension of the boundaries of Hong Kong. This request was the obvious reaction to the French claim on Kwang-chow-wan and also the French demand for a non­alienation 24  MAE, CPC-194: French Minister Georges Dubail (Beijing) to Foreign Minister Gabriel Hanotaux (Paris), 11 April 1898. MacMurray (1921, 124–125), Hudson (1937, 102), Fourniau (2002, 531–532), Vannière (2004, 67–68). 25  Wesley-Smith (1980, 30–31). 26  The Daily Press (Hong Kong), 23 March 1898. 27  MAE, CPC-193: Léon-Guillaume Leroux (Hong Kong) to Foreign Minister Gabriel Hanotaux (Paris), 30 and 31 March 1898.



assurance in relation to Guangdong. This was conceded in the declaration of 10 April 1898 concerning the nonalienation of Chinese territory bordering on Tonkin.28 The French claims provided Britain the opportunity to press demands upon China that had been discussed since 1895. At that time an official report commending an extension and readjustment of the Hong Kong frontier for naval and military reasons met with a divided response due to fears that any action could provoke France to retaliate.29 Therefore, the French lease of Kwang-chow-wan only 210 miles to the southwest of Hong Kong made it necessary and also possible for Britain to launch negotiations with the Chinese government about the lease of additional land to the British colony. On 13 April 1898, MacDonald was charged with demanding five counter concessions from China, of which four were meant to compensate Britain for the advantages France had achieved in South China. In the subsequent Sino-British convention of 9 June 1898, the area that has remained known as the New Territories was regarded as “necessary for the proper defense and protection of the Colony” and leased for a period of 99 years.30 The military takeover of this area was completed in late April 1899 after resistance from local villagers and departing Chinese troops had been quelled by British forces. Formal possession took place on 16 April 1899 when the British flag was hoisted at a ceremony on the newly named Flagstaff Hill in Tai Po—almost one year after the French flag had been set up at Kwang-chow-wan.31 In the meantime, local Chinese resistance to the French armed occupation of April 1898 had proven to be much stronger than expected. Increased fighting and delayed negotiations on demarcation of the ­territory had prompted the governor-general of Indochina, on 4 October 1898, to dispatch colonial troops—two naval infantry companies and a section of mountain artillery—to Kwang-chow-wan. In June 1899, this was increased to a four-company battalion. It repelled additional attacks and occupied other parts of the terri MacMurray (1921, 123).  Young (1970, 87), Wesley-Smith (1980, 43). 30  The grant of Jiaozhou (Kiaochow, Kiautschou)  to Germany was made on 6 March 1898, that of Port Arthur to Russia on 27 March 1898, and that of Kwang-chow-wan to France on 27 May 1898; the lease of Weihaiwei followed on 1 July 1898. The takings on lease marked a new development in the methods of European imperialism in China. For the British chief negotiator MacDonald, the lease of the New Territories of Hong Kong represented a permanent cession in disguise. Hudson (1937, 103), Welsh (1997, 321–326), Tsang (1997, 7–9). 31  MacMurray (1921, 130–131), Young (1970, 85–88), Endacott (1973, 260–265), Wesley-Smith (1980, 45–46, 57–67), Welsh (1997, 317–318), Tsang (1997, 6). 28 29



tory. After negotiations resumed in October 1899, local Chinese resistance was still so fierce that further troops were sent from Indochina. On 12 November 1899, a second battalion and another section of artillery arrived at Fort Bayard to engage in heavy fighting with the Chinese.32 Four days later, a sudden, final agreement was reached on the demarcation of Kwang-chowwan in which concrete outlines and figures were included into the convention of 27 May 1898. With the final convention, signed on 16 November 1899, France clearly had withdrawn from her key territorial demands: the demarked territory was much smaller than expected and difficult to defend. The suddenness of the event meant that reinforcements that had earlier been dispatched from Indochina only landed after the agreement. With the arrival of these troops at Fort Bayard on 25 November 1899, Kwang-­ chow-­ wan reached the climax of French military presence. The Indochina troops safeguarded the final demarcation of the territory, which finished on 10 December 1899. Soon after, on 3 and 4 February 1900, Governor-General Paul Doumer and General Gustavie Borgnis-Desbordes, supreme commander of the troops in Indochina, paid a visit to Kwang-­chow-­wan to gather information on the new territory and to inspect troops (Fig. 9.2).33 For the next two years, Paul Doumer, governor-general of Indochina from 1897 to 1902, and later president of France,34 proved to be the most ardent promoter of Kwang-chow-wan. On 5 January 1900, he placed the entire territory under his authority. Gustave Alby, former naval officer, was appointed the first chief administrator of Kwang-chow-wan (1900–1905). He also became a member of Doumer’s cabinet in Hanoi. With these decisions, France’s territorial acquisition in China was put under complete control of the governor-general of Indochina. Doumer himself made clear his strong interest in developing Kwang-chow-wan into a kind of laboratory for governing Chinese people that might become useful for the later  Vannière (2004, 75–104).  In his study on Kwang-chow-wan of 1931, Captain Alfred Bonningue, of Indochina’s colonial infantry, points to the visit in February 1900 of Governor-General Doumer and General Borgnis-Desbordes during which it was allegedly decided to gradually reduce the number of occupation troops in the following four years. He does not mention Doumer’s plan to develop Kwang-chow-wan into a French naval hub. The stated numbers of troops withdrawn from Kwang-chow-wan until 1906 give the impression that such reduction was long planned in advance, which contradicts with actual events. Bonningue (1931, 22). 34  Biographical details of Paul Doumer (1857–1932) are in  Dictionnaire de Biographie Française (1967, vol. 11, 681–684); Dictionnaire des Ministres de 1789 à 1989 (1990, 441). A comprehensive study of Doumer’s term as governor-general of Indochina (1897–1902) is Lorin (2004). 32




Fig. 9.2  A lodge of non-commissioned officers in Fort Bayard, Kwang-chowwan, ca. 1904. (Private collection Bert Becker.)

domination of the Chinese province of Yunnan, which was in the center of his ambitious projects. Furthermore, the new territory was foreseen to become an important trading center for its neighbouring regions in the southern Chinese provinces Guangdong (Kwangtung) and Guangxi (Kwangsi) and also the valley of the West River (Xijiang, Sikiang) after commercial flows had been redirected to it. In this respect, Doumer’s plans strongly reflected the aggressive and competitive expansionism of foreign powers in China of the years around the turn of the century.35

The Kwang-Chow-Wan Postal Steamer Service (1900–1904) To efficiently link the new territory to Indochina, Doumer, on 27 January 1900, called for tenders for the operation of a subsidized  maritime postal service from Haiphong to Kwang-chow-wan.36 The service was meant to tie Kwang-chow-wan to Haiphong, the main port in northern Indochina, by  Doumer (1902, 117, 120), Fourniau (2002, 534–539).  ANOM, INDO-GGI-3388: Paul Doumer (Hanoi), 27 January 1900: Decree for call for tenders for the operation of a maritime postal service from Haiphong to Kwang-chow-wan. 35 36



safeguarding swift and reliable shipping connections. The route, with stopovers at the Chinese ports of Beihai (Pakhoi) and Haikou (Hoihow), was to cover a distance of 138.66 sea miles (210.76 km). On 21 March 1900, a seven-member official commission reconvened in Haiphong to examine the eight offers that had been received for the service. With the others regarded as risky, two local companies, Marty et d’Abbadie and Roque Brothers (Roque Frères), emerged as frontrunners, but the former’s scheme promising high  security and regularity of the service was viewed as more  advantageous than the 20 percent lower subsidy requested by its main competitor.37 With this clear vote for Marty et d’Abbadie, the path was open to further discussions during which the company not only agreed to the proposed price reduction (finally fixed to 22 francs per actual traveled sea mile) but also the French navy’s right to transport personnel and cargoes on the route with vessels of its own choice.38 Apart from this exception, Marty et d’Abbadie, with the governor-general of Indochina agreeing to reserve all its transports to the subsidized steamer of the company, had the monopoly on the route between Haiphong and Kwang-­chow-­wan for which the subsidy was paid; the government promised not to subsidize any competitor on the route. The contract stipulated return voyages once every fortnight, with the option of extending the route to Hong Kong and back as long as the regular service between Haiphong and Kwang-chow-wan would not suffer from the detour.39 The joint company Marty et d’Abbadie (Societé Marty et d’Abbadie), founded in 1886 in colonial Haiphong, was one of the most important enterprises in French Indochina. Its principal owner, a French pioneer in East Asia, was Auguste Raphael Marty, born on 17 August 1841 in Porta, Eastern Pyrenees, south of Bordeaux. He arrived in Hong Kong in December 1867 to inherit his late uncle’s estate. In 1871, the firm of A. R. Marty & Co. was listed as commission agent at 92 Queen’s Road, Central, trading in Japanese goods and making it one of the earliest trading houses in Hong Kong.40 New business for Marty loomed with the  ANOM, INDO-GGI 3388: Protocol of commission session of 21 March 1900.  Such a clause for military transports in which the navy reserved this option was common and also applied in the case of the German postal-steamer line in northern China that had been launched two years earlier to connect Germany’s leasehold of Jiaozhou (Kiaochow) with Shanghai and northern Chinese ports. Becker (2009, 208). 39  ANOM, INDO-GGI-3388: Mr. Brou, Director of Post and Telegraphy (Hanoi), to Marty et d’Abbadie (Haiphong), 30 April 1900; Agreement on executing a maritime postal service between Haiphong and Kwang-chow-wan, issued at Hanoi, 1 June 1900. 40  Hong Kong Government Gazette, 25 February 1871: Jury List for 1871, 82; Centre des Archives diplomatiques de Nantes (CADN) Consulat Hong Kong: Série I 3 B: Confidential note on August Raphael Marty, in Letter of Consul Léon-Guillaume Leroux 37 38



Sino-French War (1883–1885), when his company appears to have made a fortune by supplying French troops during the campaign in Tonkin. With the Treaty of Tianjin (9 June 1885) requiring China to give up its sovereignty over Annam and Tonkin and to accept a French protectorate over the central and northern Vietnamese regions, an important geopolitical change took place at the border of southwest China. The main attraction of the Chinese provinces bordering Tonkin was their supposedly large and prosperous population, which was thought to constitute a potentially important market for French industry.41 Such prospects provided a huge stimulus for French trading and shipping activities in Tonkin’s main port Haiphong, of which Marty considerably profited after he established Marty et d’Abbadie with his associate, Édouard Jules d’Abbadie (1853– 1904), who arrived in Haiphong on 3 May 1884. D’Abbadie was born on 18 June 1853  in Tonnay-Charente, north of Bordeaux, and came to Haiphong as an employee of E. Constantin, who ran his own trading firm there. On 11 September 1886, Marty and D’Abbadie, as principal owners, established the joint company under their names, and it was situated close to the French naval workshops (Fig. 9.3).42 The joint company was founded after winning the subsidy contract of the governor-general of Indochina for operating the Subsidized River Shipping Service of Tonkin (Le Service subventionné des Correspondances fluviales du Tonkin), which was operated for twenty years by Marty et d’Abbadie.43 Besides running shipbuilding workshops (Hong Kong) to Foreign Minister Théophile Delcassé (Paris), 3 Auguste 1898; Hong Kong Public Record Office (HKPRO), CSI: CS/I013/00124682.GIF. 41  Cady (1967, 29–38), Lee (1989, 12–15), Brötel (1996, 223–340), Hsü (2000, 189–192). 42  Documentation on Marty et d’Abbadie and the firm’s principal owners is available in Le Courrier d’Haiphong: Supplement 1886–1895 au Millieme Numero du Journal (1895, 7–8),  Dubois (1900, 288–301, Bulletin Trimestriel de la Société Amicale des Anciens Tonkinois, (1940, no. 9: P. D. (Le Courrier d’Haiphong), Un de créateurs de Haiphong, 8–12), Raffi (1994, vol. 1, 182–183, 217, 304), Becker (2015, 570–572). 43  The service began operations on 16 October 1886 on a ten-year contract expiring on 1 January 1897 (renewed once), mainly shipping cargoes and passengers along the northern Vietnamese coast and on the Red River, the main river of Tonkin, and its tributaries, the River Claire and the Black River. Since Édouard Jules d’Abbadie died in 1904, Marty, in August 1907, had the joint company’s name “Marty et d’Abbadie” formally deleted from the registers and replaced with the name “A. R. Marty.” Vietnamese National Archives One



Fig. 9.3  The main offices of the River Shipping Service of Tonkin (Marty et d’Abbadie) in Haiphong, with the landing place for the company’s river steamships, ca. 1900. (Private collection Bert Becker.)

(Ateliers de ­constructions navales) and a service of public works (Service des Travaux publics), Marty et d’Abbadie, in 1893, established the Tonkin Shipping Company (Compagnie de Navigation Tonkinoise) after the acquisition of two medium-sized British-built merchant steamers named the Hanoi, of 658 tons, and the Hongkong, of 738 tons. With these vessels and also temporarily chartered Danish and German steamers, the firm began operating the shipping route between Haiphong and Hong Kong. This service, partly under the French flag but entirely under French management, was the only one of its kind on the China coast at the time, and it worked, until 1900, without government aid. It played a crucial role in fostering France’s political and (VNA1), Service de l’Énregistrement, des Douanes et du Timbre de l’Indochine, no. 10534: Auguste Raphael Marty (Haiphong) to Director-General of Finances and Accounts of Indochina (Hanoi), 7 August 1907.



Fig. 9.4  An ocean-going steamer (with stars on the funnel) of the Tonkin Shipping Company (Marty et d’Abbadie) in Haiphong port, ca. 1900. (Private collection Bert Becker.)

economic interests in South China. With the establishment of the subsidized Kwang-chow-wan postal-steamer service in 1900, it directly served France’s imperialist-colonialist ambitions in the wider Gulf of Tonkin region (Fig. 9.4). The Kwang-chow-wan postal-steamer service was inaugurated on 16 June 1900 with the first departure of the Hué from Haiphong.44 Coming from the Tonkin Shipping Company’s fleet, the steamer had been chosen by the governor-general because it had special installations that offered a far higher standard of comfort for passengers and the transportation of troops compared to other merchant vessels. The Hué shipped mainly military personnel and supplies in addition to a variety of goods and was the most important traffic link  ANOM, INDO-GGI-3390: Announcement by A. R. Marty (Haiphong), undated. The Hué, of 703 tons, launched in June 1888 by the British shipyard Hawthorn, Leslie & Co. Ltd. in Newcastle-on-Tyne and previously named the Cass, serviced a Chinese trading house before Marty purchased the ship in 1898. In the same year, two other used Chinese steam coasters, the Hoihow (formerly Fokien), of 508 tons, and the Haeting (formerly Smith), of 705 tons, were added to his fleet. A list of Marty’s vessels is in The Chronicle & Directory for China, Japan, Corea, Indo-China, Straits Settlements, Malay States, Siam, Netherlands India, Borneo, The Philippines, & c. for the Year 1899. Hong Kong: The “Daily Press” Office, 589–590. 44



to the new French territory. There the outpost of the Reserve Brigade of the Occupation Corps of China, headquartered in Haiphong, was based. Among other military facilities, the Reserve Brigade consisted of an artillery battery and an infantry battalion, effectively making Kwang-chow-wan a French military base in South China. This function, according to Marty et d’Abbadie, brought about considerable traffic for the transport of military staff as well as military supplies and other materials destined for Kwang-chow-wan.45 The opening of the Kwang-chow-wan postal-steamer line, equipped with a ten-year subsidy contract, was a clear reflection of Doumer’s keen interest in developing the territory into a military, economic, and cultural outpost of Indochina. After Kwang-chow-wan was declared a free port in 1900, it was obvious that a commercial profile equal to Hong Kong was also projected for the territory. In this respect, the postal-steamer service clearly served France’s imperialist political and economic goals but also the country’s prestige in China. This peculiar psychological factor was common in the period of imperialist rivalries and has been well described as “flag sentimentality.”46 In French consular and business correspondence and also newspaper articles from the Tonkin press published before the First World War, the tricolor flag flying on French ships was often quoted as a symbol of France’s prestige and of her power in China. In July 1901, Kwang-chow-wan’s chief administrator Gustave Alby made clear to the Chinese trading company J. Charles et Cie. in Haiphong that the port of Kwang-chow-wan was “open to all ships without distinction of the flag, and that all stopover services which could be established there are reassured of receiving the most favourable welcome.”47 With such an announcement, there were high hopes that Kwang-chow-wan with its free port would develop into a trading and shipping center similar to Hong Kong, offering lucrative opportunities for the Kwang-chow-wan postal-steamer service beyond its prime occupation of shipping mail, troops, and their equipment to and from the territory. However, on the one hand, the competitive situation for the company’s steamer was even more intense on the extension route from Kwang-chow-wan to Hong Kong and back for which the Tonkin Shipping Company did not receive any subsidy. On the other hand, this run was more profitable because of 45  ANOM, INDO-GGI-3400: Marty et d’Abbadie (Haiphong) to the Governor-General of Indochina (Hanoi), 18 April 1906. 46  Eversheim (1958, 58). 47  ANOM, INDO-GGI-23450: Gustave Alby (Kwang-chow-wan) to Messrs. J. Charles & Cie, Merchants (Haiphong), 8 July 1901.



the strong commercial flows between the British colony and the French territory. Apart from competition of vessels flying the German, British, Chinese, and other flags, of which most were Chinese junks, the French flag was also present on that route. The Frenchman Louis Sculfort had been the initiator and owner of the Hong Kong—Kwang-chow-wan service that was inaugurated on 14 February 1900 with the small steamer Nau Chau; the service was soon later taken over by his business associate Paul Lemaire, based in Guangzhou.48 With Lemaire’s and Marty’s steamers frequently calling the British port, the number of vessels flying the French flag slightly increased to five ships, totalling 10,000 tons, in 1902. According to information of the French consulate in Hong Kong, this positive development was particularly due to Marty and his Kwang-chow-­ wan postal-steamer service.49

Abandoning Kwang-Chow-Wan as French Naval Hub (1904–1906) March 1902 saw Paul Beau, Doumer’s successor, arriving in Indochina, and the new governor-general followed a drastically less expansionist policy in South China.50 However, he promised to continue projects that had been started by his predecessor Doumer. The project to develop Kwangchow-wan into a naval hub was not abandoned and continued even into late 1902 and early 1903. However, France’s national elections in the spring of 1902 were a turning point. The results were a great victory for the Leftists, and when Emile Combes formed his cabinet in June 1902, it 48  ANOM, INDO-GGI-5087: Louis Sculfort, French-Chinese Syndicate (Hong Kong) to Governor-General Paul Doumer (Hanoi), 25 February 1900. ANOM, INDO-GGI-55365: Governor-General Paul Doumer (Hanoi) to Consul Léon-Guillaume Leroux (Hong Kong), 9 November 1900. 49  Réau (1903, 452).  In his intelligence report of June 1901, British consul Werner in Qiongzhou (Kiungchow) pointed to strong opposition existing in “Marty’s monopoly” and the increasing share taken by German steamer in the carrying trade of the Gulf of Tonkin region. The remark clearly shows that Marty’s postal steamer encountered severe competition from other flags on the route between Kwang-chow-wan and Hong Kong. TNA, FO 228-1405: Kiungchow Intelligence Report, June Quarter 1901. 50  Bulletin du Comité de L’Asie Française, 1902, October, no. 19: “Arrivée de M. Beau à Saigon.” Biographical details of Paul Beau (1857–1926) are in Dictionnaire de Biographie Française (1951,  vol. 5, 1043–1044), in Dictionnaire de Bio-Bibliographie Générale, Ancienne et Moderne de l’Indochine Française (1935, 26), and in Dictionnaire du corps diplomatique et consulaire français en Chine (1840–1911) (2003, 26–29).



was the most leftist in the history of the Third Republic. Belonging to the extreme Leftist Radicals was Camille Pelletan, who took over the navy ministry, launching the reorientation of French naval policy in the Far East. His ultimate political goal was to convert the French navy into a model costeffective republican state service with an emphasis on a defensive strategy.51 France’s plans for Kwang-chow-wan were rapidly revised, reflecting Pelletan’s new political line. In January 1903, Governor-­General Beau decreed the creation of a special port committee of the Haiphong Chamber of Commerce that was charged with making detailed proposals for urgent improvement works of the Haiphong  harbour entrance.52 In February 1903, General Pierre-Guillaume-Paul Coronnat,53 supreme commander of the colonial troops of Indochina, was sent to inspect Kwang-chow-wan. His visit led to a decision being made: plans for the further fortification and development of the territory were to be abandoned. The unexpected move was greatly criticized in the Tonkin press, and in late February 1903, they accused the navy ministry of making politics in France but being unprepared for a possible war.54 Yet the final phase of Kwang-chow-wan’s military role in the defense of Indochina came the year after, with the apparent repercussions of the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905). Although France’s support for Russia 51  Biographical details of Camille Pelletan (1846–1915) are in Dictionnaire de la Politique Française (1972, vol. 2, 530), and Dictionnaire des Ministres de 1789 à 1989 (1990, 565). According to the journal La Dépêche de Toulouse, organ of the Radicals’ leftist wing, Pelletan was the incarnation of the Left. Mayeur (1984, p. 189). A comprehensive study of Pelletan’s political career is Stone (1996). On Pelletan’s naval strategy, see Walser (1992, 113–125); Halpern (2001, 44–46).  52  Le Courrier d’Haiphong, 15 January 1903; Bulletin du Comité de L’Asie Française, 1903, March, no. 24: “Le port de Haiphong.” Similar efforts were made in the port of Saigon where in September 1903 more than seven hundred workers were employed day and night to facilitate the access to the harbour. Bulletin du Comité de L’Asie Française, 1903, December, no. 33: “Les travaux du port de Saigon.” 53  Pierre-Guillaume-Paul Coronnat (1845–1909) commanded the Cochin China Brigade in 1895–1896 before being appointed to general of division (12 August 1900). He was charged with the superior command of the Indochina troops (7 July 1902), and returned to France in 1906. Biographical details of Coronnat are in Dictionnaire de Bio-Bibliographie Générale, Ancienne et Moderne de l’Indochine Française (1935, 97). 54  Le Courrier d’Haiphong, 27 January 1903, 17 February 1903, and  28 February 1903. Detailed background information: PAAA, R 19420: Report on the journey to French Indochina of Baron von Ritter zu Grünsteyn, First Lieutenant of Baden Artillery Grenadier Regiment No. 109, detached to the German Embassy (Tokyo), 30 March 1903; Consul Dr. Emil Heintges (Saigon) to Chancellor Bernhard Count von Bülow (Berlin), 21 April 1903.



during the war was mostly financial and logistical, French political and military circles became increasingly concerned about the danger of a possible Japanese attack on French Indochina. In February 1904, after Japanese forces had bottled up the Russian fleet at Port Arthur, French public opinion reacted nervously, warning of immediate dangers for French Indochina should Japan establish herself as a first-class naval power, and soon such fears manifested themselves as the “yellow danger,” the term appearing in French newspapers. Ideas for the defense of Indochina were brought forward by the Committee of French East Asia (Comité de L’Asie Française), an organization of French colonial lobbyists concerned with Indochina.55 In February 1904, their monthly press organ demanded that mobile defenses and a naval base for the East Asia Squadron should be created in the colony. This was to be located between the main positions of such defenses, thus somewhere on the coast between Halong Bay and Saigon.56 Earlier projects in Kwang-chow-wan, in Tourane (the port city now known as Da Nang on the central Vietnamese coast), or at other locations were shelved as such scattered ports would not compensate for the numerical inferiority of France’s squadrons and could only be defended with a French fleet superior to its opponent.57 With such frank recommendations, it was clear that the colonial lobby had decided the defense of Indochina’s mainland was its first priority. Consequently, Kwang-chow-wan as a defendable military outpost had to make way for the protection of Indochina. After Japanese forces had occupied Dalian and commenced their siege of Port Arthur on 30 May 1904, French public opinion was much concerned with the situation in East Asia and especially the security of Indochina. With the transfer of almost all troops from Kwang-chow-wan to Tonkin, final preparations were made to strengthen the defense of Indochina and to relinquish the territory as a military outpost of the colony. In October 1904, the major part of the Reserve Brigade of the 55  In the leading article on the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War of Bulletin du Comité de L’Asie Française, the anonymous writer (which was its editor Robert de Caix) warned of Japan as being capable of fighting against the biggest powers. With respect to Indochina, he called for the creation of a military force with sufficient strength to repel any forces appearing around the colony. De Caix also hinted to the potential danger of Japan allying herself with the Chinese or even the local Vietnamese against the European colonial powers in Asia, including France. Bulletin du Comité de L’Asie Française, no. 35, 1904, February: “La Guerre.” 56  Xieng-La (1904, 88). 57  Barnère (1904, 142–146).



Occupation Corps of China was withdrawn from Kwang-chow-wan, affecting three out of four infantry companies and leaving only an artillery section in the territory.58 Where once there had been 1,000 soldiers, this number was reduced drastically to a mere 150, representing a decrease of 85 percent of troops.59

The Decline of the Kwang-Chow-Wan Postal Steamer Service (1904–1910) Kwang-chow-wan’s slowdown in shipping, after the withdrawal of most of its troops, was reflected in the number of steamships calling and clearing the port of the territory. Compared to the previous year, the overall number of steam vessels, in 1904, fell by 3.52 percent and their tonnage by more than 20 percent, including the months November and December of this year after most troops had departed the territory. In 1905, the total number of steamships dropped further by 25 percent with their tonnage decreasing by almost 8 percent compared to the previous year.60 The withdrawal of troops had a grave impact on the Tonkin Shipping Company, which saw itself faced with loss of profits after passengers and cargoes destined to and from Kwang-chow-wan were significantly reduced. According to Marty et d’Abbadie, the transportation of troops and their 58  Bonningue (1931, 22). The author notes that the only artillery section left at Kwangchow-wan was transferred to Tonkin in 1906. 59  Territoire de Kouang-Tchéou (Chine) (51).  In his detailed report of February 1905, German consul Hans von Varchmin at Beihai, referring to the drastic reduction of FrenchIndochinese troops of Kwang-chow-wan, pointed to the fact that the remaining troops represented an “unimportant military power” merely needed for the defense of the territory against an outer enemy. He found it remarkable that French government circles were “apparently completely indifferent to Kwang-chow-wan’s importance for the French navy and also to the territory’s military-political significance.” PAAA, Peking II-72: Consul Hans von Varchmin (Pakhoi) to Chancellor Bernhard Count von Bülow (Berlin), 18 February 1905. A few months later, the consul reported that Kwang-chow-wan was entirely disregarded in any discussions in French Indochina about the defense of the colony: “The French defense zone’s borderline at the eastern coast is Haiphong and neighbouring Halong Bay.” PAAA, Peking II-72: Consul Hans von Varchmin (Pakhoi) to Minister Alfons Mumm von Schwarzenstein (Beijing), 15 August 1905. The Tonkin press, in February 1907, announced “as almost certain” that the troops at Kwang-chow-wan, about 80–90 in number, were to be entirely withdrawn. TNA, FO 228-1663: Pakhoi Intelligence Report, 1907 March Quarter. 60  Territoire de Kouang-Tchéou (Chine) (49).



equipment to and from the French territory had constituted the only profitable element of the Kwang-chow-wan postal-steamer service.61 The fall in shipping directly impacted the overall value of imports and exports of Kwang-chow-wan in 1904, which decreased by almost 23 percent compared to the previous year; the downward trend accelerated in the following year with a decrease of almost 27 percent compared to the year before. In its official 1906 report on Kwang-chow-wan, the governor-­ general of Indochina observed that Kwang-chow-wan’s commercial transactions had progressed consistently until 1904, when they had been disrupted by the Russo-Japanese War. Although initially accounting for the decline of Kwang-chow-wan’s trade on the measures taken by Chinese authorities in neighbouring ports, the report admits, in a footnote, that the reduction of troops was responsible for such an outcome.62 Such unexpected and short-term political-strategic causes contributing to the decline of Kwang-chow-wan were enhanced by long-term structural factors. Unlike what Doumer had expected, the commercial development of the French leased territory went into a different and extremely one-sided direction, increasingly tied to Hong Kong, not Indochina. Three principal causes were responsible for this imbalance, as Antoine Vannière points out: Firstly, goods exchanged between Indochina and Kwang-chow-wan were free of import and export taxes when shipped entirely duty-free via Hong Kong or Macao. Secondly, there was the lack of monetary compatibility between Indochina and Kwang-chow-wan as business transactions in the latter were conducted only in Chinese currency, not the Indochinese piaster. Thirdly, since the entire trading sector of Kwang-chow-wan was dominated by Chinese merchants acting as agents of Chinese companies based in Hong Kong, Macao, or Canton, the economic links of the French territory to ports in the Pearl River Delta were naturally very close.63 It should be added that in terms of economic exchanges, Kwang-chow-­ wan and Haiphong, the port of Indochina closest to the territory, had generally very little to exchange with each other due to the almost identical economic structures of their respective hinterlands. A very large amount of exports of Tonkin, consisting mainly of rice and other agricultural goods and shipped from Haiphong, went to the entrepôt of Hong Kong from where it was transported further into China or to other East 61  ANOM, INDO-GGI-3400: Marty et d’Abbadie (Haiphong) to the Governor-General of Indochina (Hanoi), 24 August 1906. 62  Territoire de Kouang-Tchéou (Chine) (51). 63  Vannière (2004, 135–136).



Asian destinations. Most exports channelled through Kwang-chow-wan from the Chinese provinces of Kwantung and Kwangsi, mostly agricultural produce and some processed goods, were directed to the British colony with its large free port, or to Singapore and Macao, but not to Haiphong, which was heavily burdened by customs fees imposed by French Indochina. In the other direction, Kwang-chow-wan imported most of its needs from the British colony, predominantly opium, cotton yarns, wood, matches, and even rice as re-exports from Indochina.64 The commercial flows demonstrated how closely entwined were these two territories of the French and British empires, even with Kwang-chow-wan merely playing the role of a rather minor port in the Chinese hinterland of Hong Kong.65 The year 1904 proved disastrous also in other respects for Marty et d’Abbadie. On 24 May 1904, the Tonkin Shipping Company’s steamer Hoihow ran aground in the Hainan Strait. After discharging her cargo, the ship later sunk in deep water, and attempts to salvage the wrecked vessel were unsuccessful.66 The loss of the Hoihow meant that the strength of Marty et d’Abbadie’s ocean-going fleet was decreased to five steamships. The next disaster struck on 26 December 1904 when Édouard Jules d’Abbadie suddenly passed away in Haiphong at the age of 51. With his death, the company lost important connections within the major business and political circles of northern French Indochina. D’Abbadie had been a member of the Council of the Protectorate of Annam-Tonkin—the local advisory chamber of the Protectorate composed of both natives and Frenchmen—and of the Haiphong Chamber of Commerce, even tempo64  In 1902, total exports of Kwang-chow-wan had the value of 1,287,370 piasters and total imports of 4,040,902 piasters. Of the total exports, the share of Hong Kong, Singapore, and Macao was 845,137 piasters (65.65 percent). Of the total imports, the share of Hong Kong was 3,255,526 piasters (80.56 percent), while the share of Haiphong was 208,251 piasters (5.15 percent). Bulletin du Comité de L’Asie Française, no. 28: July 1903, 308: “La situation économique de Kouang-tchéou-ouan.” It should be added that opium smuggling, predominantly carried out on Chinese junks and evidently not included in official trade statistics, played a major role for Kwang-chow-wan’s domestic economy. The opium was either produced inside the territory by licensed opium factories or came from Yunnan via Tonkin to Kwang-chow-wan and Hong Kong. Fourniau (2002, 537–539), Vannière (2004, 191–220).  65  According to information of British consul Victor Laurent Salvage in Qiongzhou who, in spring 1906, met with Kwang-chow-wan’s chief administrator Fernand Gautret (1905– 1908), the territory was “commercially a failure.” TNA, FO 228–1630: Kiungchow Intelligence Report, March Quarter 1906. 66  The Hong Kong Telegraph, South China Morning Post, The China Mail (Hong Kong), all dated 25 May 1904.



rarily serving as its vice president and president—67 but left little capital behind. According to Marty, his partner “was without fortune but with some debts” and he was obliged to provide 125,000 piasters to D’Abbadie’s wife and four children.68 This was a considerable drain from the company’s accounts and from that point on, Marty had to manage the firm on his own. After the withdrawal of troops from Kwang-chow-wan in October 1904, it soon became clear that the Kwang-chow-wan postal-steamer service was becoming a heavy financial burden for the Tonkin Shipping Company. According to Marty, in 1904, the overall profits of the Hué fell by 45,000 dollars. When losses extended into the following year, the company requested Governor-General Beau to provide financial compensation. The request was deemed valid, but Beau was unable to grant it as the 1906 budget for Indochina had already been drawn up, recommending that the company submit a fresh application, which would be approved in 1907. Annual profits of the Hué were reduced by 60,000 dollars in 1905 and also in 1906. In April 1906, the company wrote to Beau with suggestions for the extension, with immediate effect, of the subsidized service up to Hong Kong and also to add two years to the current subsidy contract. Receiving no reply, they sent a reminder in August 1906, writing of “the precarious circumstances done to our steamer Hué.”69 This time, the government-­general looked into the matter considering that “there is an unquestionable political interest to favour the shipping company which carries the French flag the most honorably in this part of the China Seas.”70 In spite of this, the administration finally decided the reduced transportation of troops did not give the company a right to any compensation. Additionally, with Kwang-chow-wan regularly served every week by two or three steamers having their port-of-call in Hong Kong, the requested  subsidy to extend the postal-steamer service to the British 67  Le Courrier d’Haiphong, 28 December 1904: “La mort de M. d’Abbadie.” ANOM, Actes de L’État Civil  – Décès [Entry in the Civil Register  – Deaths], Tonkin, Haiphong, 1904–1905: Jules d’Abbadie. He was also a member of the central French Committee of the 1902 Hanoi Exhibition presenting agricultural and industrial products and was temporarily  president of Haiphong’s local riding association. L’Avenir du Tonkin  (Hanoi), 29 December 1904. 68  ANOM, INDO-GGI-3402: Auguste Raphael Marty (Haiphong) to Governor-General Paul Beau (Hanoi), 8 December 1907. 69  ANOM, INDO-GGI-3400: Marty et d’Abbadie (Haiphong) to the Governor-General of Indochina (Hanoi), 18 April 1906 and 24 August 1906. 70  ANOM, INDO-GGI-3400: Administrative Service of the Government-General of Indochina (Hanoi) to the Governor-General of Indochina, 5 October 1906.



colony was seen as groundless. The governor-general concluded that an additional subsidy would only be of benefit to the company.71 In early 1908, the government-general made clear that a further subsidy for Marty was “unrealisable in the current state of the budget of Indochina.”72 The governor-­general decided neither to pay any compensation for the financial losses of the Tonkin Shipping Company (the governor-general was not legally required to) nor to grant a new subsidy for the shipping route between Kwang-chow-wan and Hong Kong. The Kwang-chow-wan postal-steamer service’s continuing financial losses also demonstrate the more general problem of transport services that are contractually required to operate on fixed schedules. Even with little or no cargoes and passengers available at ports, the postal steamer is forced to adhere to its timetable to safeguard the regular and punctual transportation of mail. This restricts the shipping company’s ability to take advantage of market opportunities or strike up profitable business deals whenever they turn up and, in turn, forces it to reduce the running costs of the postal steamer as much as possible. It often results in saving expenditures for the ship itself, for its crew, or for passenger services on board.73 The Kwang-chow-wan postal-steamer line can serve as a typical example. Writing from Beihai in early 1910, the French vice-consul, observing Marty’s postal steamer Hanoi calling the port, reported that “by the nature itself of its service, the postal ship is compelled to a regularity which is a hindrance to the good commercial operation of the line.” He further remarked that foreign shipping companies, especially German ones, being acquainted with the Hanoi’s schedule, would often send their vessels to the port one or two days in advance of the steamer’s arrival to take away lucrative freights.74 In view of his line’s worsening financial situation, Marty reduced the services for passengers on board his vessels to save costs. 71  ANOM, INDO-GGI-3400: The Inspector-General, Director-General of Post and Telegraphs of Indochina (Hanoi) to the Secretary-General of Indochina (Hanoi), 13 June 1906; Administrative Service of the Government-General of Indochina (Hanoi) to the Governor-General of Indochina (Hanoi), 5 October 1906;  Édouard Broni, GovernorGeneral of Indochina p. i. (Hanoi) to Marty et d’Abbadie (Haiphong), 8 October 1906. 72  ANOM, INDO-GGI-3402: Administrative Service of the Government-General of Indochina (Saigon) to the Director of Agriculture, Forests and Trade (Hanoi), 17 January 1908. 73  Sturmey (2010, 25–26), Thieß (1907, 103). 74  MAE, CPC-551: Vice-Consul Amédée Guibert (Beihai) to Governor-General Antony Klobokowski (Hanoi), 6 January 1910.



Repositioning Shipping Services Between Indochina and Hong Kong (1910–1923) In view of the looming expiry of the ten-year subsidy contract of the Tonkin Shipping Company for the Kwang-chow-wan postal-steamer service, the Hanoi Chamber of Commerce, in May 1909, led the public discussion and proposed the establishment of a regular line from Haiphong to Shanghai. It would be served by fast steamers, quickly transporting the mail bound for Paris on the Siberian Railway and increasing the exports of Indochinese products to the Shanghai market. In addition to the Messageries Maritimes mail liners already plying between Hong Kong and Shanghai, the new line would increase shipping services under the French flag on this route. While Tonkin business circles welcomed the idea of improved transport services, the local press criticized the estimated subsidy amount of around 1.2 million francs and pointing out that, due to time constraints in Hong Kong, cargoes from Indochina could not be charged or discharged during stopovers at this important port. To speed up the line, the press suggested permitting the Tonkin Shipping Company to establish a direct link between Haiphong and Hong Kong in weekly or biweekly intervals, without making any stopovers on the route. This would allow passengers and mail to catch the Messageries Maritimes mail liners leaving Hong Kong for Shanghai. The Tonkin press stated that such an arrangement would mean a considerably smaller subsidy than the one proposed for the extended line to Shanghai.75 The public discussion of 1909 also showed that the stopover at Kwang-chow-wan did not play any role for French residents in Indochina but that direct links between Haiphong and Hong Kong were at the top of the agenda. The views of the press were generally supported by the new governor-­ general of Indochina, Antony Klobukowski,76 with the important exception that the postal steamers of the revised service should also call Kwang-­chow-­wan on a biweekly basis. Having learned that the subsidy for Messageries Maritimes for the Hong Kong-Shanghai service was due to expire in 1912, and that the Messageries was interested in launching an extended line in the Gulf of Tonkin, the governor-general was prepared to  L’Avenir du Tonkin, 9 and 14 May, 7–8 June, 28 October 1909.  Biographical details of Antony Wladislas Klobukowski (1855–1934) and his term as governor-general of French Indochina (1908–1911) can be found in Dictionnaire de biobibliographie générale ancienne et moderne en l’Indochine française (1935, 213–214). 75 76



grant a new contract for only two years for Haiphong-Hong Kong service.77 Klobukowski’s arrival in October 1908 roughly coincided with that of Paul-Edgard Dufrenil, the new chief administrator of Kwang-chow-­ wan. Detailing Dufrenil’s future tasks in the territory, Klobukowski emphasized that Kwang-chow-wan had to be kept going “under honourable conditions” and that it was necessary to give the impression to the local Chinese and to the Chinese authorities in the vicinity that the ­territory had “a very great value” for France.78 The colonial ministry in Paris went even further, asking the governor-general not to demolish the vacated military buildings in Kwang-chow-wan as it was feared that it would upset the Chinese and possibly weaken French influence in the region.79 In view of these political considerations along with the restricted budget of Indochina, Klobukowski finally approved the biweekly stopover at Kwang-chow-wan for the new Haiphong-Hong Kong line in the autumn of 1909.80 Although it meant better connections for mail, passengers, and cargo bound to and from Hong Kong, it also brought an end to any stopovers in Beihai and Haikou. The cuts in funding for various projects after the abolishment of France’s imperialist designs were finally felt among the small local French communities in the region. Although Marty had the support of the Tonkin press, which praised his efforts in representing the French flag in the Gulf of Tonkin, it was the French East Asiatic Company (Compagnie de l’Est Asiatique française)81 77  ANOM, INDO-GGI-3403: The Chief Director of the Post and Telegraphs Service of Tonkin charged with the expedition of matters of the Direction-General (Hanoi) to the Governor-General (Saigon), 2 December 1909. 78   ANOM, INDO-GGI-2376-2: Governor-General Antony Klobukowski (Hanoi) to Paul-Edgard Dufrenil, Chief Administrator of Kwang-chow-wan, 11 December 1908. In his address delivered before the Superior Council (Conseil Supérieur) of Saigon, in November 1909, the new governor-general summed up his goals for Kwang-chow-wan, as follows: “In short, it is our duty to make trial on this territory, where our first experiences have not proved of too happy a nature, of improvements of an economic and moral order from which France may some day reap a meed of honour.” Le Courrier d’Haiphong, 27 November 1909; TNA, FO-228-1762: Pakhoi Intelligence Report, 1909 December Quarter, with English translation of Klobukowski’s speech. 79  ANOM, INDO-GGI-2376-2: General Lasserre, Director of Military Services, on behalf of the Colonial Minister and by order (Paris) to the Governor-General of Indochina (Hanoi), 6 May 1909. 80  Bulletin du Comité de L’Asie Française, no. 103, 1909, October:  “Le Service Haiphong-Hongkong.” 81  L’Avenir du Tonkin, 9 May 1909. The French East Asiatic Company, a subsidiary of the Danish-owned East Asiatic Company (EAC), was founded in Paris in 1902 by a group of



that won the new subsidy contract in March 1910. In French Indochina, the French East Asiatic Company was agent for the Messageries Maritimes. To give its principals a better position in future negotiations regarding subsidized services in East Asia, the French East Asiatic Company wanted to bring the line between Haiphong and Hong Kong under its own management. Although Marty purportedly had been promised by the governor-­general of Indochina to have his contract extended, he was given a rude shock when competitors appeared and demanded that the service be put to auction. When the governor-general finally conceded to such requests, three firms submitted offers, of which the French East Asiatic Company proved to be the most economical one.82 Marty, as he later stated, had to accept his defeat.83 The French East Asiatic Company’s contract stipulated a biweekly service between Haiphong and Hong Kong, with a stopover at Kwang-chow-­ wan, to be made in fifty-three hours in order to provide the immediate connection with Messageries Maritimes liners bound for Shanghai. For its service, the French East Asiatic Company was granted a yearly subsidy of about 230,000 francs in view of the longer distances, in comparison to the route that had been formerly served by Marty et d’Abbadie (160,000 francs annually). The new subsidy covered the entire route to Hong Kong via Kwang-­chow-­wan, thus combining the former independent lines of Marty et d’Abbadie and Paul Lemaire. However, Beihai and Haikou were no longer ports of call. This was criticized in the Tonkin press. It was seen as neglecting French interests in the region: local French communities were no longer connected with each other and Indochina by a regular French and Danish businessmen with the active support of Princess Marie of Denmark (the wife of Prince Valdemar, a younger brother of King Frederick VIII of Denmark). As France already possessed a major shipping company, specifically the Messageries Maritimes, which had a network of shipping lines to and from the Far East, the founding of the French East Asiatic Company was conducted in close collaboration with Messageries Maritimes. Andersen (1914, 54–56); Hansen (1970, 46); Lange (2011). 82  The French East Asiatic Company had requested a subsidy of 8,874 francs for each return trip from Haiphong to Hong Kong, and Marty had demanded 9,520 francs. PAAA, Peking II-1176: Consul Dr. Peter Merklinghaus (Beihai) to Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg (Berlin), 26 March 1910. Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce (1911, 56–57): Colonial Secretary Francis H. May (Hong Kong) to The Secretary, Chamber of Commerce (Hong Kong), 11 April 1910, Item P: Subsidised Steamer Service between Haiphong and Hong Kong. 83  ANOM, INDO-GGI-17022: Auguste Raphael Marty (Haiphong) to the GovernorGeneral of Indochina (Saigon), 26 October 1911.



shipping service under the French flag. Therefore, most criticism in the Tonkin press about the new arrangements came from French residents in Haikou and Beihai who were forced to board steamers under the German flag when travelling to Indochina, Kwang-chow-wan, or Hong Kong, which was regarded as a severe blow to France’s national prestige and influence in the region.84 The French East Asiatic Company launched its new service on 29 May 1910 with the steamer Hai Mun, purchased in Hong Kong. After the steamer was declared technically unfit for service, the company put the larger Messageries Maritimes steamer Manche on the line.85 Although generously funded, the firm was unable to provide a suitable ship for the line. It then purchased the used steamer Touareg, of 1,274 gross register tons, with a speed of eleven knots. It was renamed the Sikiang and in September 1910 put on the line. Built around 1889, the vessel with its tonnage equalled other merchant steamers of its time but was inferior to newer steamers, which on average were more than 2,500 gross register tons, operating in East Asia. Its relatively small size (in Hong Kong, it was known as the “Baby”) meant it was unable to receive sufficient and profitable cargoes, even during the rice-harvest seasons, when demand for merchant vessels was highest.86 Another disadvantage was the bad weather, especially when passing the stormy Hainan Strait, resulting in delays and making it 84  L’Avenir du Tonkin, 29 June 1910 and 25 August 1910; Le Courrier d’Haiphong, 1 July 1910. In the opinion of British consul George William Ward Pearson in Beihai, the governorgeneral of Indochina had “definitely recognised the futility of its hope to absorb this province [Guangdong]” when withdrawing the French-subsidized steamships from Beihai and Haikou. TNA, FO 228-1762: Pakhoi Intelligence Report, March Quarter 1910. 85  PAAA, Peking II-1175: Heinrich Jessen, Jebsen & Co. (Hong Kong) to Minister Arthur Count von Rex (Beijing), 30 May 1910 (on the Hai Mun). The maiden voyage of the Manche in early June 1910 lasted for 71.5 hours—well over the 53 hours stipulated in the subsidy contract—and this caused by extended stopovers at Kwang-chow-wan where the mail was loaded aboard late at night. In Hong Kong, the delay led to passengers and the mail missing the Messageries Maritimes liner for Shanghai. PAAA, Peking II-1176: Consul Dr. Peter Merklinghaus (Beihai) to Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg (Berlin), 29 June 1910 and 5 September 1910. 86  In 1911, the Sikiang made 243 voyages from Haiphong to Hong Kong, shipping 260,489 tons of goods; in the other direction 244 voyages were carried out with 30,363 tons of goods. The shipped amount of cargo demonstrates that there was sufficient freight, especially rice, available at Haiphong throughout the year, whereas Indochina imported only few products from Hong Kong. PAAA, Peking II-1176: Consul Dr. Peter Merklinghaus (Beihai) to Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg (Berlin), 12 October 1912.



almost impossible to operate regular services. Furthermore, the Sikiang was relatively slow and uncomfortable for passengers, causing travellers in Hong Kong to opt for the vessels of its British (Butterfield & Swire) and German (Jebsen & Co.) competitors for trips to Indochina or Kwangchow-wan. Writing to Colonial Minister Albert Lebrun in October 1912, Governor-General Albert Sarraut stated that the Sikiang’s inadequacy was well known and its bad reputation constituted an absolute obstacle to the development of relations between Tonkin and South China.87 The aforementioned remark of Governor-General Sarraut hinted to his declared “policy of progress and development.” He hoped this policy would make French interests in the region yield a profit by assuring French sovereignty in Indochina and French influence in the Far East.88 In this respect, France’s policies in the Far East reflected the growing nationalism and protectionism in Europe. On the other hand, Indochina’s considerable economic progress from 1908 to 1913 was not protectionist in nature. It had strong increases in exports, especially in rice and coal that went to China, Hong Kong, and Singapore, four-fifth of all exports directed to these Asian markets. Rice exports from Tonkin to Hong Kong were booming, resulting in record exports for the port of Haiphong in 1911 and 1912, which made shipping in the region extremely profitable.89 With such developments, it was clear that with the expiration of the French East Asiatic Company’s subsidy contract, the French ­postal-steamer service in the Gulf of Tonkin region needed to be reshuffled to better serve the needs of Indochina’s export industries and French communities in the region’s ports alike. In the autumn of 1911, rumors that the current contract would be extended triggered Marty to directly approach the government-general requesting that the service expiring on 30 June 1912 should be brought to auction in due course.90

87  ANOM, INDO-GGI-17022: Governor-General Albert Sarraut (Saigon) to Colonial Minister Albert Lebrun (Paris), 30 October 1912. 88  Governor-General Sarraut outlined this policy in a speech on 19 November 1913 to the government-council of French Indochina, quoted in Fourniau (2002, 750).  Biographical details of Albert Pierre Sarraut (1872–1962) are in Dictionnaire des Ministres de 1789 à 1989 (1990, 605–607). On his terms as governor-general (1911–1913 and 1917–1919), see Fourniau (2002, 747–797). 89  Gregg (1921, 614–615), Fourniau (2002, 788–789). 90  ANOM, INDO-GGI-17022: Auguste Raphael Marty (Haiphong) to the GovernorGeneral of Indochina (Saigon), 26 October 1911.



On 2 September 1912,91 four firms submitted their offers, of which only two were accepted for further consideration: those of the Tonkin Shipping Company and the Indochinese Shipping Company (Compagnie Maritime Indochinoise), the latter being a subsidiary of the French East Asiatic Company.92 However, both firms demanded a subsidy that was higher than the maximum subsidy amount fixed by the governor-general. Fearing a halt in the negotiations, Marty requested to immediately begin talks with the administration, emphasizing that his firm had been the originators of the service and had defended the interests of the French flag in the Gulf of Tonkin for more than twenty years. After this appeal, he promised to have within two years two new large steamers built for the service, and, in addition, was prepared to accept a reduced subsidy. With the administration and Marty finally agreeing on a subsidy of 22.50 francs per sea mile, Governor-General Sarraut was convinced that better financial conditions could not have been achieved in the interests of Indochina.93 The new ten-year subsidized contract beginning on 1 March 1913 was signed on 4 October 1912. The finalized specifications stipulated a weekly service of two postal steamers, of which one should serve the route from Haiphong to Hong Kong with a stopover at Kwang-chow-wan and on its return trip call at Haikou (Hoihow); the following steamer should sail to Hong Kong via Haikou and on the way back call at Kwang-chow-wan. At least two steamers, each of around 2,500 gross register tons, with a speed of twelve knots, were to operate on the line. The large vessels had to be relatively new and had to have a standard comparable to modern French liners, with full comfort for passengers.94 According to Theodor 91  The formal call for tenders for the new service was postponed to 2 September 1912 after the Haiphong Chamber of Commerce had voiced strong opposition to certain details of the planned contract. In the meantime, the Sikiang continued her service, which was extended to 1 March 1913 when the new contract came into effect. 92  Morlat (2016, p. 448). 93  ANOM, INDO-GGI-17022: Governor-General Albert Sarraut (Saigon) to Colonial Minister Albert Lebrun (Paris), 30 October 1912. Bulletin du Comité de L’Asie Française, no. 139, 1912, October: “Les services maritimes postaux Haiphong-Hongkong.” 94  ANOM, INDO-GGI-17022: Contract of Mutual Agreement for the operation of a maritime postal service from Haiphong to Hong Kong via Haikou (Hoihow) and Kwangchow-wan, issued at Saigon, 4 October 1912. In the following months, Marty’s search for a shipyard that was prepared to construct his vessels proved to be difficult at a time when, after the end of the economic depression, shipbuilding reached new heights and dockyards had full order books. After contacting shipbuilders in Hong Kong, Britain, Germany, and France, Marty eventually received an offer from a French shipyard with which he concluded the deal. However, the vessels were not completed before the outbreak of the First World War; after



Metzelthin, the German consul in Haikou, the governor-general had impressed upon Marty to have his steamers built to a standard that was very much comparable to the two German vessels, of around 2,000 gross register tons, on the Jiaozhou postal-steamer line between Shanghai, Jiaozhou  (Kiaochow), and Tianjin  (Tientsin).95 It was obvious that Indochina’s pressing economic and political needs and also France’s prestige in China played an important role for Governor-General Sarraut in his efforts to have modernized and considerably enlarged the Tonkin Shipping Company’s fleet operating the postal-steamer service.96 In February 1914, the French lawyer Henri Cucherousset, who would later found the journal L’Éveil Économique de l’Indochine, wrote an article on Kwang-chow-wan detailing his observations. The territory’s port was unlively, with the Hué calling Kwang-chow-wan every second Saturday on her way to Hong Kong, and every second Friday on her way back to Haiphong.97 The biweekly service as stipulated in the new contract reflected the declining importance of Kwang-chow-wan as a French territory in China. As a result of Kwang-­chow-­wan’s chief administrator Gaston Caillard’s complaints about the deprivation of regular communications with Hong Kong and Shanghai, and his request for a weekly mail service to Hong Kong, talks were held between the postmaster of Indochina and Marty in April 1913. Despite this, the postal-steamer line continued to that, any prospect of Marty’s ships being finished became unrealistic. VNA1, Direction des Finances de l’Indochine, no. 8291: Auguste Raphael Marty (Haiphong) to the SecretaryGeneral of the Governor-General of Indochina (Hanoi), 3 April 1913. ANOM, INDOGGI-17022: Governor-General of Indochina, Director of Posts and Telegraphs (Hanoi) to the Governor-General of Indochina (Hanoi), 2 November 1914. L’Éveil Économique de l’Indochine, 30 March 1930: “Le Service Haiphong-Hongkong.” 95  PAAA, Peking II-1176: Consul Theodor Metzelthin (Haikou) to Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg (Berlin), 25 November 1912. The Jiaozhou postal-steamer service connecting Germany’s leasehold of Jiaozhou with Shanghai and northern Chinese ports was from April 1898 to March 1901 operated by the M. Jebsen Shipping Company. After the major German shipping company Hamburg-Amerika Line took over the service, it operated until the outbreak of the First World War. The two largest steamers in service were the Gouverneur Jaeschke, of 1,738 gross register tons, and the Staatssekretär Krätke, of around 2,000 gross register tons—Becker (2009, 232). 96  Governor-General Sarraut also provided further support to the Tonkin Shipping Company when approaching the major credit institution Crédit foncier de France and strongly emphasizing Marty’s credibility after the shipowner had acquired a considerable loan from the bank to have his new vessels built in France. VNA1, Direction des Finances de l’Indochine, no. 8291: Governor-General Albert Sarraut (Hanoi) to the Governor of Crédit foncier de France (Paris), 18 April 1913. 97  L’Avenir du Tonkin, 19 February 1914.



operate as scheduled in the contract. While the Hué serviced the line to Kwang-chow-wan, the larger steamer Hongkong and occasionally also the Hanoi operated on the direct line between Haiphong and the British colony.98 Commercial statistics confirm that the French territory remained much more closely linked to the Pearl River Delta than to Indochina: in 1914, 99.6 percent of Kwang-­chow-­wan’s exports were sent to Hong Kong and Guangzhou, with 96.3 percent of imports coming from these two ports; merely 0.4 percent of Kwang-chow-wan’s exports went to Haiphong, with 3.7 percent (mainly rice) being imported from there.99 On 15 December 1914, Marty died in Haiphong at the age of 73 after catching a severe cold during a trip to Do Son, a popular resort. To succeed his father-in-law, René Sallé, prosecutor-general of Saigon, and the second husband of Marty’s only daughter, left the judicial service of French Indochina to take over management of Marty et d’Abbadie.100 Sallé continued the subsidized postal-steamer service during the First World War but gave it up in 1918 after his request for an increased subsidy to cover operational expenses was rejected by the governor-general.101 In 1922, he left Indochina when the company’s liquidation was finalized. Subsequently, any clues on the existence Marty et d’Abbadie entirely vanish in the Tonkin press or other publications.102 The subsidized service passed into the hands of the Haiphong-based shipping company, P. A. Lapicque & Co., which continued to operate the Hanoi and also the steamer Song-Ma on the line.103 In the autumn of 1923, 98  ANOM, INDO-GGI-17022: Government-General of Indochina, Director of Posts and Telegraphs (Hanoi) to the Governor-General of Indochina (Hanoi), 17 May 1913. 99  Vannière (2004, 395). 100  MAE, CPC-552: Vice-Consul Armand Hauchecorne (Haikou) to Foreign Minister Théophile Delcassé (Paris), 31 December 1914 and 27 July 1915. South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), Hongkong Daily Press, China Mail (Hong Kong), all dated 17 December 1914. 101  VNA1, Résidence de Hadong, no. 4725: Company A. R. Marty, R. Sallé (Successor), Timetable of 1916 for the Subsidized Service Haiphong-Hong Kong via Kwang-chow-wan or Haikou corresponding with the Trans-Sibirean. L’Éveil  Économique de l’Indochine (Hanoi), 30 March 1930. 102  L’Éveil Économique de l’Indochine, 8 October 1922. Last traces of the firm disappear from the files of the governor-general of Indochina in the mid-1920s when long-term judicial issues over compensation payments were finally resolved (ANOM, INDO-GGI-38190). 103  Paul Augustin Lapicque, French officer, then captain and then shipowner, had come to the Far East in 1904 as a representative of a major French trading firm. After conducting several geographical expeditions in China and Indochina, with an emphasis on studying



Lapicque went bankrupt after the global economic crisis of the early 1920s put an end to the postwar shipping and trading boom.104 In order to safeguard the operation of the service, a syndicate of major French colonial firms was formed that, in November 1923, finally founded the Indochinese Shipping Company (La Compagnie indochinoise de navigation). The new firm was headed by Maxime Getten, engineer and vice president of the French railway company of Indochina and of Yunnan (La Compagnie française des chemins de fer de l’Indochine et du Yunnan), and by managers from leading companies of Indochina and France, among them French banks based in Paris. Its capital was derived from Indochinese and French firms in the shipbuilding and banking sectors. The Indochinese Shipping Company took over the subsidized weekly service between Haiphong and Hong Kong and also the biweekly service between Haiphong and Canton via Kwangchow-wan. It operated three steamers, the Hanoi (Marty’s former vessel), the Tonkin, and the Song Bo and had agencies in Haiphong, Beihai, and Kwang-chow-wan.105 The arrangements demonstrate the declining importance of Kwang-chow-wan for French shipping in the Gulf of Tonkin region and the importance of the vital link between Haiphong and Hong Kong.

Conclusion The process of leasing Kwang-chow-wan for France and the New Territories of Hong Kong for Britain in 1898 showed how mutually reinforcing and fundamentally entwined French and British empires were in southern China. However, after the territories were finally acquired, huge differences in their economic character and geopolitical setting soon became very obvious. To the political and economic miscalculations of French policymakers about the future role of Kwang-chow-wan came the vicissitudes of fluctuating international power politics in the early twentieth century. With major changes to France’s naval presence in the Far East, initiated by navy minister Pelletan, the initial plan of developing Kwangchow-wan into a naval hub was abandoned in February 1903, bringing an major rivers, he founded his own shipping and trading firm in Hong Kong in 1910. In partnership with the French engineer F. Walthert he established the firm P. A. Lapicque & Co. in Haiphong in September 1918. L’Éveil Économique de l’Indochine, 22 September 1918 and 5 February 1922; Annuaire général de l’Indochine française (1920, 87). 104  L’Éveil Économique de l’Indochine, 5 August 1923 and 19 August 1923; Les Annales coloniales: Journal Quotidien (Paris), 5 and 12 October 1923; Morlat (2016, 448–449). 105  Morlat (2016, 448–449).



end to the fortification and other port-construction works in the territory. The decisive step in October 1904 to entirely relinquish the territory as a military outpost of Indochina was the consequence of widespread fears in France and Indochina of a possible Japanese attack on the latter during the Russo-Japanese War. French policymakers and colonial lobbyists interested in Indochina initiated the political-military decision to withdraw the major part of the French-Indochinese occupation troops based at Kwangchow-wan. The unexpected decision was an unmistakable sign of France’s intention to concentrate her colonial forces around Saigon and Haiphong, the major naval hubs of Indochina. It significantly impacted the postalsteamer service between Haiphong and Kwang-chow-wan, making the line no longer profitable for the Tonkin Shipping Company. France’s amended politics in East Asia and also her increasingly weaker global economic and political position in the final years before the First World War was also expressed in her changing attitudes toward the subsidized postalsteamer service in the wider Gulf of Tonkin region. Since Kwang-chow-wan only slowly developed, remained an economic satellite of Hong Kong, and shared few commercial exchanges with Tonkin, the postal-steamer service remained unlucrative, especially in such a highly competitive shipping market. Therefore, the shipping companies operating the service (the Tonkin Shipping Company from 1900 to 1910, the French East Asiatic Company from 1910 to 1913, and again the Tonkin Shipping Company from 1913 to 1918) employed all kinds of strict cost-­saving measures on their respective ships and equipment that was detrimental to the service, especially in regard to passengers’ comfort. The highly subsidized service proved unattractive to travelers and shippers and apparently only existed to bolster feelings of prestige and honor in the eyes of French-Indochinese policymakers and shipowners alike. In this respect, the service clearly reflected France’s abandonment of her earlier ambitious imperialist designs for South China and especially the overall low importance of Kwang-chow-wan for Indochina. The French territory remained an economic satellite of British Hong Kong throughout its existence. After the occupation by Japanese forces in 1943, Kwang-­ chow-­wan was returned to China in 1945 and renamed Zhanjiang.



Bibliography Archival Sources

Archives Nationales d’Outre-mer, Aix-en-Provence (ANOM) Gouvernement-Général de l’Indochine (INDO-GGI). Actes de L’État Civil.

British National Archives, Kew/Surrey (TNA) Foreign Office (FO).

Centre des Archives Diplomatiques de Nantes (CADN) Consulat Hong Kong, Série I 3 B: Affaires politiques et commerciales (aout-­ octobre 1898).

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Osterhammel, Jürgen. 1989. China und die Weltgesellschaft: Vom 18. Jahrhundert bis in unsere Zeit. Munich: Beck. Raffi, Gilles. 1994. Haiphong: Origines, conditions et modalités du développement jusqu’en 1921. 2 vols. Unpublished PhD Thesis, Université de Provence, Aix-en-Provence. Réau, Raphaël. 1903. Le rôle économique de Hong-kong. Bulletin du Comité de L’Asie Française (31): 451–455. Stone, Judith F. 1996. Sons of the Revolution: Radical Democrats in France 1862– 1914. Baton Rouge/London: Louisiana State University Press. Sturmey, S.  G. 2010. British Shipping and World Competition. Research in Maritime History, no. 42. St. John’s, Newfoundland: International Maritime Economic History Association. Territoire de Kouang-Tchéou (Chine): Notice publiée à l’occasion de l’exposition coloniale de Marseille. 1906. Edited by Gouvernement Général de l’Indo-Chine. Hanoi and Haiphong: L. Gallois. The Encyclopaedia Britannica. 1910. 11th ed., Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Thieß, Karl. 1907. Deutsche Schiffahrt und Schiffahrtspolitik der Gegenwart. Leipzig: B. G. Teubner. Tsang, Steve. 1997. Hong Kong: Appointment with China. London: I. B. Tauris. Vannière, Antoine. 2004. Le Territoire à Bail de Guangzhouwan: Une Impasse de la Colonisation Française en Asie Orientale 1898–1946. Unpublished PhD Thesis, Université Paris 7 – Denis Diderot. Walser, Ray. 1992. France’s Search for a Battle Fleet: Naval Policy and Naval Power, 1898–1914. New York: Garland. Welsh, Frank. 1997. A History of Hong Kong. London: HarperCollins. Wesley-Smith, Peter. 1980. Unequal Treaty 1898–1997: China, Great Britain and Hong Kong’s New Territories. Hong Kong: Oxford University Press. Xieng-La. 1904. La Défense de l’Indochine. Bulletin du Comité de L’Asie Française (35): 85–89. Young, L. K. 1970. British Policy in China 1895–1902. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Empire and Administration


Sharing Colonial Sovereignty? The Anglo-­ French Experience of the New Hebrides Condominium, 1880s–1930s Hélène Blais

On 30 July 1980, the New Hebrides gained their independence under the name of Vanuatu, after a long colonial experience in which the archipelago had been under the joint authority of Great Britain and France since the late nineteenth century. The tensions between Anglophiles and Francophiles that appeared in the population at that time seemed to threaten secession and reflected a long history of dual colonization.1 Then the option of partitioning the archipelago was in keeping with a debate on territorial power sharing during the colonial period, a sharing that was often presumed to be untenable. This debate is indicative of the territorial patchwork that existed within the imperial context. While many anthropologists have taken an interest in the New Hebrides, its colonial political history is little known,2 with the archipelago appearing 1 2

 Mohamed-Gaillard (2011).  Bonnemaison (1996 [1986]), Rodman (2001), and Riou (2010).

H. Blais (*) École Normale Supérieure-PSL, IHMC, Paris, France © The Author(s) 2019 J. R. Fichter (ed.), British and French Colonialism in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies Series,




only in very marginal fashion in the histories of the various imperialisms in the Pacific.3 It has nevertheless been the subject of a number of historical monographs, written primarily by specialists in law and international relations, who have emphasized the originality of an administration combining imperial practices often presented as being distinct (British indirect rule and especially direct French administration).4 The example of this joint colonial experience between Great Britain and France, known as a condominium, calls for an exploration of how national sovereignties were arranged in an interimperial setting. The various plans for occupying and partitioning the archipelago reveal the relationship between sovereignty and territory; the constant attempts to adjust this relationship indicate its complexity (Fig. 10.1). The New Hebrides archipelago is located approximately 400 km northeast of Nouméa in New Caledonia, 1,000 km west of Fiji and 2,000 km northeast of Australia.5 In the imperial geography of the late nineteenth century, it was located at the center of two competing spheres of influence: the French colony of New Caledonia and the British colony of Australia. Inhabited by Melanesians and frequented in the early nineteenth century by sandalwood traders and whalers, the archipelago was occupied by a few Anglican missionaries and beginning in the 1830s by colonists, essentially from Australia and New Caledonia. For a native population of approximately 60,000 people in 1894,6 there were fifty-six Frenchmen and fortyseven Britons, with these figures rising to 650 and 244 respectively in 1918, while the indigenous population decreased.7 Beginning in 1921, the population also consisted of indentured laborers from neighboring islands and French Indochina.8 A novel form of administration has dominated the archipelago since the late nineteenth century, one that stemmed from the rivalry between France and Great Britain in the Pacific and the diplomatic need to maintain the 3  Samson (2003), Thompson (1980), MacClancy (1981), Foucrier (2005), and Bare (1985). 4  Politis (1908), Rannou (2011), and Bresnihan and Woodward (2002). 5  It consists of twelve large islands and many smaller ones, along a volcanic axis extending 1,200 km from latitude 13 to 20 south, and longitude 166 to 169 east. The main island of Espiritu Santo is a little over 4,000 km2. 6   Archives du Ministère des Affaires Etrangères (hereafter MAE), La Courneuve, 186CPCOM5. 7  Due to disease and work-related travel. The population is estimated at 57,000 in 1910 and most probably 50,000 in 1920 (Bonnemaison 1986). 8  Adams (1986), Bonnemaison (1986), and Guiart (1986).



Fig. 10.1  Map from Cambridge Modern History Atlas (1912). The New Hebrides archipelago is represented by a two-colored line in reference to the joint authority. This unique portrayal reflects the special nature of this colonial assemblage

status quo between those powers. This situation was the result of a compromise favoring a policy of reciprocal nonintervention. In 1878, a first agreement committed between the two colonial powers to not undermine the independence of the New Hebrides; nine years later, in view of the growing rivalries on the ground, the two states instituted a “Joint Naval Commission” tasked with protecting the nationals of both home countries. Officially this entailed maintaining independence. Each power sought to avoid a condominium or dual protectorate that recognized cosovereignty in hope of gaining total control over the archipelago.9 9   Archives nationales d’Outre Mer (hereafter ANOM), Aix-en-Provence, Fm, SG, NHB//1, 25 October 1888, Ministry of the Navy and Colonies to Minister of Foreign Affairs: “What the Ministry of the Navy and Colonies dreads most in this arrangement is that it will in fact lead to a kind of condominium or dual protectorate, which would result in the immediate loss of the advantageous dominant situation won by our colonists in the New Hebrides.”



However, the commission’s inability to act, coupled with incessantly conflicting jurisdictions, led both of these competing states to agree on the new formula of a joint administration, which was officially established in 1906 and formalized by the “convention of London.”10 The term condominium was not used at the time in legal texts, but it gradually became established in informal language. Two high commissioners, each assisted by a resident commissioner, were granted the power to issue local rules and jointly provide a police force as well as public services, such as the post and telegraphs. According to various accounts, the experience of cosovereignty in its various legal forms did not work well, yet it still lasted until decolonization in 1980. How should we interpret this paradoxical viability, which challenges the principle of an intrinsic relation between sovereignty and territoriality, one that was inseparable for modern states in Europe? The affirmation of colonial sovereignty in the New Hebrides was in keeping with this cosovereignty, a situation that calls into question the history of European expansion as a slow but inexorable rationalization of space and its uses.11 We will therefore revisit the history of this colonial experience by examining the occupation of the archipelago’s territory as well as power sharing on the islands, with the latter initially being established through property and land claims made by French and British colonists. The incessant conflict surrounding these claims led a number of colonial agents to propose plans for territorial partition, which were not ultimately implemented, but that are interesting for what they reveal about conceptions of colonial sovereignty.

Real Estate Litigation and Imperial Rivalries In order to understand the unique situation of the New Hebrides Condominium, it is essential to revisit the origin of this administrative system, which at first was connected to questions of land ownership: political authority was gradually instituted in response to problems arising from land disputes.12 During the second-third of the nineteenth century, the 10  The convention was signed on 20 October 1906 and later modified by the protocol of 6 August 1914, which was in turn ratified on 18 March 1922. 11  Benton (2006). 12  On the matter of land ownership and the plantation economy in the New Hebrides, see Adams (1986), Banner (2007), Guiart (1986), Neilson (1979), and Van Trease (1987).



archipelago, which the Europeans considered to be devoid of a state, fell under the category of virgin and hence colonizable land, a terra nullius based on the model of nearby Australia.13 Beginning in the 1870s, colonists, adventurers (primarily French), and missionaries (British) claimed plots of land. This situation led to protests on the part of New Hebridians— whose traces appear only when the British or French mentioned them in the act of asserting their own rights—as well as to national rivalries between Great Britain and France. Land was “bought” from the inhabitants according to methods that remain very vague: there were no witnesses during negotiations and no demarcation of property or written records validated by buyers and sellers. The French and British certainly recorded their “purchases” fairly systematically, in New Caledonia for the former and in Fiji, Samoa, or Australia for the latter. However, these were unilateral declarations, with New Hebridian sellers never being involved. Problems emerged very quickly, as there was no land register to delimit these properties. The captain of a frigate, who was given the assignment in 1892 of monitoring the situation, emphasized the legal abuses connected to these practices: Aside from a few rare exceptions, the boundaries of these properties are poorly defined: they are content with placing boundary stones along the seafront; as for the depth of the property, it is simply indicated on the contract by the number of hours it would take to walk, or very vague measures based on the position of the sun. The heavily wooded country would require too great of a financial sacrifice to conduct an exact demarcation; what very often follows in these sold plots is that there are isolated tribes unaware of the past transaction. The natives, for that matter, have no scruples about selling the same plot of land numerous times.14

Such occurrences were common in colonial settings, although the absence of an authority that was recognized across the entire archipelago made the situation even more complex than elsewhere in the New 13  A number of political systems existed on the archipelago. There is evidence of systems of elective or hereditary chiefdoms on the central and southern islands. In northern and certain central islands, there was a system based on a hierarchy of ranks (Bonnemaison 1996). Most European observers did not see—or did not want to acknowledge—this complex sociopolitical organization. 14  ANOM, Fm, SG, NHB//1, 16 March 1892, captain of the frigate DAGAUD to the French Consul in Sydney (A1 (2)).



Hebrides. There were a great many disputes but no court to adjudicate or record them and no basis of power except for the naval buildings of the British and French, whose ships cruised in the region and represented a floating and intermittent authority. Litigation was regularly referred to the Joint Commission established in 1878, although it did not have sovereign power to make rulings. Voices on all sides called for the implementation of a competent court. Despite the repeated requests of navy captains involved in these complaints, metropolitan authorities hesitated for a long time to change the status quo, knowing that any rules in the matter precisely risked bringing with them the obligation to resolve the question of sovereignty.

From Property to Sovereignty The official determination of property belonging to Europeans ran the risk of forcing the colonial powers to specify how sovereignty should be exercised on the archipelago. This became a key issue at the turn of the century when the Société française des Nouvelles-Hébrides (SFNH), a privately owned company, extended its control over land and asserted on that basis that it could justify France’s supremacy over the archipelago. As in numerous other colonial situations, private initiative was decisive. While the Britons present on the archipelago were primarily missionaries, on the French side settlement took place through the SFNH. The role of this company, and notably its director John Higginson, is well known: he was a passionate defender of the interests of planters and served as the messenger for the colonial lobby in favor of France’s annexation of the archipelago.15 An Irishman who was naturalized French, he began in business in New Caledonia, of which he considered the New Hebrides to be the natural extension due to its arable land, a scarcity in New Caledonia. He used the intermediary of a first company created in 1882, the Société calédonienne des Nouvelles-Hébrides—which would become the SFNH in 1894—to make initial land purchases of over 300,000 hectares that quickly doubled and served as the basis for a powerful concessionary company system. The company received an annual subsidy until 1909 from the French state, which had a preemptive right over part of the domain.

 Thomson (2000).




An incident in 1903 reveals how deeply property was linked to the question of sovereignty on the scale of an archipelago or other relatively restricted space. A “native” from Ape island (a “teacher,” or local employee of British protestant missions) was criticized for “displaying a flag similar to the British flag” on a plot of land claimed by the SFNH as its property.16 It was evidently the British naval red ensign, although French authorities immediately interpreted the act not only as a violation of property but also as the improper affirmation of British sovereignty over the island. The problem was all the more crucial as the principle of equivalence between sovereignty and property had to contend with the reality of land ownership scattered across the entire archipelago. Sketch maps and maps attempting to clarify the property situation bear witness to this entanglement of interests. Captain Picanon, who was touring in 1902 on a cruiser from New Caledonia, attached several maps to his report. The first, a sketch map of the southern coast of Espiritu Santo island, tended to show that the plots occupied by British colonists were located on SFNH land (see Fig. 10.2).17 The second set of maps showed that settlement areas for missionaries and colonists were not distributed across separate islands but rather between different sections of coast on the same island (see Figs. 10.3 and 10.4). For this observer from New Caledonia, property was clearly conveyed in terms of influence, a word that appears in the very title of his map, and that demonstrates a direct link between the presence of nationals and their ability to exert a form of sovereignty over island territory. It was in this context of appropriations and demands for the recovery of property—in which New Hebridians, Frenchmen, and Britons encountered one another in every possible combination—that home countries decided to end the Joint Commission and establish a new political order on the archipelago. The goal for each of the powers was first and foremost to propose a solution that protected its nationals in property disputes.

16  ANOM, Fm, SG, NHB//35 DOMAINE incident on Api island caused by the displaying of a British flag by a native, 18 September 1903. 17  ANOM, Fm, SG, NHB//4, Picanon report from 1903.



Fig. 10.2  Island of Espiritu Santo. South Coast, 1903. This sketch, produced after a trip by the cruiser Le Protet in 1902, is based on information provided by French colonists. It emphasizes the usurpation of land by British missionaries, whose plots appear in red and are covered by blue cross-hatching that denotes plots purchased by the SFNH. (ANOM, Fm, SG, NHB//4, Picanon report from 1903.)

Initial Plans for Territorial Division The British and French, who implicitly recognized an obligation to protect their nationals and to prevent the New Hebrides from becoming a source of imperial tensions with unforeseeable consequences, tried to compromise. Beginning in the late 1870s, tension among “owners” led to debates regarding the exercise of territorial sovereignty by France and Great Britain. There were regular proposals in both Paris and London to end the uncertainty arising from the Joint Commission by dividing the archipelago into lots, based on reasoning that was more in keeping with the logic of real estate than the political logic of sovereignty.



Fig. 10.3  Comparative map of French and British influence, 1902. Red indicates land occupied by the French, blue by the British. Cross-hatching represents plantations, solid lines the “influence” of missions. Every plot along the coast is subject to an appropriation connected to these rival nationalities. (ANOM Fm, SG, NHB//6.)



Fig. 10.4  Close-up of Fig. 10.3. (Ibid.)

In both ministerial offices and on the ground, there were numerous proposals to partition the archipelago, which were seen as a solution to the administrative obstacles posed by the Joint Commission in the eyes of colonists. These partition plans are of interest both individually and as a continual series, as they express the impossibility of territorial partition as well as the theoretical impossibility of shared sovereignty over a single territory.



The first partition plans, which were proposed by the French, date back to the late 1880s.18 In 1889, the head of the SFNH, Higginson, initiated the process of dividing the islands between the powers.19 His logic was in line with his and the SFNH’s commercial interests: he justified the north/ south partition on the grounds that the SFNH had more property on the southern islands (see Fig. 10.5). The project caused concern among ministries in Paris, which were careful at the time to avoid open conflict with the British. Paris therefore asked Higginson to ensure that he had Australia’s approval before they referred it to London. Higginson’s attempts at “officious” negotiations quickly failed, as the Australians argued that the project would deprive them of a recruiting pool for the manpower they coveted, as the most populous islands would become French under the proposal.20 New Caledonians also saw the islands as a pool for potential manpower, with partition potentially bringing an end to its recruiting, which was generally seasonal but sometimes also permanent. Regional interests consequently required refusing any delimitation of sovereignty. In the economic context created by indentured labor, the two subimperialisms of New Caledonia and Australia contended over the New Hebridian labor pool, all while attentively monitoring any development that could serve as an attempt at annexation by either of the powers. The project was therefore abandoned, but it reemerged a decade later in barely modified form. The French consul in Melbourne proposed a longitudinal division into three groups, reserving the “central islands”— once again those with the largest population of New Hebridians and French for Frenchmen—and ceding to the British as compensation the unattractive northern islands along with the southern islands. Some Frenchmen on the ground, joined notably by the consul in Sidney, Mr. Biard d’Aunet, pointed out that a convoluted partition on an island-by-­ island basis risked complicating matters rather than simplifying them. The international diplomatic context was on the whole favorable toward this type of arrangement, as 1899 was the year of the Tripartite Convention 18  MAE, 186CP/COM/4, 1887: Proposal by commanding officer Bayle, leaving Banks and Torres and the southern islands to the British. 19  MAE, 186CP/COM/4. 20  The New Hebrides was a target of the blackbirding practiced by Australians in the Pacific during the nineteenth century.



Fig. 10.5  Partition plan of 1889. This rough sketch map of the archipelago corresponds to the partition plan proposed by John Higginson. A simple red line separates the islands of the north, including Espiritu Santo, which would go to Great Britain, from those of the south, attributed to France. The portrayal of New Caledonia on the page without regard to scale is typical of French representations of the archipelago, which are based on an explicit and voluntary association between the colony and the New Hebrides. (MAE,186CP/COM/4.)



between Germany, Great Britain, and the United States, which resulted in an effective partition of the islands in the Samoan archipelago.21 The situation in the New Hebrides, however, followed a different course. On 7 December 1899, an interministerial commission including the ministers of the colonies, commerce, navy, and foreign affairs was formed in Paris to study the different partition plans. The commission met six times and published its general report in 1901 (see Fig. 10.6). The report includes a summary of the different proposals, which helps isolate the criteria involved in partition: the relative interests of the French and primarily of the SFNH, along with the “proximity” of groups to Fiji (which generally justified the attribution of the northern islands to Great Britain) or to New Caledonia (which would rule out the transfer of the southern islands to the British). The arguments put forward are both commercial and geopolitical, yet everyone seemed to be aware of their fragility. In addition, drawing on its presence on the ground, the SFNH now opposed solutions that proposed partition, preferring instead the status quo to any division of the islands.

The Choice to Maintain Territorial Integrity As plans for partitions increased, the idea of partition drew more opposition. French dissension was accompanied by the preventive measures of Jules Cambon, the French ambassador in London, who pointed out that the chief aim in the British capital was to avoid provocations in Australia, and that a change in the status quo was not possible: “the Salisbury cabinet does not seem disposed to disregard their objections.”22 With a great deal of diplomatic quibbling, the ambassador proposed the establishment of two residents “who would exert control in the name of both governments, but each over a different part of the archipelago. The question of territorial sovereignty would remain untouched, however a state of affairs would emerge that could one day serve as the basis for a division.”23 21  With the creation of a German and US Samoa, along with the renunciation of Great Britain, which obtained a protectorate over the Salomon Islands (and territories in Africa), a short-lived condominium was established by the Treaty of Berlin in 1889, lasting ten years. The condominium recognized the independence of the Samoan government (Gilson 1970 and Ryden 1975). 22  MAE, 186CP/COM/5, 12 February 1900, letter from Ambassador of France Cambon to London. 23  Ibid.



Fig. 10.6  Sketch map from the French Interministerial Commission of 1901. This sketch map includes three partition plans: in green is the proposal attributed to the consul Biard d’Aunet, which revived the Higginson proposal of 1889 (with a variant in a dotted line); in blue is “the first joint proposal by the Navy and M. Biard”; and in yellow “the second navy proposal,” which has the same northern line as its predecessor but with the transfer of a second portion to the British in the south. (MAE, 186CP/COM/5.)



This idea of a provisional division, or one that was preparatory for a future division, would be reformulated in 1908 with sustained administrative inventiveness. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs imagined at the time “the provisional installation of an English Resident in Espiritu Santo and a French Resident in Mallicolo, without these measures implying definitive possession. This could be a way of moving beyond a perhaps necessary stage toward an effective division, and England could see it as an expedient for averting the sensitivity of the Australian colonies.”24 That said, these diplomatic propositions also had to regularly contend with the positions of the men on the ground. On the French side, warnings against partition plans were often orchestrated from New Caledonia, which endeavored to defend a geographical coherence that would make the New Hebrides into a natural dependence of the colony. As late as 1905, one year before the signing of the condominium convention, the argument of territorial continuity stood in opposition to the notion of a partition: “it would thus be both necessary and logical to avoid cutting into the current group of the New Hebrides, which forms a harmonic whole with the Loyalty Islands and New Caledonia.”25 In what was a highly classical outlook in colonial geography, cartographical representation was predicated on political divisions, as though what appeared on maps could have a real geostrategic effect. For instance, the atlas of French colonies created by the professor of colonial geography Paul Pelet, which was published in Paris in 1902, represents the New Hebrides on the page entitled “New Caledonia and dependences.” This representation echoes the central argument of annexationist lobbies—essentially based in New Caledonia and opposed to partition along territorial lines—as well as a New Caledonian subimperialism directly opposed to an Australian subimperialism. For all that, shared sovereignty still had to be established without a division of territory or a renunciation on the part of either occupying power. In 1904, a clause of the Entente Cordiale provided for joint control over the New Hebrides by both home countries but without specifying what form it would take. It led, on 27 February 1906, to the signing of a convention in which the two powers proclaimed “their rights to sovereignty over the New Hebrides.” The organization of the archipelago thus appears to have been modeled on the joint protectorate established on Samoa in 1899 but without a geographical partition or the identification of a local  MAE, 186CP/COM/8, note for the minister, 16 June 1908.  ANOM, Fm, SG, NHB//35 Domaine, Cabinet of the Governor, New Caledonia, Nouméa, 8 August 1905, Partition plan for the archipelago. 24 25



authority on the part of the Europeans. This latter element ruled out the solution of a protectorate from a legal standpoint, and therefore led to the implementation of an original system of sovereignty. The option of the condominium had roots in longstanding legal formations. It evoked forms of cosovereignty found in feudal Europe used for family possessions, as well as examples from more recent history: Sakhalin was a joint possession of Russia and Japan until 1855, and Sudan in particular had been an Anglo-Egyptian condominium since 1899, with the distinctive feature that both possessors were not on equal footing, as Egypt was occupied by Great Britain.26 The texts did not include the term “condominium” in 1906. Nor was the term “condominium” in the new convention in 1914 (ratified in 1922). Sovereignty was a sensitive matter, and the terms used in the French and British versions differed: the term “sovereignty” appears in the French version to designate the rights exercised by France over its nationals, while the British text mentions the “rights of jurisdiction” or “paramount rights.”27 This resulted in the practice of a particular form of territorial sovereignty with the 1907 text stating that “the two nations, which formerly exercised personal jurisdiction over their own nationals, assume a quasi-territorial jurisdiction.”28 In practice, the regime of 1906 established cosovereignty in equal parts over the territory of the New Hebrides, with the goal of joint action for all matters relating to territory. Two high commissioners, each assisted by a resident commissioner, established local regulations and provided a police force as well as joint services (post, ports, and financial services). In addition, the two resident commissioners exercised the jurisdiction of their state over their nationals: they shared joint regulatory authority over New Hebridians as well as the territory. Foreigners could choose the jurisdiction to which they would be subject. In concrete terms, there were two city halls in Port Vila, each with its police station, prison, and hospital. The power sharing was therefore apparent in the very geography of the city, with the two European nations facing one another without mixing. Land ownership, which was clearly behind the political choice of the condominium, is not the only element that explains the evolution toward this joint regime. Another stumbling block for the Joint Commission was  Verzijl (1970).  Protocol of February 1906. Bilingual version. Original text online ( 28  Emphasis mine. 26 27



the exercise of jurisdiction over New Hebridians, who under the terms of the convention of 1906 became neither subjects nor citizens but were required to conform to the laws instituted by the commissioners. There were plans to establish a Joint Court, whose primary magistrate would be appointed by the King of Spain. The creation of a Joint Court was the central element of the condominium, although it took time to implement. The court had authority to rule on land disputes and criminal cases between New Hebridians and Europeans but began working on the registration of land only in the 1920s and did so at a slow rate.

The Recurring Temptation and Impossibility of Territorial Partition The establishment of the condominium did not prevent the parties from continuing to believe that shared sovereignty was impossible and that territorial partition would serve better, although neither power imagined a compromise in the partition. Proposals and plans to partition the archipelago did not stop after 1906. In 1909, a French proposal that would cede Pentecost and Aoba to the British was refused because it would “abandon to England the primary recruiting centers for the French plantation owners of Vate and Epi.”29 As emphasized by the French resident, the economic arguments, which henceforth played out on the scale of the archipelago (as opposed to on a regional scale), were decisive: “Can we imagine irremediably compromising our situation by depriving it of local manpower? In a word, the central islands are too close to one another, and too frequently in communication with one another, to fall under two independent administrations.”30 Still, a single administration was hardly a solution, and new proposals can be found in the files of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and the French Colonies, especially in 1918. The Ministry of the Colonies proposed three possible lines of divisions based on a series of maps of the archipelago that used a proven negotiating technique: “most favorable,” “average,” and “unfavorable” lines of divisions, with possible options available depending on the progression of negotiations with the British (see Fig. 10.7).31 29  ANOM, Fm, SG, NHB//6 Nouméa, 29 September 1909, Resident Commissioner of France to the NH to the High Commissioner of France to the New Hebrides. 30  ANOM, Fm, SG, NHB//6 Nouméa, 29 September 1909, Resident Commissioner of France to the NH to the High Commissioner of France to the New Hebrides. 31  ANOM, Fm, SG, NHB//1.



Fig. 10.7  Ministry of the colonies. Maps of the New Hebrides, 1917, printed and modified by hand. The three lines of division are drawn between the northern and southern islands, and they change the proposal only by an island or two. The red lines represent French presence, the blue ones British presence. Figures for population and land “claimed or possessed” are provided for each locality. (ANOM FM/SG/NHB//6D.)

The division was based on statistical considerations and took into account estimates of the colonist population and landed property. Yet despite the outwardly scientific nature of the document, the reality on the ground was seemingly quite different than the projected divisions, and it went no further in solving the questions raised in 1917 than those from the end of the preceding century. Although no traces of these negotiations remain, one can imagine the consistently identical objections that were presented.



Since a final division remained impossible, intermediate solutions for the recurring objections to the convolution of the condominium were proposed in the aftermath of the First World War. The key issue was to reflect on anything that could result in an eventual territorial partition without bringing the parties into conflict. A member of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, obviously careful to not offend Great Britain, suggested that “after partition, we could plan for a special economic ­system allowing for the intercirculation of people and goods throughout the archipelago, and for the final division, we could prepare either an overall plebiscite or one that proceeds island by island (in truth England has no interest in accepting it), or make recourse to arbitration by the League of Nations.”32 Diplomatic maneuvering explains the repeated resurgence of the matter. The French sought to avoid the issue, especially at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs: due to the steady increase of the French population and property, there was a preference to “defer” solving the problem and wager on the creation of a favorable state of affairs on the ground.33 In a historical irony, when the British made a partition proposal in 1926 at the time of the imperial conference, France responded that partition would be “premature,” even though it had been more active in the matter over the previous decades.34 The two powers settled into a makeshift system, one that would endure unchanged for many years, with the subject of partition remaining an improbable but ever-present option in the colonial political imagination.

Conclusion In Globalization and Sovereignty, John Agnew argues that sovereignty did not disappear with globalization but instead became deterritorialized.35 However, this is potentially not something that was specific to the era of globalization, as we find disjunctions between sovereignty and territory in the historical context of the Age of Empire. The equivalence between territory and sovereignty was a construction specific to the emergence of nation states, and the concurrence of this emergence with the rise of colo32  ANOM, Fm, SG; NHB//8, 7 October 1920, from the Minister of Foreign Affairs to the Minister of the Colonies. 33  MAE 38CP/COM/8, 30 April 1925, from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 34  MAE, 38CP/COM/8, 14 November 1926. 35  Agnew (2009).



nial empires has resulted in a sometimes overly systematic conception of colonial sovereignty in territorial terms. The example of the New Hebrides Condominium represents an experience of the deterritorialization of sovereignty, insofar as power was exercised not so much over a territory as over individuals considered as nationals, in the manner of forms of jurisdiction exercised on ships or space shuttles in our time. What was ­important from the standpoint of imperial concerns was less territory than authority over individual Frenchmen and Britons. New Hebridians were considered in this arrangement only as potential manpower, either on the scale of the archipelago or of the Pacific region.36 At the same time, the situation satisfied no one, and partition plans demonstrate the sustained desire to establish power in relation to sovereignty. In other words, the colonial situation multiplied internal borders, creating both territories and human groups with different statuses living on the same territory. The New Hebrides—where New Hebridians, foreigners, Frenchmen, and Britons could fall under different jurisdictions despite living a few hundred meters apart—is emblematic of this situation.37 The notion of regimes of sovereignty, which led to the conception of different scales for the application of power, is therefore the most appropriate way of understanding how colonial domination was exercised. Ultimately, explorations along the lines of sovereignty shed more light on the history of European political ideas than on that of colonized territories and have displaced the grand narrative of enlightened and rational political decisions.38 This possibility is most probably explained by a political choice rather than pragmatism, especially with regard to the exceptional longevity of the New Hebrides Condominium. As demonstrated by the repeated plans for partition, this political solution was constantly called 36  It has sometimes been argued that as a result of this novel situation, colonial domination in the New Hebrides was rather “soft,” at least for the everyday lives of New Hebridians, who in the end were not greatly affected by this administration that lacked substance: “The condominium left a large de facto sphere of autonomy and liberty to Melanesian society, which could rebuild in accordance with its own conceptions once the devastating shock of initial contact with the external world had passed” (Antheaume and Bonnemaison 1988, 65). The fact remains that the seizure of lands was a reality, whose relation to the problems of economic development encountered by the state of Vanuatu upon its independence cannot be denied. 37  In similar fashion but in a different register, the indigénat system established in the French empire led to a differentiated way of ruling over populations living on the same territory. 38  Darwin (2011).



into question, and in principle it did not satisfy the parties, even though they adapted to them in the end. The image of legal patchworks that characterizes empires—which colonial historians have analyzed, and whose layering and varying degrees of sovereignty they have revealed—is entirely ­appropriate in this context.39 The New Hebrides Condominium, a unique and marginal case in the historiography and the geography of empires, sheds light on French and British imperial practices and serves as a reminder that they were marked both by guiding principles and by expedient adjustments that could lead to permanent reconfigurations.

Bibliography Archival Sources Archives du Ministère des Affaires Etrangères, La Courneuve (MAE) MAE 186CP/COM/4 MAE 186CP/COM/5 MAE 186CP/COM/8 MAE 38CP/COM/8

Archives nationales d’Outre Mer, Aix-en-Provence (hereafter ANOM) ANOM, Fm, SG, NHB//1 ANOM, Fm, SG, NHB//4 ANOM, Fm, SG, NHB//6 ANOM, Fm, SG, NHB//6D ANOM, Fm, SG; NHB//8 ANOM, Fm, SG, NHB//35

Printed Sources Adams, Ron. 1986. Indentured Labour and the Development of Plantations in Vanuatu, 1867–1922. Journal de la société des océanistes, 42, nos. 82–83: 41–63. Agnew, John. 2009. Globalization and Sovereignty. New  York: Rowman and Littlefield.

 Stoler et al. (2007).




Aldrich, Robert. 1990. The French Presence in the South Pacific, 1842–1940. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press. Antheaume, Benoît, and Joël Bonnemaison. 1988. Atlas des îles et des Etats du Pacifique Sud. Montpellier: Gip reclus, Paris Publisud. Banner, Stuart. 2007. Possessing the Pacific: Land, Settlers, and Indigenous People from Australia to Alaska. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Baré, Jean-François. 1985. Le Malentendu pacifique: Des premières rencontres entre Polynésiens et Anglais et de ce qui s’ensuivit avec les Français jusqu’à nos jours. Paris: Hachette. Benoist, Hubert. 1972. Le Condominium des Nouvelles-Hébrides et la société mélanésienne. Paris: Éditions A. Pedone. Benton, Lauren. 2006. Spatial Histories of Empire. Itinerario 30: 19–34. Blais, Hélène. 2005. Voyages au Grand Océan. Géographies du Pacifique et colonisation, 1815–1845. Paris: CTHS. Bonnemaison, Joël. 1975. Nouvelles Hébrides. Papeete: Editions du Pacifique. ———. 1986. Passion et misères d’une société coloniale: les plantations au Vanuatu entre 1920 et 1980. Journal de la société des océanistes, 42, nos. 82–83: 65–84. ———. 1996 [1986]. Les fondements géographiques d’une identité. L’archipel du Vanuatu. Essai de géographie culturelle – Livre I: Gens de pirogue et gens de la terre. Paris: ORSTOM éditions. Bresnihan, Brian J., and Keith Woodward. 2002. Tufala Gavman: Reminiscences from the Anglo-French Condominium of New Hebrides. Fiji: Institute of Pacific Studies University of South Pacific. Darwin, John. 2011. The Empire Project: The Rise and Fall of the British World-­ System, 1830–1970. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Foucrier, Annick, ed. 2005. The French and the Pacific world, 17th–19th centuries: Explorations, Migrations, and Cultural Exchanges. Burlington: Ashgate. Gilson, Richard Phillip. 1970. Samoa 1830 to 1900: The Politics of a Multi-cultural Community. Melbourne: Oxford University Press. Guiart, Jean. 1986. La conquête et le déclin: les plantations, cadre des relations sociales et économiques au Vanuatu. Journal de la société des océanistes, 42, nos. 82–83: 7–40. MacClancy, Jeremy. 1981. To Kill a Bird with Two Stones: A Short History of Vanuatu. Port Vila: Imprimerie SOCOM (traduction française, Port-Vila, Centre culturel du Vanuatu, Faire de deux pierres un coup, Une brève histoire du Vanuatu jusqu’à l’indépendance, 2002). Mohamed-Gaillard, Sarah. 2011. Du condominium franco-britannique des Nouvelles-Hébrides au Vanuatu: deux métropoles pour une indépendance. Le Journal de la Société des Océanistes 133: 309–322. Neilson, David John. 1979. Might or Misery?: British Planters in the New Hebrides 1920–40. Auckland: History, University of Auckland.



New Hebrides, British Service. 1921–1972. Colonial Reports, New Hebrides. London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office. Politis, N. 1908. Le Condominium Franco-Anglais des Nouvelles-Hébrides. Paris: A. Pedone. Rannou, Gwendal. 2011. L’archipel aux deux drapeaux: Le condominium des Nouvelles-Hébrides de 1908 à 1923. Master’s thesis under the direction of Hugues Tertrais, University of Paris I. Riou, Virginie. 2010. Trajectoires pseudo-coloniales: Les Français du condominium franco-anglais des ex Nouvelles-Hébrides (Vanuatu) de la fin du XIXe siècle à l’entre deux guerres. EHESS. Anthropology thesis under direction of Alban Bensa. Rodman, Margaret Critichlow. 2001. Houses Far from Home: British Colonial Space in the New Hebrides. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press. Ryden, George Herbert. 1975. The Foreign Policy of the United States in Relation to Samoa. New  York: Octagon Press. (Reprint by Special Arrangement with Yale University Press. Originally Published at New Haven: Yale University Press. 1928). Samson, Jane, ed. 2003. British Imperial Strategies in the Pacific, 1750–1900. Burlington: Ashgate. Stoler, Laura Ann, McGranahan Carole, and Peter C. Perdue, eds. 2007. Imperial Formations. London: James Currey. Thompson, Roger C. 1980. Australian Imperialism in the Pacific: The Expansionist Era, 1820–1920. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press. Thomson, Anne-Gabrielle. 2000. John Higginson: Spéculateur-aventurier à l’assaut du Pacifique: Nouvelle-Calédonie/Nouvelles-Hébrides. Paris: L’Harmattan. Van Trease, Howard. 1987. The Politics of Land in Vanuatu: From Colony to Independence. Fiji: Institute of Pacific Studies of University of the South Pacific. Verzijl, Jan Hendrik Willem. 1970. International Law in Historical Perspective, Part III, State Territory. Leyden: A. W. Sijthoff..


British and French Colonial Statistics: Development by Hybridization from the Nineteenth to the Mid-Twentieth Centuries Béatrice Touchelay

Broussard doesn’t need a week’s experience to be persuaded that the volume of work to be accomplished is significantly greater than that normally accomplished by the busiest of officials back home […] there is a huge amount of paper work to be dealt with, as in any bureaucracy that wishes to prove itself worthy of Europe’s envy. (Late-nineteenth-century memorandum from a colonial civil servant)1 There is still much to be done to organize […] statistics in the French possessions, to arouse the interest of the heads of the local administrations in questions of statistics and to demonstrate to them the benefits a specialist service would bring. (Memorandum from a statistician seconded to the Indochina General Statistical Service, 1938)2 1 2

 Delafosse (1909, 37).  Ulmer (1938, 241), translated by author.

B. Touchelay (*) Université de Lille, Lille, France © The Author(s) 2019 J. R. Fichter (ed.), British and French Colonialism in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies Series,




Statistics reflect the forms of the state and of its modes of government and as such contribute to the control of territories and the oversight of populations. When the statistical apparatus in question was colonial in nature, its aim was to evaluate the resources available for exploitation in a particular territory. The phases, modalities, and outcomes of its development were the product of a political will relayed from the metropolis to the territory under its control. Surveys and censuses were organized pragmatically and usually made use of intermediaries. They were sometimes carried out in response to an emergency. The need to reestablish order in British India after the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 or to prepare for and then support the abolition of slavery in the former French West Indian colonies made it essential to have accurate demographic data. The territories’ social, religious, and political characteristics influenced the nature of the surveys. Knowledge of the religions and castes was crucial in British India. It was less so in the French colonies, where the priority was the question of manpower.3 A manifestation of the metropolis’ sovereignty or an argument for or against colonization, statistics also made it possible to anticipate the threats to the colonial presence.4 It was the characteristics of the metropolis and of the empires themselves that determined how statistics was organized. The economic liberalism and political stability that characterized the United Kingdom from the end of the eighteenth century onward fostered the development of the colonial bureaucracies for which statistics was an instrument. In France, stabilization of the country’s political regime remained an unresolved question until the 1870s. Colonial empire was not established until the 1880s, and it remained under administered. This difference between the two countries and their empires explains why the British “model” was chosen to develop the French colonial empire’s statistical apparatus.5 3   Archives nationales de l’Outre-Mer/National Overseas Archives (ANOM) 1 AFFECO/101 Brazzaville Conference. Minutes of the first plenary session, Tuesday 1 February 1944. Copy no. 4 by Peter (Pleven) marked “Confidential.” Pleven: “in French black Africa, demographics rules. The general density is less than three inhabitants per km2 and the manpower issue dominates the whole problem” (9). 4  Desrosières (2000), Barbieri (2007), Schnakenbourg (1980,  12), Guilmoto (1998), Touchelay (1998), Heffner (1918), d’Aguilera (2017). 5  Beaud and Damasceno Fonseca (2017), Etemad (2007), Ittmann et al. (2010).



Conceived as extensions of the national statistical apparatus, colonial statistics were rendered imprecise because of the difficulties in collecting them. Even in the old French colonies, such as Algeria or the North African protectorates, where the state registers and censuses made demographic surveys easier, inaccuracies persisted.6 The inadequacies of British colonial statistics were also officially recognized between the two world wars, which narrowed the gap between French and British colonial statistics. Our purpose here is to understand why imperfection was the common denominator of colonial statistics and to analyze its effects. To that end, we need to “go back to the sources.”7 Taking the French case as a starting point, we draw on an abundance of widely dispersed sources on scales ranging from the local through the national to the international.8 This chapter presents the initial results of an ongoing research project. We begin by describing the permeable roots of the French and British colonial statistical systems before going on to analyze two periods in the construction of French colonial statistics, namely that of statistics without ­statisticians and then that in which practices were improved, giving rise to certain tensions. 6  Kateb (1998). Annuaire statistique de la Guadeloupe 1949–1953/Guadeloupe Statistical Yearbook 1949–1953, Paris: Imprimerie nationale, 1954. Retrospective section Chapter XIV: remark on agricultural statistics, sugar and rum production: “No census of the areas under cultivation has been undertaken. In the absence of a land registry, the agricultural authorities are reduced to estimating the areas. […] All the figures given in the present yearbook are, therefore, largely approximate” (55). 7  Sibeud et al. (2013, 8). 8  The Archives Nationales d’Outre-Mer (ANOM) in Aix-en-Provence houses the collections of the former Ministry of the Navy and Colonies and of the Ministry of the Colonies and the institutions tasked with documentation (Exposition coloniale, or Agence économique de la France d’Outre Mer-Colonies (AGEFOM) and Affaires économiques (AFFECO)), which stretch over several linear metres but in which the information on statistics is not categorized; the Centre des archives économiques et financières (CAEF) at Savigny-le-Temple (Val-de-Marne, France) houses the archives of the economics administrations, for example: CAEF B-0057570/2 Statistique coloniale, activités opérationnelles, enquêtes démographiques, résultats des economic and financial authorities in the colonies, for example, CAEF B-005750 Colonial statistics, operational activities, demographic surveys, census results, Guadeloupe (1921, 1926, 1931); Colonial statistics, Middle and Far East, country statistical studies, Indochina, conduct of the censuses of 1921 and 1931, Yearbooks. National Archives of Vietnam (ANV) housed at National Archives Center 1 in Hanoi were also consulted.



Flows of Ideas Interest in statistics burgeoned in Europe at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The impetus came initially from the learned societies and then from the probabilistic revolution and the development of national statistical offices. Britons and Frenchmen played major roles in the debates of this period. This was the golden age of taxonomy and classifications (of occupations, diseases, etc.). The language of the debates was French until the turn of the twentieth century, when English gradually came to dominate. Statisticians began to operate internationally, a development encouraged by the initiatives of the Belgian Quetelet (1796–1874) in favor of the expansion of and cooperation between national statistical offices. The debates were to find a framework within the International Statistical Association (ISA), the establishment of which was proposed by Quetelet in London during a meeting of the Royal Statistic Society in 1851. The statistical conferences that followed the one held in Brussels in 1853 encouraged the development of new national statistical offices.9 After an interruption in the 1870s, the “numerical nebula”10 regained its dynamism at the end of the century. It was spurred on by the development of national statistical institutes and the founding of the IIS (International Institute of Statistics) in London in 1885.11 This internationalization of statistics was impelled by the informational requirements of the colonial empires that were still to be exploited. Although it was concentrated mainly in Western Europe, and despite the differences between the empires, the “numerical nebula” encouraged the diffusion of statistical practices within the colonial framework. It was furthered by the publications of the learned societies, doctors, geographers, ethnographers and statisticians and by publications put out by groupings of economic interests, such as the chambers of commerce, companies, and employers’ pressure groups, circulated by specialist publishing houses.12 Presentation of the data was descriptive, or else it took the form of tables with little if any commentary. Even in official publications, the source of the figures, the survey methodologies, and the calculation methods were not routinely specified.13  Brian (1998, 1989).  Topalov (1999). The expression is borrowed from this author, who speaks of “a reforming nebula.” 11  Chevry (1970). 12  Bonin et al. (2008). 13  Legoyt (1863), Huber (1914). 9




Statistics developed by processes of hybridization, with imitation being the rule. It was British and French practices that enjoyed the best reputations, ahead of any claims made by the Italians, Germans, and North Americans. Nevertheless, while there was a certain degree of consensus within the network on statistical objectives and methods, the organization of a nation’s official statistics, particularly those of France and the United Kingdom, was determined by the national environment, whether political, economic, or social.

Imperial Statistics, a British “Model” The regularity with which surveys and censuses were conducted in the United Kingdom from 1801 onward was replicated throughout the British Empire. This empire was more well established before that of the other European powers; it was better administered; and its infrastructure and economic activities were more highly developed. In the economic and political circles in France that were concerned with such matters, there was an awareness of the quality of British national and colonial statistics. In Great Britain, colonial matters were the responsibility of the Home Office between 1782 and 1801. Responsibility was then transferred to the War and Colonial Department, the successor to the secretary of state for war that had been in charge of organizing the war with France, where it remained until 1854. The advent of peace at the end of the Napoleonic Wars and the expansion of the British Empire led to a widening of its remit. In 1822, four departments with responsibility for specific geographical areas were added to it. During the Crimean War of 1854, colonial and military affairs were separated and a Colonial Office was set up under the supervision of the secretary of state for the colonies. The geographical division of the various sections was maintained, and the heads of section were given responsibility for general matters. In 1870, the heads of sections’ remits were transferred to a general department comprising an accounts section and an emigration department. This arrangement lasted from 1878 to 1894. The Colonial Office published Statistical Blue Books each year. They contained social and economic information on the colonies as well as a list of government and military personnel and information on taxes and revenues, budgets, education, prisons, and exports and imports that the colonial governments had been compiling and sending since 1817. Although they were not standardized and varied very considerably in quality from colony to colony, the regularity with which the data was collected and published in the Blue Books was much admired.



The administrative structure changed as the Empire itself changed. In 1907, a Dominions Division was established, which became the Dominion Office in 1925. The specialist departments responsible for specific geographical areas were brought together to form the Crown Colonies Division, while the mandated territories transferred to British control following the First World War were administered by the Colonial Office, which was also responsible for the Imperial Institute between 1907 and 1925. From the 1930s onward, the specialist departments were strengthened at the expense of the geographical subdivisions. Compared with this organization, the administrative structures of the French Empire took a long time to become stabilized. Colonial affairs were initially the responsibility of the Ministry of the Navy and Colonies. Responsibility was then transferred to an undersecretary of state for the colonies in November 1881; this arrangement fell apart before being revived in 1883. Colonial affairs were then transferred to the Ministry of Trade and then went back once again to the Ministry of the Navy for a year (1892–1893) before returning to the Ministry of Trade and Industry. The creation, in the Act of 20 March 1894, of a dedicated Ministry of the Colonies paralleled the stabilization of the Empire’s boundaries. A high council for the colonies established in 1883, and the founding of the colonial inspection service in 1887 and of the inspection service for the colonial education system, in which no training in statistics was provided, in 1889 completed the edifice without weakening many administrators’ admiration for the British system. Defenders of free trade and British colonization drew on statistics in support of their arguments, while French colonialists and advocates of colonial conquests in the 1880s (Tonkin) rarely did so.14

The French Delay Becomes an Obsession French official statistics took the English “model” as their inspiration. In 1833, Adolphe Thiers, the then minister of trade, appointed a demographer, Alexandre Moreau de Jonnès, to head his department’s statistical office. He gave him the task of compiling and publishing an inventory of the administrative data available in mainland France and the colonies. The aim was to introduce regular yearbooks into France like those published by the British Board of Trade. The first volume of the inventory was published  El Mechat (2009), Gervais and Mandé (2007).




in 1835. In view of its workload, the decree of 3 April 1840 transformed the statistical office into the General Statistics of France (Statistique Générale de la France or SGF), attached directly to the ministry. It conducted and analyzed the 1851 census. Thirteen new volumes of the inventory were published before 1852. These yearbooks contained annual statistical tables for France and its colonies as well as summary tables for France and foreign countries accompanied by copious explanatory notes. The funding for the SGF was cut at the beginning of the Second Empire; Moreau de Jonnès left the institution and the inventory was left incomplete, with a number of basic sectors simply left out, including domestic trade, shipping, the colonies, the national finances, the armed forces, the navy, justice, religious institutions, and public education.15 The SGF managed neither to get itself recognized by the ministerial departments nor to prevent the departments producing statistics from being dispersed. It did not succeed in harmonizing practices either. It was not until 1885, with the establishment of the High Council on Statistics, that a rudimentary form of consultation and dialogue began to emerge. It was not until the Labour Office was set up in 1891 that the General Statistics of France, which was attached to it, began to expand again. It was given the task of developing the economic and social statistics in addition to the demographic statistics. Its director was Lucien March, a mechanical engineer, and it was equipped with Hollerith tabulating machines imported from the United States for processing the data from the 1890 census. March took an active part in the activities of the International Statistical Institute (ISI), founded in London in 1885. A connoisseur of all things British, he translated Galton’s books into French (1911) and introduced eugenics. In 1907, the SGF became a separate department of the new Ministry of Labour. It began publishing a quarterly bulletin and recruited its first statisticians on the basis of a competitive examination before the First World War. Several of its statisticians contributed to the development of statistics in North Africa and then, after 1922, to the establishment of the Indochina statistical service. They were all deeply concerned about their lack of resources, and some of them were critical of the downgrading of French statistics when it came to surveys of industrial output. The industrial census of 1931 was a fiasco. It was the industrial survey conducted in the metropolis in 1938 and a year later in French  Blum et al. (1996), Touchelay (1998).




West Africa and Togo—a survey that attracted considerable criticism— that revived some of the pioneering practices of the early nineteenth century.16 The SGF was in charge of statistical operations carried out in the metropolis and then extended to the old colonies and to North Africa, but it did not operate in the other territories. French colonial statistics fell within the remit of ministerial departments that allocated few resources to it until the end of the nineteenth century. From the 1880s onward, the General Statistics published the most important data in its yearbook and bulletin. Nevertheless, some information of primary importance, such as the tables on “France’s trade and that of its possessions in certain raw materials,” was not regularly included in the Bulletin de la Statistique générale de la France before 1934.17

French Colonial Statistics without Statisticians The first phase in the development of colonial statistics was that of “colonial statistics without statisticians.”18 The circulars and directives issued by the Ministry of the Navy (e.g., directive of 25 February 1822) and then by the Ministry of the Colonies determined how statistics were to be produced and disseminated. The first edition of the State of the Population, Agriculture and Trade dates from 1832, and others were to follow. These ministries’ budgetary allocations were not sufficient to meet actual needs, while the lack of efficient administration and infrastructure within the Empire raised the cost of conducting surveys. The ministries relied on a single institution—the Permanent Colonial Exposition founded in Paris in 16  Bunle (1924), Huber (1913). ANOM 1AFFECO/59 Affaires économiques (1930–). Memorandum on the subject of the projected survey in the African colonies addressed to the department of economic affairs of the Ministry of the Colonies, 21 August 1942. Statistical results of the 1939 survey of industrial output in French West Africa and Togo. The survey questionnaire attests to the “imbalance that is typical of the narrowness of perspective that is all too frequently adopted at the Ministry of the Colonies: foreign trade takes up a huge amount of space while much information of considerable interest is ignored. […] Is it really necessary to leave space to list in detail 20 destinations for the products manufactured by such and such a company (which usually does not know where its products go to)? [...] We are allowed just two figures for average hourly wages, which are not defined at all, either in the directive or in the questionnaire, and we are not even given any information on the nature of the energy used.” 17  Ulmer (1938, 241). 18  Sanner (1994).



1855—to gather together the nonstandardized economic documentation on the various overseas territories. The Exposition ceased to exist in 1897, when the Palais de l’Industrie in which it was housed was demolished, leaving “the collections to lie neglected in the Ministry’s basement” and doing away with an official commercial information department “at a time when foreign colonial powers are improving” their commercial and colonial documentation.19 Successive governments made several efforts to remedy the situation. Thus, the High Council on Statistics was set up to harmonize methods and encourage the centralization of data. This was followed by the establishment of a Colonial Office in 1899, the director of which was a member of the High Council on Statistics. The Act of 13 April 1900 imposed budgetary autonomy on the colonies. Two circulars, one from Gaston Doumergue, minister for the colonies between 1902 and 1905,20 dated 27 July 1904, and the other signed by Alfred Picard and dated 15 February 1909, set out the schedule and forms to be used and the statistical information that local officials had to send to the metropolis. The 1909 circular was the more demanding, since it was accompanied by a 212-page booklet containing templates for the tables.21

The Colonial Office: Colonial Statistics without Any Local Intermediary The Colonial Office established by the decree of 14 March 1899 was modeled on the Imperial Institute in London, which “contributes to the prodigious expansion of British colonial trade.” It was charged with the task of “enlightening the French population as to their colonies, gathering together and making available to the public information of all kinds about agriculture, trade and industry in the French colonies and presiding over a permanent exhibition of colonial trade.”22 Housed in the Palais-Royal in 19  ANOM AGEFOM//852 Ministerial collection. Colonial Office. Report submitted in the name of the board of governors of the Colonial Office, typescript, no date, 18 pages. 20  ANV Gouvernement général de l’Indochine 8848. Memorandum on the subject of Indochina population statistics (1904–1912), 4 pages. 21  ANOM AGEFOM//852 Ministerial collection. Colonial Office. Specimen documents (1900–1911), Finance Act and order. 22  ANV Gouvernement général de l’Indochine. 3684 Establishment, instatement and operations of the Colonial Office in Paris, (1895–1915). Director’s report to the board of governors and development committee on the Office’s activities during the financial year 1905, 20 January 1906, Melun, Government Printing Office.



Paris, the office was attached to the Ministry of the Colonies and placed under the supervision of a development committee chaired by the minister whose task it was “to contribute to the development of trade between the metropolis and the colonies.”23 It met every quarter to draw up a report on the office’s operations. The Colonial Office was organized along the same lines as the Council for Foreign Trade. It was divided into two departments (Colonization and Emigration; Statistics and Dissemination) and had its own library. The Colonization and Emigration Department was responsible for directing immigrants to the colonies, overseeing the tax regime, and placing young French men in the trading and manufacturing companies. The Statistics and Dissemination Department, for its part, was charged with compiling trade and shipping statistics, population statistics, and statistics on land and production, as well climatological information and cartographic and bibliographical documentation. Besides its director, Noël Auricoste,24 the office had some fifteen employees, including four heads of department, together with a number of colonial civil servants on temporary secondment. Further details of its organizational structures were set out in the decree of 16 March 1910 and then in the order of 31 July 1911, which defined its relationship with the governors-general. The office dealt with many letters and other documents.25 In its first year of operation, it handled some 10,000 letters and opened 3,400 files, all of which were classified. It updated instructions for immigrants and published “the results of the colonial trade and industrial statistics as they were received by the Ministry” in a monthly information sheet (Feuille de renseignements). Auricoste’s reports to the development board provided information on the office’s activities. Complaints about inadequate funding were a leitmotiv. On 7 April 1900, Auricoste presented an ambitious 23  ANOM AGEFOM//852 Ministerial collection. Colonial Office. Minutes of the meetings of the development committee, first meeting, 7 April 1900. 24  A republican from a farming family, Auricoste (1844–1909) became a teacher of physical and natural sciences. He embarked on an administrative career as head of division in a prefecture before entering politics when he was elected a departmental councillor for the canton of Marvejols in 1893 and then a member of parliament for the department of Lozère at the general election of 20 August 1893. Defeated in the general election of 1898, he was appointed director of the Office of the Colonies in Paris. http://www2.assemblee-nationale. fr/sycomore/fiche/(num_dept)/280. Consulted 14 February 2018. 25  ANOM AGEFOM//852 Ministerial collections. Colonial Office. Minute of the meetings of the development committee, first meeting, 7 April 1900.



program for disseminating the statistics. Considering it “absolutely essential” to publish them “during the year following that to which they apply,” he regretted that he had been unable to circulate the information sheets more frequently “because of the paucity of resources.” However, the office managed to make up for the accumulated delay in disseminating the trade statistics. It published “the trade flow statistics for 1896, those for 1897 are at the printer’s and the documents for 1898 are being printed at another printer’s.” Auricoste explained that “the statistics for 1889 could be published at the end of 1900” if the office was granted additional funding. Following the recommendations of the High Council on Statistics, which “has compiled questionnaire tables for various sectors of colonial activity,” Auricoste undertook to produce a whole series of “more general statistics on demography, shipping, industry, mining, manpower, immigration and emigration, communication channels, finances, savings, public education, aid, criminality, climatology, etc. etc.” If it had the funds, the office was going to print the questionnaire tables, which would be sent to local administrators. The results would then be published. Auricoste gave a breakdown of the office’s budget to the development committee on 12 May 1900. The state provided 39,800 francs, of which 20,000 were intended for the trade museum, and the colonies paid 20,900 francs, of which 18,400 were for compulsory expenditures.26 He explained that the payments from the colonies were arriving too slowly and irregularly: the office had received only the payment from Indochina (14,400 francs). A total of 5,500 francs was still outstanding, including 500 from Martinique and 3,000 from Senegal. Auricoste suggested to the ministry that each colony’s contribution should be fixed by decree, with due account being taken of “local budgets, the economic situation and all the other factors.” In December 1900, the ministerial subsidy allocated to the office for 1901 was 80,000 francs, which was still regarded as inadequate.27 Printing and office costs took up more than 10 percent of this sum (8,800 francs). The publications proliferated. Statistics manuals were published for each of the colonies.28 The information sheets supplemented the three journals published by the Ministry: the Revue coloniale (given over  Idem. Minutes of the meeting of 12 May 1900.  Idem. Minutes of the meeting of 15 December 1900. 28  Idem. Minutes of the meeting of 12 February 1902. 26 27



to reports on exploration missions and geographical and historical information), L’agriculture pratique des pays chauds, and the Annales d’hygiène et de médecine coloniale.29 Local administrators were still too slow in communicating the information for the data from one year to be published in the following year.30 In response, it was decided to reduce from six (due date 30 June) to four months (due date 30 April) the time allowed for the colonies to send the trade statistics. New statistics on shipping (port movements), buildings, and the mineral industry were also called for. The funding for the office’s Statistics and Dissemination Department reached its maximum of 15,500 francs. It was urged “to expand the information sheets significantly so that they would no longer be restricted to questions of trade but would also include statistics pertaining to the law, finance etc.”31 A total of 1,500 copies of the Feuille were printed; it had 150 subscribers and from 1901 onward it was available by post and from the office’s premises. In 1904, the office acquired legal personality and financial autonomy (Act of 18 February). It was still experiencing difficulties in obtaining data from the colonies, and the rapid dissemination of the data received remained its priority.32

The Difficulty of Getting the Colonies to Cooperate The Doumergue circular of July 1904 invited “the local administrations” to compile a register of “their citizens by the most practical and accurate methods” possible in order “to publish annual demographic statistics.” It also sought to harmonize practices by asking colonial officials to fill in “12 model tables compiled by the Colonial Office’s statistics department on the advice of the High Council on Statistics.” Since the colonies “had large indigenous populations of which little is yet known,” they were permitted to send “estimates”; however, the nature of such estimates had to be clearly specified in “a footnote to the table.” The tables were to be returned to the Colonial Office by a fixed date. The local administrations  Idem. Minutes of the meeting of 4 July 1901.  Idem. Report by the director of the Colonial Office for the development committee, 1903, p. 28 et seq. 31  Idem. Minutes of the meeting of 22 January 1903. 32  Idem. Minutes of the meeting of 8 July 1904. 29 30



were invited to take the “precautions required in order not to offend the populations being registered” and to ensure that “the figures for the indigenous populations are as close as possible to reality.”33 This circular made the office’s task easier. In 1905, the Feuille de renseignements expanded to eight pages.34 Other publications, such as La statistique résumée du commerce extérieur des colonies pour 1904 and the Tableaux d’ensemble du commerce des colonies en 1903 et 1904, supplemented various memoranda and local reports on the economic situation (Guinea, Guadeloupe, Senegal, French Oceanic Establishments). Auricoste declared himself very pleased with the effective contribution made by the “governors of the various colonies” to this “statistical documentation.” The information on trade, shipping, population, public health, the mineral industry, public education, justice, local budgets, and railways were adjudged to be “accurate.” The information on foreign colonization had also improved, thanks to the documentation sent by Foreign Affairs. Some gaps remained, however. Auricoste regretted that it was not “possible to obtain even an approximate figure for the population of the colonies.” He also deplored a number of “disappointments,” such as the lack of statistics from Martinique, Guyana, New Caledonia, and Tahiti. A major effort was expected in 1906, at the time of the general census in France and the old colonies.35 Several surveys were instigated. One was concerned with statistics on public education and health, to which Indochina did not reply, and the other with the capital sums committed in the colonies. The office director’s report for 1905 again bemoaned the lack of funds, which prevented his organization from publishing a great deal of information, on the mines, on colonization, and on the railways.36 33  ANV Gouvernement general de l’Indochine, 138. Indochina population statistics. Confidential memorandum from the resident-superior in Tonkin to the Chief Residents in Tonkin Province: “I cannot advise you strongly enough to take the greatest possible care in compiling these statistics and to proceed with the greatest possible caution in conducting your census surveys of the Annamite population in order to avoid offending the indigenous people’s sensibilities or arousing their fear. Above all, it is essential that the Administration’s intentions are not misrepresented and that the Annamite population cannot be led by tendentious information to fear the imposition of a new tax,” Hanoi, 22 September 1904, for duplication, Cabinet Chief of Staff, signed Bosc. 34  Ibid. 3684. Organisation of the Office colonial in Paris (1895–1915). Reports of the director for the Conseils d’administration et de perfectionnement on services during the year 1905, 20 January 1906, Melun, Government Printing Office. 35  Idem, 27–28. 36  Idem, 30.



He requested an increase in the budget for statistics and printing from 15,500 to 25,000 francs. This request was accepted, since additional funding granted for 1906 enabled the office to publish new statistics on trade and shipping and figures on mining for 1990–1904.37 By now, the returns from the local administrations were becoming more regular. Only statistics on agricultural colonization and public health were still “particularly difficult to obtain.” The documentation received was now “more carefully compiled”; the financial statistics had improved and now included final accounts for the metropolis’ colonial budget as well as local budgets and tables showing debts and reserves. Although they could not “claim rigorous accuracy,” the demographic statistics were now considered to be “as close to the truth as possible.”38 Auricoste’s assessment as he was preparing to retire was a positive one. His successor was O.  Vernes. At that time, the statistics department employed two statisticians. The Bulletin de la France coloniale, a monthly publication of which 700 copies were printed, replaced the Feuille de renseignements in 1908. It supplemented the colonial statistics with reports “compiled with the greatest possible care by the local administrations.” The establishment in the decree of 31 July 1911 of delegations from the colonies to the office facilitated cooperation. However, the war interrupted the work, and another organization was set up. The trade and customs statistics were separated from non customs statistics. The statistics on foreign trade were entrusted to the economic agencies that were to be established in the colonies. An agency was set up in Indochina during the war. The figures produced by these agencies were gathered together by the General Agency for the Colonies (Agence générale des colonies), which replaced the Colonial Office (decree of 29 June 1919).39 Headed by Alfred Harmois, who had worked in the Colonial Office,40 its information department was given the task of drawing together  Idem, 23.  Idem, 26. 39  ANOM AGEFOM//3674 Statute of the Agence générale des colonies. Report on its establishment. 40  ANOM AGEFOM//408 Office colonial and Agence générale des colonies. Harmois, Alfred, Léon, born 8 January 1868  in Nantes, former adjutant-major in the marines (1901–1905), draughtsman in the department of naval artillery in Cherbourg (3 July 1906–1 July 1912), administrative officer in the French Post Office at Saint Brieuc (15 December 1913) then recruited as an assistant in the Colonial Office, editor/copywriter seventh class in 1914 then editor/copywriter in the Agence générale des colonies 1 January 1919, appointed 37 38



all the information on trade coming from the colonies. It regularly published customs statistics, supplemented on occasions by reports on the activities of the principal economic actor in the region. The General Agency for the Colonies was to be abolished for cost-saving reasons in 1934 (decree of 17 May) before being reorganized by an order issued in September 1935.41 An intercolonial information-and-documentation department was set up subsequently in order to centralize the remits of the individual territorial agencies (decree of 12 March 1937). It was to be reorganized under Vichy France in 1941. Non customs statistics were the responsibility of an economic department in the Ministry of the Colonies that was established by the Act of 31 July 1920 and then became the Department of Economic Affairs in 1935.42 The absence of any mechanism for drawing together nonstatistical information gathered in the colonies, particularly that gathered by the inspection service, restricted knowledge and prevented any attempt to rectify matter.43 The immensity of the new territories in sub-Saharan Africa and the fact that they were under administered prejudiced efforts to develop surveys. The characteristics of Indochina meant it was more similar to British India (presence of a local elite and administration prior to colonization, areas of high demographic density and trade flows) and therefore better suited to surveys. The establishment of an Indochina statistical service that would make use of statisticians heralded a new era.

New Challenges for Colonial Statistics The First World War encouraged practices to converge on both sides of the Channel and in the French and British Empires. It confirmed the value of knowledge about the colonies, but despite general awareness of the inadequacy of the available statistics, budget restrictions during the reconstruction head of internal department 1 November 1927 then head of department first class 1 August 1932. 41  ANOM AGEFOM//902 Creation of the Agence de la France d’Outre-mer (FOM). Report by Marius Moutet, Minister for the Colonies, for the President of the Republic concerning the abolition of the Agence générale des colonies by the government decree of 4 April 1934, 12 March 1937. 42  ANOM AGEFOM//4101 Ministère des colonies. Department of Economic Affairs and Planning (1835–1964). 43  For example: ANOM 1 AFFECO//101 Missions of inspection. Mission Picanon, inspector of the colonies first class, head of mission (1924–1925).



period and then the economic crisis of the 1930s limited the scope of any response. Nevertheless, the establishment of the Indochina statistical service in 1922; the colonial development plan drawn up by Albert Sarraut, French minister for the colonies between 1920 and 1924; and then the reforms introduced by the Popular Front all attest to a new political will to turn the colonies to good account. The new tensions that emerged around colonial statistics, both in the territories and when international institutions took an interest in them, drew very hostile reactions from governments in the metropolis. The appropriation of statistics by the local administrations as part of the process of colonial domination meant that they could be put to use in the management of the territories (Indochina) or even used to fight against colonial domination (India). The development of the Indochina statistical service strengthened the autonomy of the governors-general, spurred on first by Jean-Marie de Lannesan (1891–1894) and then by Paul Doumer (1897–1904).

Statistics in Indochina Statistics existed before the first overseas statistical service was established in 1922, but its establishment opened up new prospects. The General Statistical Service of Indochina was placed in the hands of statisticians seconded from the SGF in order to develop statistics in the territories and protectorates of French Indochina (Cochinchina, Tonkin, Annam, Laos, and Cambodia). Its establishment was the result of a proposal by March, which was supported by André Lorchard, mining engineer and director of economic services in Indochina. On 1 September 1922, Fernand Leurence, a statistician at the SGF, was placed at the disposal of the minister for the colonies and posted to the Hanoi service. He began by compiling a detailed report on the state of the statistics sent to the governor-general.44 Although “the most important [statistics], such as those relating to foreign trade, are in general satisfactory,” others, such as “the statistics on the rice harvest” or “the censuses,” for example, which are fundamental “to our knowledge of the country’s economy,” were characterized by a “high degree of uncertainty.” According to Leurence, these imperfections were due not to “any negligence in compiling the statistics” but 44  ANV Gouvernement général de l’Indochine. 9029 Report to the council of government on the workings of the Department of Economic Affairs, 1924, Leurence, 11 August 1924.



rather to “the genuine impossibility of obtaining information on certain matters,” such as “crops” or “the population.” He recommended that these surveys should be abandoned in order to avoid “false conclusions” and that the method for collecting “basic information” should be changed by testing new methods “in a few provinces.” In his precise analysis of the data published in the Bulletin économique de l’Indochine, Leurence emphasized the value of the cost-of-living indices calculated for the period 1919–1923 for both “the working class” and “the well-to-do class” of Hanoi’s indigenous population. These indices came in addition to the quarterly cost-of-living index for Europeans in Hanoi and Saigon. He encouraged the work in progress on developing wholesale price indices in Hanoi and Saigon. Like all his statistician colleagues, Leurence travelled across “virtually the whole of Indochina” in order to disseminate a method to local officials.45 He wrote directives and prepared publications.46 He also introduced methods for conducting censuses of the Indochinese population “based on those that have been used in British India for many years.”47 Leurence returned to France on 28 November 1925 and rejoined the SGF on 1 June 1926. He was assisted and then succeeded by Thadée Smolski,48 who had arrived in Hanoi in March 1923. Marcel Lenoir was then seconded in October 1926, and he died in Hanoi a year later.49 In 1927, the unit comprised three statisticians and four Annamite secretaries. Henri Ulmer and Georges Bournier were assigned to it until 1933, and then, following budgetary restrictions imposed by the governor-general, they returned to the Ministry for the Colonies in Paris, where they laid the foundations for the  Idem. Gouvernement général de l’Indochine. Direction of the Affaires économiques (1924) 37004 Visit by Leurence. Official telegram from the resident-superior addressed to the Department of Economic Services: “Further to our conversation, I am sending you herewith a list of the visits I intend to pay to the residences in Tonkin […] Despite the full schedule, I expect to keep to the programme barring unexpected events of which I will inform you immediately being scheduled to leave mid-June for Annam and Cochinchina,” signed Leurence, Head of the Statistical Service, Hanoi, 20 May 1922. 46  Idem. Fonds de la résidence supérieure du Tonkin 41,952 Report from the head of the statistical service, proposal for a survey method for gathering statistics on rice production. 47  Idem. Gouvernement général de l’Indochine. Direction of the Affaires économiques (1925) 9030 Report from Leurence. 48  Idem. 6586 Ministère des Colonies. Pay book for Smolski, assistant in the statistical service of the governor-general of Indochina (1923–1936). 49  Idem. 3296 Ministère des Colonies. Pay book for Marcel Lenoir, senior statistician at the SGF assigned to serve in Indochina, 1926. 45



colonial statistics service.50 Gabriel Chevry was sent to Indochina in 1929, and he was assigned to the statistics service on a half-time basis until 1938. On his departure, only Thadée Smolski remained in the Hanoi statistics service. The statistical service provided the impetus for a wave of intense editorial activity. In 1926, the first of the fourteen Annuaire statistique de l’Indochine/Statistical Yearbooks for Indochina (for the years 1913–1922) was published by the Far East Printing Office under the imprint of the General Inspectorate of Mines and Factories. The second (1923–1927) was ­published in 1931.51 A Bulletin économique, “consisting of articles that are, in principle, otherwise unpublished” was also published from 1924 onward in the form of “monthly instalments that have to be paid for and which provide economic information that may or may not be recurring.” The print run increased steadily, from 850 copies in 1923 to 950 in 1925.52 The orders came from the SDN, the governor-general, and “private individuals” who were displaying “growing confidence in the usefulness and accuracy of the figures provided.”53 The service encouraged the development of statistics, despite the persistent gaps and significant disparities between territories. The demographic data increased in volume. The same was true of the studies of settlers’ standard of living and prices in the cities that were stipulated by the governor-general of Indochina,54 by the resident-superior in Tonkin,55 or, from time to time, by the Kingdom of Siam.56 These studies facilitated better management of the pay and allowances granted to settlers and local army reservists. The economic information provided in the 50  Idem. 122 File on Truong Vinh, statistical assistant in the General Statistical Service (1935–1936). Ulmer (1938, 241). 51   Ulmer (1934). 52  Idem. Gouvernement général de l’Indochine 9029 Report to the Council of Government on the workings of the Department of Economic Affairs, 1924: “An industrial yearbook for Tonkin is also in preparation,” p. 16. 53  Idem. 9031 Report to the Council of Government on the workings of the Department of Economic Affairs, 1926, pp. 4–5. 54  Idem. Gouvernement général de l’Indochine. See, for example: T50 05310 Review of the pay of European personnel in Indochina (1927–1928), 40 pages; T53 02814 Monthly allowance claimed by the indigenous secretaries in the Department of Economic Affairs (1912–1919), 43 pages or 6725 On the subject of the cost-of-living allowance paid to civil servants in Indochina (1921–1932), 62 pages. Barbieri (2007, 113). 55  Idem. Fonds de la Résidence supérieure au Tonkin série L7 Price statistics. 56  Idem. Gouvernement général de l’Indochine 3493 Statistical yearbook published by the Kingdom of Siam.



reports sent to the governor-general of Indochina, and in particular the report compiled by Cousin, the director of finances in Indochina, devoted to the economic and financial situation from 1930 to 1937, bear witness to the quality of the surveys. They contain accurate data on living conditions, “the population’s purchasing power,” and on prices, as well as an analysis of taxes, of the budget of the governor-general, and of the provincial budgets in Annam, Tonkin, and Cambodia.57 The budgetary restrictions imposed on the service from 1934 onward reduced its activities and forced it to limit its publishing activity. The ­yearbook, for example, was henceforth published only every two years.58 The print run was reduced several times.59 Nevertheless, in the absence of any monitoring and because so few statisticians were employed, some statistics remained very approximate, as a statistician in the field explained: “In Tonkin, for example, we even discovered that some subdivision heads were systematically reducing by 25% the figures for the rice harvest their subordinates were providing.”60 These limitations meant that the France’s colonial statistics were in a similar situation to those of the British Empire.

Franco-British Convergence Even though the resources allocated to the production of British colonial statistics continued to arouse the admiration of French statisticians during the interwar period, doubt was being cast on their effectiveness.61 These doubts originated in England. The system’s imperfections, and in particular the dispersion of the various statistical services and the diversity of survey methods, were castigated in a petition addressed by the Royal Statistical Society to the British government in November 1919. The Imperial Statistical Conference held in 1920 brought together delegates from the official statistical services for five weeks with the aim of finding 57  Idem. 344 Economic and financial situations of Indochina from 1930 to 1937, report from the Director of Finances for Indochina, 34 pages. 58  Idem. 2728 Direction des Affaires économiques et administrative, bureau de la Statistique générale, Hanoi 12 August 1934. 59  Idem. 3376 Direction des Affaires économiques: “The print run for the statistical yearbook can be reduced to 600 without any adverse effect, which does not reduce the cost to any great extent,” 22 September 1934. 60  Ulmer (1938, 237). 61  Huber (1913).



solutions.62 The director of the SGF at the time, Michel Huber, echoed this realization and supported the reforms recommended by the conference, which decided to establish a central colonial statistics office in London and to allocate it significant resources. French colonial statistics suffered from the same ills: the various services were inadequately coordinated, monitored, and resourced and the ­statistics-gathering process left much to be desired. The results of the 1921 Sarraut plan for developing the colonies were limited by the chronic paucity of resources available to administrators and statisticians in the colonies. Only customs and trade statistics, which were used to evaluate the colonies’ contributions to the metropole, were accorded any priority. The situation changed with the election of the Popular Front government. The establishment of the Agence de la France d’Outre-Mer (French Overseas Agency), the reform of the dissemination process,63 and the formation of the Guernut Commission by the Act of 30 January 193764 made colonial statistics a vehicle for “improving the populations’ living conditions.” The ambitious quantitative and qualitative survey undertaken by the Guernut Commission sought to identify “the legitimate needs and aspirations of the populations living in the colonies, protectorates and mandated territories.” It was evidence of the inadequacy of the information then available on these questions. Despite serious threats to freeze the funding, the survey commission produced a large body of documentation, the classification of which does not facilitate analysis.65 The surveys investigated all aspects of life in the territories: eating habits, the morale of the population, the work regime, questions of public health, and the aspirations of the indigenous populations, for example. They were brought to a halt at the start of the Second World War: the last page of the general catalog inventory of the  Huber (1921).  ANOM AGEFOM//902 Creation of the Agence de la FOM. Report from Marius Moutet, Minister of the Colonies, to the President of the Republic on the reform currently under way in order to draw up the rules governing the operations of the agencies and organize the coordination of their efforts, 12 March 1937. 64  AGEFOM//9 Commission Guernut. Formation, history. 65  Ibid. Présidence du Conseil, service administratif. List of the Commission’s archives in the overseas territories: “1. List of the archives in a filing cabinet in M. Darras’s office numbered from 1 to 84 […] 3. List of the archives in the back room and in two locked cupboards.” 62 63



c­ommission’s archives is dated November 1939 (“received from the Governor-General of Indochina, 3 files from various surveys”). This realization of the need to increase resources and to expand the remit of the colonial statistics services, which was common to both France and Britain, attests to both the reality of the exchanges between statisticians and a new concept of statistics. The fact that the nonviolent civil disobedience movement led by Gandhi turned the 1930 British census into an instrument in the political struggle for independence bears witness to the power of numbers and of the new forms of competition that were emerging around the appropriation of statistics. These tensions are also to be found in the relationships between the ILO and the producers of statistics on the colonial labor force.66

Competition around Colonial Statistics The ILO’s requests for colonial manpower statistics in preparation for international conferences on the topic were urgent. They were submitted to the Ministry of the Colonies and, on occasion, directly to the colonies themselves.67 On 30 March 1926, the ILO called for data on migratory flows to and from the colonies as it was publishing a historical study of migration.68 The Ministry of the Colonies sent nonstandardized statistics on emigration and immigration to Guadeloupe (period 1923–1925) and Madagascar (1 January 1921–31 May 1926). A certain degree of trust was the order of the day: the director of the ILO was Albert Thomas, who was known in ministerial circles. The originals of the documents were dispatched with a brief note asking ILO officials “to be so kind as to return them after having read them.” The imprecise nature of the information made available was not concealed. On the subject of Togo, for example, the Ministry of the Colonies told Thomas that the information that was available for journeys made by sea was not available for the “overland route” but that “without fear of exaggeration, the number of travellers  Ulmer (1938, 233).  ANOM 7 AFFECO/39 Affaires économiques – main-d’œuvre. Emigration and immigration statistics (French colonies), correspondence with the ILO. 68  Ibid. Letter from the ILO to Regismanset, director of the economics departments of the Ministry of the Colonies: “Dear Sir, I recall with pleasure the instructive conversation we had while engaged in the research for the historical study of migration statistics,” Geneva, 29 March 1926. 66 67



arriving via the land borders can be estimated to be one hundred times greater than that travelling by sea.”69 The information requested was not always available. Thus, on 10 December 1927, the governor-general of French Equatorial Africa turned down point blank a request from the minister of the colonies, acting on behalf of the ILO, for the statistical records of the immigration and ­emigration department.70 The administration “of the vast regions that constitute French Equatorial Africa” was still “rudimentary” and his staffing “too restricted” to carry out statistical surveys. His energies were devoted “to maintaining public order” and to the levying “of a tax that encourages work and to eliminating the threat of famine.” The investigation continued. Information from Guadeloupe attested to the diversity of sources used and the accuracy of the data. The data was provided by the shipping companies and the French police, which had lists of the names of passengers who had passed in transit through Pointe-à-­ Pitre and Basse-Terre.71 The process was supplemented by a manpower survey, which posed many other problems and was conducted annually from 1928 onward. A letter addressed to Thomas from the Ministry of the Colonies explained that in view of the “difficulties this work poses the time allotted to it will have to be long indeed.”72 The survey gave the ministry considerable cause for anxiety. It provided an opportunity to remind the ILO that the Ministry of the Colonies had of necessity to act as the intermediary for the surveys. Nevertheless, the governor-general of French West Africa responded directly to Thomas by sending him the results of a survey in progress.73 Thomas asked the Ministry for the results of this survey for all the other 69  Idem. Direction of the Affaires économiques, 4e bureau. Memorandum from the governor to the Minister of the Colonies on the subject of tables of migration statistics for 1921–1923, 23 April 1926. 70  Idem. Reply from the governor-general of French Equatorial Africa to the Ministry of the Colonies: “in a territory that we estimate to be four times the size of France, there are only 83 administrators and 147 civilian service agents currently present in the colony,” 10 December 1927. 71  Idem. Execution of memorandum 340/S/G from the governor of Guadeloupe dated 5 March 1929, West Indies group, Guadeloupe assignment. 72  Idem. Memorandum from the department of political affairs on the subject of the documentation for the ILO, 27 April 1928. 73  Idem. Memorandum for the department of economic affairs, 20 March 1928. Noted in pencil “turn down Thomas’s request,” signed by the Councillor of State, the Ministry’s director of political affairs.



colonies. The reply was negative. An internal memorandum within the ministry explained that communicating the results in this way  risked “thwarting the efforts of the Ministry’s representatives at the League of Nations” and providing “arguments” that went “against the interests of the French” at a time when “the regulation of indigenous labour is on the agenda of the 1929 international labour conference and a meeting of the committee of experts on indigenous labour has already been held in July 1927 at which the basis for a convention on ‘forced labour’ was drawn up.” The Ministry was critical of an ILO report that “contained certain assessments of a somewhat unfavourable nature for France colonization policy.” The minister confirmed that there was no advantage “in supplying the organization, whose international nature should never be forgotten, with documents pertaining to the type of surveys in question here, since it is easy on occasions to alter the data and analyses contained therein in order to serve certain interests.” All the questions on “indigenous labour” of interest to the ILO were to be gathered together by the Ministry’s senior officials, in agreement with the economics department. The United Kingdom was also very critical of the ILO, since it refused to take part in the international conference on migration held in Geneva in October 1932, on the grounds that it was defending a “national concept of boundaries and of the significance of territories.”74 These positions were clear evidence of the awareness in government departments in charge of the colonies of the political importance of colonial statistics.

Conclusion On the eve of 1940, in the French colonies themselves, most of the statistics were “in principle” being collected in accordance with a standardized plan drawn up in accordance with instructions from the Ministry of the Colonies.75 However, “in practice, the local administrations do not provide regular data”; nor was it homogeneous. The exception was Indochina, with its General Statistical Service. However, the quarterly foreign-trade statistics published in each territory’s Official Gazette and the Monthly Bulletin of Colonial Statistics circulated by the ministry from 1937 onward 74  Yann Stricker, “Migration Statistics and the Making of an International Point of View in the Interwar Period,” October 2017, University of Lucerne, Switzerland. 75  Ulmer (1938, 240).



were evidence of the improvement in French colonial statistics since the beginning of the century. The British system remained a point of reference, since the Statistical Abstract for the British Empire was still the model for the statistical yearbook of the French possessions of which the ­statisticians in the Ministry of the Colonies dreamt but which required “additional resources.”76 It might be wondered whether the adoption of the British “model” as a permanent reference point—it had, after all, developed in a particular national and colonial context—might have prevented the development of a French colonial statistical system better suited to the specific characteristics of the French empire. Further research will be required to answer that question fully. Examination of Belgian colonial statistics, for example, could provide an alternative point of view. It would also help to clarify the links between the development of colonial statistics and that of international statistics and, more broadly, to delineate the contours of the pre-­ 1940 “international community of statisticians.” Delving into new archives on the production of colonial statistics, in France as well as in Britain and Geneva, might also shed light on the paradox of a system whose imperfections and their causes and effects were well known and bemoaned but which persisted. The tensions created by colonial statistics, when they were being produced at the time of the surveys, then when they were being brought together and disseminated, and finally when they were being interpreted, would also be worth further investigation. These tensions reflect the power relations that manifested themselves at all stages of the production of the statistics, from the preparations for the surveys and the encounters between interviewers and interviewees on the ground right up to the corridors of power in government ministries and international institutions and in the centers of economic and political decision-making. It would also be helpful to gain a deeper understanding of the statistics themselves, analyzed as conventions (perhaps as conventions in the colonial context) in a connected history. To explain the gap between what was expected for colonial officials in terms of statistics and their actual capacity to fill in the questionnaires, to explain the effects of the failure to acknowledge the realities of life in the colonies, and to ascertain whether this failure was specific to the French case would be to understand why, with very few exceptions, the management of the colonies by figures seems to have been more random than deliberate.  Ulmer (1938, 241).




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Guilmoto, Christophe Z. 1998. Le texte statistique colonial [À propos des classifications sociales dans l’Inde britannique]. Histoire et Mesure 13 (1–2): 39–57. Compter l’autre. Heffner, M. 1918. Does Colonization Pay? The Journal of Race Development 8 (3): 354–365. Huber, Michel. 1913. Les statistiques de la production industrielle en particulier le Census de la production du Royaume-Uni en 1907. Journal de la société statistique de Paris, 54: 305–335. ———. 1914. Chronique de démographie: Population et superficie des colonies françaises et pays de protectorat vers 1911. Journal de la société statistique de Paris 55: 213–218. ———. 1921. La réorganisation des services officiels de statistique dans le Royaume-Uni et l’Empire britannique. Journal de la société statistique de Paris 62: 55–58. Ittmann, Karl, Dennis D.  Cordell, and Gregory H.  Maddox, eds. 2010. Demographics of Empire: The Colonial Order and the Creation of Knowledge. Athens: Ohio University Press. Kateb, Kamel. 1998. La gestion Statistique des populations dans l’empire colonial français: Le cas de l’Algérie, 1830–1960. Histoire et Mesure 13 (1/2): 77–111. Legoyt, Alfred. 1863. Résultats généraux de la colonisation en Algérie. Journal de la société statistique de Paris 4: 171–174. Sanner, Pierre. 1994. Contribution à un mémorial du Service Colonial des Statistiques, 1923–1958. Journal de la société statistique de Paris 135 (1): 73–99. Schnakenbourg, Christian. 1980. Histoire de l’industrie sucrière en Guadeloupe aux XIXe et XXe siècles, t 2, la transition post-esclavagiste (1848–1883). Paris: l’Harmattan. Sibeud, Emmanuelle, et  al. 2013. Introduction Sociétés coloniales: enquêtes et expertises. Monde(s) 4 (2): 6–22. Topalov, Christian, ed. 1999. Laboratoires du nouveau siècle: La nébuleuse réformatrice et ses réseaux en France, 1880–1914. Paris: Éditions de L’EHESS. Touchelay, Béatrice. 1998. Le développement de la statistique d’outre-mer du début du siècle aux indépendances: l’accomplissement progressif d’une tâche de souveraineté. In La France et l’outre-mer: Un siècle de relations monétaires et financières, 259–280. Paris: Comite pour l’Histoire Economique et Financiere de la France. ———. 2000. L’INSEE, histoire d’une institution. In L’ère du chiffre: Systèmes statistiques et traditions nationales, ed. Pierre Beaud et Jean-Guy Prévot, 153–187. Montréal: Presses de l’université du Québec à Montréal. Ulmer, Henri. 1934. Les publications statistiques d’Indochine et leurs suppléments. Bulletin de la SGF. ———. 1938. La statistique dans les pays coloniaux. Journal de la société statistique de Paris 79: 231–250.


Imperial Ends


Britain and Free France in Africa, 1940–1943 Eric T. Jennings

To say that much ink has been spilled on the Franco-British colonial rivalry would be an understatement. From Acadia to Fashoda by way of India, from James Wolfe facing the Marquis de Montcalm, to Sir Herbert Kitchener confronting Jean-Baptiste Marchand, this particular colonial contest has been seared in national imaginations for centuries, its protagonists lionized on both sides of the Channel and beyond. Sites that changed colonial hands, such as Québec or Mauritius, remain deeply imprinted by the conflict. By contrast, Franco-British cooperation in the colonies has received far shorter shrift until now, outside of certain specific areas such as the history of medicine, or spaces such as the New Hebrides (present-­ day Vanuatu) that presented a unique form of Franco-British shared rule, a so-called condominium.1 The Second World War offers an unparalleled window onto colonial cooperation and competition between France and Britain inasmuch as it  Deborah Neill, Networks in Tropical Medicine (Stanford: 2012); Joël Bonnemaison, Les fondements d’une identitié: Territoire, histoire et societé dans l’archipel de Vanuatu, (Bondy: ORSTOM, 1986); Hélène Blais, “Un territoire, deux souverainetés, quel partage colonial? Le condominium franco-britannique des Nouvelles-Hébrides,” FCHS meeting Siem Reap Cambodia, June 2014, and her chapter elsewhere in this volume. 1

E. T. Jennings (*) University of Toronto, Victoria College, Toronto, ON, Canada © The Author(s) 2019 J. R. Fichter (ed.), British and French Colonialism in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies Series,




featured a wide gamut of relations. Vichy posters pilloried the British bulldog for devouring French colonies and skewered a Churchillian octopus for extending its tentacles to Dakar, Syria, and beyond. More concretely, Marshal Philippe Pétain’s regime adopted a hostile attitude to Britain in the wake of the British attack on the French Navy at Mers-el-Kébir and ordered Vichy troops to open fire on British forces on several occasions, at Dakar in 1940, in the Middle East in 1941, and in Madagascar and North Africa in 1942. Meanwhile, the fragile Free French movement founded by General Charles de Gaulle in June 1940 relied greatly on British support to first create then manage and exploit the alternate colonial empire from which it derived its legitimacy: Free French Africa (an ensemble that included French Equatorial Africa and French Cameroon). Thus, in 1940, an imperial schism tore across the French colonial empire, the world’s second largest after Britain’s. The vast majority of French overseas holdings remained “loyal” to what seemed to most the legitimate government of the time—Vichy France. The few colonies to opt early on for the maverick General de Gaulle did so thanks to considerable British support. The economies of these territories switched orbits, entering British imperial networks. As this chapter will show, Britain not only bankrolled the early Free French movement in Africa but also purchased vast amounts of its rubber, wood, and metals. The chapter will further shed light on the complexities of a relationship tested by colonial rivalry and global war while also probing the consequences of these re-­ alignments on Africans. It further explores some of the decision-making and mechanics of the Franco-British imperial relationship.

British Contributions to Forging Free French Africa I have argued elsewhere that the so-called rallying of Cameroon and French Equatorial Africa to General de Gaulle in August 1940 might better be termed a low-grade coup made possible by a rival colonial empire. Indeed, the operation would have been impossible without British complicity and preparation at every level. Colonial geography played a major role. Governor Félix Eboué initiated the move to join de Gaulle from landlocked Chad, conscious of the need for outlets for his colony’s cotton. Even more clearly, mandate Cameroon, a former Germany colony that had been carved into British and French zones of control after World War



I, proved a site of constant Franco-British dialogue, even as the relationship soured following the fall of France. Indeed, throughout July 1940, L’Éveil du Cameroon, one of the territory’s main newspapers, bore the astonishing running subtitle of “Franco-British empire.”2 Here was a manifestation of the remarkable intercolonial goodwill that has too often been forgotten because of the bad blood generated by Dunkirk (May– June 1940) and Mers-el-Kébir (3 July 1940). Beyond the colonial realm, in June 1940, serious discussions were conducted, led by Jean Monnet on the French side, to create a single Franco-British “union” complete with one citizenship for both nations. This spirit of union took root in Cameroon and survived several tempests, while it was washed away by the successive tragedies of Dunkirk, Mers-el-­Kébir, and Dakar in most other settings.3 If this was a colonial union, it proved, however, to be an imbalanced one, with one partner holding nearly all of the assets. Charles de Gaulle was a landless and vaguely Shakespearian leader in July 1940, prior to the first rallying of colonial territories to his cause. British support proved crucial in this process. On 4 August 1940, Winston Churchill provided the French general with the assurances he required. In a short note, he affirmed first “that until such a time as an independent and constitutional authority has been re-established on French soil, we shall do everything in our power to maintain the economic stability of all French overseas territories, provided they stand by the [Franco-British] Alliance.” Secondly, “so long as our pathway to victory is not impeded, we are ready to foster trade and help the administration of those parts of the great French Empire which are now cut off from captive France.” There followed the words: “We are prepared to extend economic assistance on a scale similar to that which we should apply in comparable circumstances to the colonies of the British empire. Plans are now being worked out for making such assistance rapidly effective.”4 Although the different clauses were in reality a recasting of earlier assurances formulated collectively and individually in June and July, the 4 August offer hit the mark. It paved the way for de Gaulle to coordinate a series of operations in sub-Saharan Africa, some successful (French Equatorial Africa and Cameroon in late August 1940), others not (Dakar in September 1940). On 6 August 1940, he issued modular 2  Eric Jennings, Free French Africa in World War II: The African Resistance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 32. 3  Martin Thomas and Richard Toye, Arguing about Empire: Imperial Rhetoric in Britain and France 1882–1956, (Oxford, 2017), 161. 4  ANOM Cab 49, 288.



instructors to four of his agents. They were to rely on British authorities in Sierra Leone, Gold Coast, the Gambia as well as Nigeria, and coordinate a series of strikes at soft spots in Vichy-controlled sub-Saharan Africa.5 In point of fact, on location in Africa, colonial officials had been negotiating with the British for economic and financial relief since late June.6 In Nigeria in the days leading up to his 27 August 1940 intervention in Cameroon, de Gaulle’s agent Commandant Philippe Leclerc exchanged pleasantries with Imbert Bourdillion, son of Nigeria’s governor, inviting him to France after the war was over. Leclerc’s invitation must have seemed as generous as it was wildly optimistic under the circumstances, given that the German occupation of mainland France had only just begun. Mostly, Leclerc’s desire to reciprocate can be explained by the generosity he experienced in Lagos: British officials including Imbert Bourdillion and Geoffrey Miles Clifford supplied Leclerc with maps, intelligence, lists of Frenchmen willing to serve in his ranks, vehicles, porters, African rowers, canoes, even pistols with which to carry out the night-time invasion of Duala on 27 August 1940. Then, once the operation succeeded, Clifford dispatched 150 tons of flour to Douala and coordinated the sending of 1,000 rifles. He even arranged for the repair of the watches of two officers whose timepieces must have stopped working under the tropical downpour of 27 August. Next, Clifford “pressed London for an immediate credit to overcome [Lerclerc’s] temporary exchange difficulties.”7 In short, Britain had facilitated every aspect of the Free French takeover in Cameroon. Each of these acts of solicitude—some larger than others—naturally needs to be placed in context. Despite its imbalances, the Free French— British colonial relationship was symbiotic. Britain stood to gain from having a Vichy thorn removed from Nigeria’s southern and eastern flanks and from bolstering de Gaulle’s fledgling Free French effort in any way possible. As is made clear from a Foreign Office note from late 1940, London hoped that “all of French Africa” could be persuaded to rally, gradually, reproducing Hubert Lyautey’s famous “oil stain” (tache d’huile) approach to empire building.8 An alternate French colonial empire was  Jennings, Free French Africa, 23.  Brian Weinstein, Eboué (Oxford: Oxford University Press: 1972), 237. 7  AML Leclerc 6A, correspondence 1940. 8  NAUK FO 859/1. 5 6



being fostered, with British aid. By the fall of 1940, it encompassed vast tracts of central Africa, the small French colonial holdings in India, and the French South Pacific. Of course, in addition to these various carrots, Britain was also utilizing a set of coercive methods to attempt to sway French colonial governors who were at that point loyal to Vichy. On September 27, 1940, Churchill’s secretary of state for foreign affairs explained London’s official line, which he summarized as “join de Gaulle or starve.”9 A British blockade would indeed have devastating effects on trade for colonies like Madagascar and Indochina, which remained loyal to Marshal Pétain until 1942 and 1945, respectively. Where it did succeed in taking root, the Free French movement started from nothing. It required every necessity, from uniforms to troops and munitions, food, and of course the guarantee that Britain would provide outlets for trade out of Chad and Cameroon. This last point proved crucial. Already on 13 August 1940, as Charles de Gaulle’s representatives met the governor of Nigeria, Sir Bernard Bourdillon, economic outlets were the main item on the table: “General de Gaulle was very much concerned with the economic position of the Free French colonies which [would be] cut off from France for the duration of the war.”10 Then, in a telegram dated 27 August 1940, Félix Eboué justified his final decision to side with Free France a day prior as follows: he was acting in the interests of “France and its empire,” yet doing so “in cooperation with our British allies.” The urgency to act swiftly was in turn prompted by the threat of “bankruptcy” (faillite)—or so indicated the original telegram transcription. However, a rather ominous correction specified that the menace was actually famine, not faillite.11 To be sure, the siding of French Equatorial Africa with de Gaulle cannot be attributed entirely to structural and economic factors or to the persuasion of British officials. There was an undeniable audacity to the move, especially given the counterefforts deployed by Vichy to maintain what it considered loyalty in its colonial domain. Not content with leaving Governor General Pierre Boisson in charge of keeping other governors in line in Africa, Vichy’s colonial minister, the doggedly determined Rear Admiral René-Charles Platon, toured Cameroon in late July 1940 in per UK War Cabinet 260 [40], September 27, 1940, p. 120.  ANOM Cab 55, file on Chad. 11  ANOM Fonds Galassus, box 1, Tchad, telegram 321. 9




son—a mere weeks before Leclerc’s intervention. In Duala, he threatened to dispatch destroyers to “bring reason to anyone willing to play Don Quixote.” Yet this heavy-handed intervention did not prevent locals, both African and French, from siding with Leclerc when he landed in Duala on the morning of 27 August 1940.12 Yet even this act of Gallic audacity was facilitated by British agents. As Cameroon wavered in July 1940, torn between proponents of Pétain and de Gaulle, British intelligence officers coordinated the Gaullist ranks and connected them to neighboring British colonies. Thus, Major Godfrey Allen urged leading local Gaullist Roger Mauclère to await the opportune moment to strike. He implored him not to reveal his membership or more generally to show his hand too early. Allen then liaised with the governor of Nigeria to ensure his support in the event that a Gaullist “coup d’état” could indeed be pulled off in French Cameroon.13 The timing of the operation, the links with neighboring Nigeria, and of course the logistical details were all of British design. Allen specifies that after having harnessed and channeled Mauclère’s movement, he proceeded on 16 August 1940 to iron out details of the Duala “coup d’état” with General de Gaulle’s representative, Claude Hettier de Boislambert. Within French Cameroon, Mauclère then allegedly briefly developed cold feet, faced with the enormity of committing what his adversaries were sure to describe as treason. In the end, Allen ascribed the success of the Cameroon operation to many factors. Interestingly, among the main British actions, he listed first the influence he exerted on leading Gaullists not to leave Cameroon altogether out of disgust or frustration over the course of July 1940, at a time when the region’s authorities were beginning to come in line with Vichy. Secondly, Allen invoked his having convinced Mauclère not to act prematurely from within, before Leclerc’s intervention from without.14 As soon as Free French Africa was created in late August 1940, it required immediate cash injections to keep it afloat. In the capital, Brazzaville, these arrived from across the Congo River, via the British economic mission in the neighboring Belgian Congo (this, in turn, speaks to the role of the Belgian Congo as a vital staging post for Free French Africa). Sir Frederick Pedler explained that his superior, Lord Hailey, had arranged  AMC Boislambert B Afrique 1940.  RH Africa S 424 folio 245. 14  RH Africa S 424 folios 252–254. 12 13



for 200,000 GPB to be disbursed monthly to Brazzaville’s new authorities in order to pay the administration of the breakaway French colony.15

The Allied War Effort and the Economies of Free French Africa Major economic agreements passed between de Gaulle and Churchill in 1940 enabled the survival of Free French Africa by guaranteeing that the United Kingdom would purchase commodities from Free French colonies. These 1941 accords governed trade with Cameroon and French Equatorial Africa, respectively. A second set of treaties was signed in 1942, “in continuance of existing agreements.”16 Beyond making Free French Africa viable, the very fact of signing and sealing such agreements also involved an act of legitimacy and sovereignty for the Free French. On 20 December 1940, de Gaulle issued a sternly worded note to his high commissioner and governor general in Africa insisting that he, rather than they, should sign the agreements “for very important political reasons.”17 The strategic value of Free French Africa’s exports would change over time, with a new focus on rubber in 1942. What is striking about trade statistics between 1940 and 1942 is simply where these exports were being shipped. The three major staples of okoumé wood from Gabon, cotton from Chad, and palm products from Oubangui-Chari were all heading to Great Britain and its colonies. Indeed, in 1941, Free French Africa exported 34,504 metric tonnes of goods to Great Britain proper and another 22,433 tonnes to British colonies. By way of comparison, the third destination in the rankings was other French colonies (the French South Pacific had also rallied de Gaulle in 1940), which received 6,989 tons.18 Similarly, after the August 1940 Gaullist takeover, 60 percent of French Cameroon’s exports went to Great Britain and another 17 percent to British colonial Nigeria.19 The United Kingdom and its empire were making good on their commitment to purchase Free French goods en masse.

 RH Africa S 1814 38/192.  ANOM 1Affpol 2557. 17  ANOM GGAEF 5D 290. 18  André Laguerre, L’Afrique française libre (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1942), 36. 19  Jennings, Free French Africa, 177. 15 16



In certain cases, both allies regretted the rigidity of these crucial accords. On the Free French side, the sudden control exerted by London over everything from rubber to timber unnerved some old French colonial hands in Africa, even those at the helm. Thus, in January 1942, the British consul to Brazzaville, Robert Parr, submitted a report to the Foreign Office regarding concerns within Free French Africa that the British might be attempting to gain “economic control” over the region. Four months later, Adolphe Sicé, high commissioner to Free French Africa, openly grumbled about the British main-mise (stranglehold) over Gabon’s lumber resources. The file on the matter at the National Archives of the United Kingdom suggests that this grumbling constituted one factor in London’s willingness to have Sicé’s position abolished (which occurred in June 1942) and to side with his rival, Governor General Félix Eboué, considered less narrowly nationalistic and more sympathetic to the British cause. By September 1942, Robert Parr was reporting that French suspicions concentrated on two British firms, John Holt and Co. as well as the United Africa Company. The latter was suspected of contributing to British schemes to monopolize palm products. It also had become clear that the British Timber Control board itself had earned a deplorable reputation in Gabon. To be fair, Holt had been trading in the region since the previous century; what had changed by 1942 was French Equatorial Africa’s complete reorientation into the British orbit and the sense that no other buyers were in play.20 In Cameroon as well, British influence over the economy was felt from 1940. A 1942 report explained that while Cameroon’s exports of palm oil had dropped dramatically, British purchasers were busily placing military orders for sawn wood destined for British West Africa and the Middle East.21 On the British side, some regrets about the 1940 agreements also bubbled to the surface. Thus, in May 1941, the Free French representative in South Africa plainly noted that Britain had accumulated too great a stockpile of certain products from Free French Africa. Wax was one such commodity. The French official representing de Gaulle in Pretoria, Charles Dagain, announced that while Britain was no longer interested, South Africa might well wish to purchase Free French wax, which could be delivered via the Kassaï and Rhodesian railways. With the mainland French

 NAUK FO 859/3.  NAUK 859/6.

20 21



market now closed, and London’s needs shifting, Gaullist agents demonstrated considerable creativity in finding alternate outlets.22 The import side of the ledger tells a similar story. In Free French Africa, the running of an efficient war economy necessitated increased imports at a time when all economic relations with continental Europe were severed. Thus, French Equatorial Africa imported twice as many automobiles in 1941 as it had in 1938; Britain’s colonies provided most of these new imports. Likewise, French Equatorial Africa’s need for petrol more than tripled between 1939 and 1942.23 Again, British suppliers provided the fuel. Free French Africa both imported and exported within a new imperial orbit.

Rubber The year 1942 brought new urgency to British requests from Gaullist Africa. This time it was not timber that was sought but rubber. The situation was dire. Rapid Japanese advances across the world’s top rubber producing regions in Southeast Asia meant that the United Kingdom, United States, and USSR found themselves on the brink of a shortage. On 11 March 1942, Félix Eboué’s right-hand man Henri Laurentie met with a British rubber-control representative called Mackenzie. The latter “emphasized the extreme crisis in the rubber situation which would overtake Great Britain during the second half of this year, as shown by the extract from the Ministry of Supply’s memorandum… according to which rubber factories… might have to cease operating for want of raw rubber.” Laurentie and Mackenzie jointly elaborated a plan of action. Kitts, the rubber-board representative in Leopoldville, would henceforth operate out of Brazzaville and would be given an office at the British legation in that city. When Mackenzie pressed Laurentie on how to extract greater rubber quantities, the latter suggested that the purchase of a ten-tonne ship would vastly assist with the collection of rubber in Ouesso department (Moyen-Congo). The British proposed to find an adequate vessel. Mackenzie then negotiated priority access to railway cargo. Finally, the two men discussed enhancing rubber “propaganda.” Radio Brazzaville would dedicate a special programme to the issue and would congratulate top-producing areas. Laurentie was less enthusiastic at Mackenzie’s pro ANOM GGAEF 5D 289.  Annuaire statistique de l’Afrique équatoriale française, 1936–1950, p. 268.

22 23



posal that mobile film units scour the countryside showing films on rubber collection.24 Rubber can be collected from a variety of sources, including vines, trees, and grasses, all of which produce the necessary latex. Plantation cultivation of the rubber tree, Hevea brasiliensis, is the most well-known form of rubber collection. However, the method in question was the collection of wild rubber from trees and grasses, a particularly difficult and labor-intensive process that had been largely curtailed in previous decades in the region. Indeed, in past decades André Gide and others had drawn global attention to abuses including murder, coercion, mutilation, and rape in the rubber sector in the French Congo. These practices closely mirrored some of the horrors chronicled by others in the Belgian Congo. In 1942, the British and Free French debated how to orchestrate a new run on rubber. As Free French photographer Germaine Krull observed in her notes, wild rubber had not been exploited in the region for a long time for two reasons: first because of the abuses and environmental ravages it had engendered, and secondly because it was generally considered to be of poorer quality than plantation-grown Hevea. However, Krull observed, “since the war, the [Free French] government in London, wanting to contribute to the war effort, gave the order to start collecting this lower quality wild rubber once again, along with higher quality [plantation] rubber, mostly from Cameroon… Colonials here were very divided by the question and I often heard it debated by planters.”25 As Krull suggests, plantation rubber constituted the obvious alternative to tapping the rain forest for wild roots and vines—a mission that led African populations to be exposed to a host of diseases, including sleeping sickness. However, because Hevea trees require several years to reach maturity, and because of Governor Félix Eboué’s reticence to create what he saw as a plantation proletariat, wild-rubber extraction was privileged once more (except in parts of Cameroon with preexisting Hevea plantations). The collection of vines, grasses, and other forms of wild rubber required considerable input from African populations, despite the weighty past of abuses linked to that activity. It also necessitated close cooperation between Free French and British officials. In April 1942, the resident of British Cameroon, Percy Graham Harris, drafted a report while on a visit to Duala (which had temporarily replaced  ANC GGAEF 553.  MF Krull’s Brazzaville manuscript, p. 125.

24 25



Yaoundé as the capital of Cameroon in 1940). Harris advised London on how best to increase rubber production. Rubber rates had sagged for years, due to the commodity’s price drop but also as we have just seen to international condemnation over labor abuses involving wild rubber. With the allies desperate, a call went out to rekindle wild-rubber collection. Harris’ April 1942 missive to the Foreign Office makes clear that the British were first intent on accumulating knowhow: wild rubber, Harris notes, had “never been developed or encouraged in neighbouring British colonies.” The document then went on to advise London not to bypass the Free French administration and to involve authorities in Duala, Brazzaville, London, and indeed local populations as well, who would be the ones doing the actual rubber collecting. Interestingly, Harris mentions that his counterpart in French Cameroon, Pierre Cournarie, implied that local populations might not work for money; he deemed that they would prefer to collect rubber in exchange for fabrics and other goods. This led Harris to ask London for “an increased supply of cotton piece goods for wild rubber producing areas.”26 In the event, various methods were utilized: shops were indeed set up next to markets, in a bid to encourage Africans to bring greater quantities of rubber. Elsewhere, quotas were set. Franco-British dialogue in the rubber sector was intense and often involved transfers of know-how. For instance, in 1942, the British colonial office notified its Free French interlocutors of “a very simple” new method for preparing wild-rubber grasses.27 That same year, in the Eséka district of Cameroon west of Yaoundé, Lieutenant Henri Relly explained that as soon as he learned of “the disaster in Malaya and the Dutch East Indies” he immediately began asking local Africans about rubber varietals in their forests. He learned that while tree rubber had been overexploited in previous decades, rubber vines remained abundant. As it happens, in 1920 Relly had been posted in the Doumé region in Eastern Cameroon, where, in his words “all of the natives there were true specialists of vine rubber.” He then set about applying this acquired knowledge to the district of Eséka.28 That represented a first transfer of know-how. A second one occurred in March 1942, when officials in nearby British Nigeria, having learned of Relly’s activities, visited Relly with an eye to applying these same techniques in British West Africa.29  NAUK 859/6.  ANF 3AG1167. 28  ANCAM 2 AC 21. 29  NAUK FO 859, file 6, and Jennings, Free French Africa, 190. 26 27



Transport Corridors Another major area of cooperation between Free France and Britain in Africa involved transport routes. A Vichy secret report from 1942 put the matter plainly: as the world war “shifted from the west to the Middle East, towards Russia and Asia as well, to which one should add the mounting dangers of sailing the Mediterranean… all of this considerably increased the strategic value of… Chad.”30 Indeed, over the course of 1941 and 1942, Free French Chad became a key link in the vast chain linking British Sudan to British Nigeria and presenting the only viable East-West corridor to the Middle Eastern front. On the Free French side, a major commitment was made to road construction, one which had devastating consequences on local peoples. Several roads were suddenly required: vast arteries that would connect Chad and Oubangui to British Sudan on the one hand and new reliable roads to link the hub of Free French military activity at Fort-Lamy with rear bases in Bangui some 1,300 kilometers to the south.31 Roads took on such significance that in July 1942 a Free French engineer suggested closing several gold mines so as to transfer workers to the strategic road sector.32 Colonial archives are saturated with signs of a new, sudden breakneck pace of road construction in Free French Africa. In 1942, the head of Gabon’s northernmost province of Woleu Ntem, which connects to southern Cameroon and therefore constituted a key south-to-north artery, seemed to signal in his report that enough was enough. In the previous few months, a new road had been constructed leading to Spanish Guinea; a landing strip had been built at Mitzic (again on the key Libreville to Yaoundé route). This wave of construction was all the more regrettable wrote the official “because of how little labour is left in Mitzic.” Indeed, rubber collection, public-works projects, and other wartime imperatives were severely straining human resources. The official enjoined his superiors in Brazzaville to slow their pace. He concluded: “It took hundreds of years to build French roads; we cannot build permanent roads in Gabon in three years, in a region where torrential rains wipe out in a matter of hours, work conducted over the course of several months.”33 30  Vichy secret report # 20 on Le réseau ferré et routier du bloc AEF, Cameroun, Congo Belge, ANOM SOM B 13827, p. 15. 31  Olivier Lapie, Le Tchad Fait la Guerre, (Alger: Office français d’édition, 1943), 16–17. 32  ANC GGAEF 82, Telegram dated July 17, 1942. 33  ANOM GGAEF 4(1) D50.



This spree of road construction necessitated considerable dialogue with British colonial officials, especially for the key routes linking Oubangui (modern-day Central African Republic) to southern Sudan. From a British standpoint, the objective involved securing a Congo-toCairo supply route, all the more vital at a time when the Nazis controlled an area ranging from the Pyrenees to Norway, and North Africa to Greece. Over the course of 1942, discussions implicated Brigadier George Stephen Brunskill, of the civil and military authorities in Khartoum, Free France’s colonial minister, René Pleven, and authorities in Brazzaville. They debated the merits of different itineraries to connect Sudan to Oubangui in what would become a major river and road thoroughfare. The British specified that the proposed route to Juba “was uninteresting because of the low traffic capacity of the Nile” at that locale. On the Free French side, there were worries that the road from Oubangui to El Obeid would require massive population movements to build. It was only to be agreed upon “if it were indispensable for winning the war.” As it happens, by 1943, the Congo-to-Cairo route had lost some of its strategic value, as British eyes turned to the Mediterranean. In the end, the route via Oubangui was never fully completed, and the broader Congo-toCairo corridor that did come into existence relied largely on rivers, as shown in Fig. 12.1.34 Despite efforts to make these strategic corridors work, hitches of all sorts plagued them. Thus, in late March 1942, Governor General Félix Eboué received a grievance emanating from the British West African Governors’ Conference. It ran as follows: “[We have] received complaints regarding the length of time over which Nigerian lorries appear to be delayed on the French side of the frontier, and also regarding the condition in which they are returned. This, it seems, is frequently so bad that they are unfit for further service before the completion of extensive repairs.”35 Allied vehicles were evidently still being delayed by poor roads in Free French colonies, as well as by hassles at the border. This, in turn, helps to account for the British desire to see these roads improved, and to enhance cooperation at checkpoints.

34  ANF 3AG 1167; G. S. Brunskill manuscript titled “A soldier’s yesterdays” held at the Imperial War Museum, with a synopsis available at 35  ANOM GGAEF 3B 1104.



Ni le










(occupied by Br.)



er R





Duala Fernando Pó (Sp.)

Co n g o R iv e r












Lake Victoria




ite N



São Tomé and Príncipe (Portugal.)

Blue N ile



B enu e R

El Obeid




Brazzaville KENYA

Italian colony Free French Africa Colony loyal to Vichy British colony, mandate, or de facto protectorate Belgian colony Overland and river routes 0

500 miles 1000 km

Fig. 12.1  River and land transport corridors between Free French and British Colonial Africa, 1942. (Map by Isabelle Lewis.)

Impacts on Africans and Their Reactions The massive rise in forced labor in Free French Africa also mirrored a trend in British West Africa. It needs to be placed into broader context. Not only were Africans in Free French colonies subject to coerced labor,



they also saw taxation rise steeply for the war effort and witnessed a steady climb in their cost of living. Many also experienced requisitions. One report from northern Chad in 1943 took stock of the “cruel losses” of camels requisitioned from Chadians for military transportation purposes. Although the camel owners did not revolt outright, they did lead their remaining camels into hiding, far from the reach of the authorities.36 As this example suggests, Africans reacted in a variety of ways to the serious deterioration of conditions they experienced. Some voted with their feet, leaving public-works projects overnight. Others took more radical decisions, decamping for neighboring Belgian, Spanish, Portuguese, or British colonies. However, it is worth noting the risks inherent in such migrations. Indeed, many found similarly harsh conditions prevailing on the other side of colonial boundaries. Thus a 1941 report on the Salamat region of southeastern Chad observed that many of the hundreds of Chadians who had fled for Anglo-Egyptian Sudan a year prior had returned, in no small part because of intense British military recruitment in Sudan.37 Others still outwitted the authorities, flouting corvée labour by taking a work card with a private employer with the aim of escaping public prestations or forced labor on roadworks. The most extreme form of resistance involved armed rebellion. Thus, in February 1941, on the shores of Lake Chad, Associate Chief Barma M’Boudou was stabbed as he tried to recruit workers for a nearby roadwork project. The revolt was rapidly quelled.38

(Inter) Colonial Leaves British Free French cooperation extended well beyond questions of labor, transport corridors, and rubber extraction into the realm of leisure, health, and whiteness. The French colonial state had long established an elaborate grid of paid leaves, allowing colonial administrators, soldiers, and other civil servants to return to France regularly to either take the waters at an accredited spa or seek rest and reinvigoration at another accredited  ANOM GGAEF, 4 (4) D53, 1943 Borkou Tibesti report, p. 1.  ANOM GGAEF, 4 (4) D51, 1941 Salamat report, p. 14. 38  Jennings, Free French Africa, 231–234; for the longue durée on flight as a resistance strategy, see Alexander Keese, “Hunting ‘Wrongdoers’ and ‘Vagrants’: The Long-Term Perspective of Flight, Evasion and Persecution in Colonial and Postcolonial CongoBrazzaville, 1920–1980,” African Economic History, 44 (2016): 152–180. 36 37



facility.39 However, the complete break with the metropole in 1940 meant that these furloughs ended abruptly. The matter was seen as crucial in French colonial circles, affecting not merely morale but also mental and physical health. Consequently, in concert with British and Belgian authorities, alternate circuits were established, enabling Free French officials to seek health leaves in Cape Town, South Africa, and in the Kivu region of the Belgian Congo. A 3 February 1941 article in Le Courrier d’Afrique listed the many hotel options available to Free French officials in a 300-kilometer radius of Cape Town, even indicating points where Belgian colonials congregated. In addition to the averred goal of reinvigoration, interallied networking was also being conducted as the small coterie of Free French officials ­hobnobbed with their peers from the Belgian Congo and British South Africa.40

Military Support, Cooperation, and Competition Free French Africa experienced a series of shifts, with a sudden emphasis placed on roads in 1940, then rubber in 1942. The period also witnessed a gold rush, with the precious metal from Free French Congo, Cameroon, and Gabon helping finance the administration and defense of Gaullist ­colonies. However, this and even the Churchill—de Gaulle financial agreements did not suffice to keep Free French Africa afloat. The archival record clearly shows a deep dependency on British support in this realm as well. In November 1940, the British treasury and war departments were “urgently considering” payment of Free French forces in Cameroon.41 In March 1943, Free French Africa could no longer pay for General Leclerc’s forces, which had first left Chad in 1941 and scored victory upon victory in North Africa. A British advance was used to remunerate them on an emergency basis.42 Beyond the question of wages, the British supplied Free French aircraft and land vehicles in Chad with oil and fuel through 1940. Furthermore, already in November 1940, British liaison officers were operating in Duala, 39  Eric Jennings, Curing the Colonizers, (Raleigh: Duke University Press, 2006); on other accredited colonial “rest centres” see ANOM AGEFOM 627. 40  “Les congés en Afrique du Sud” Courrier d’Afrique, February 3, 1941. 41  ANOM GGAEF 2Y 14. 42  ANC GGAEF 82.



Brazzaville, and Fort-Lamy, ensuring coordination with British war objectives.43 However, as with overland routes, military relations were not always successful and transparent. For instance, on 25 June 1943, the governor of Gabon, Charles Assier de Pompignan, complained of the RAF’s silence on its previous request for an air base at Owendo, near Libreville. Air Vice Marshal John Cole-Hamilton had apparently made clear the need for such a base during a tour of Free French Africa in April 1943. In the absence of a follow-up, the Free French began pointing fingers at one another, and British civil officials admitted bewilderment at the intentions of their military.44 The matter was an important one, for Free French Africa had ­provided an invaluable air corridor between fronts in the early years of the war (1940–1942). However, as the strategic balance began to shift northward, it seems likely that by 1943 the RAF was setting its sights closer to Europe and the Mediterranean. Periodically, the Free French and British allies were involved in showdowns over issues of sovereignty in conquered lands. The very first, and deeply symbolic, Free French victories over Mussolini’s forces at Kufra in 1941, then in the Fezzan over the following two years, soon placed the Free French in the position of conquerors. Already in November 1942 Richard Casey, the British minister tasked with Middle Eastern affairs, drew attention to Free French ambitions to control the areas of the Fezzan they had taken. De Gaulle won this dispute with his allies, in large part thanks to the support of Anthony Eden, who deemed the matter too minor to risk souring relations with Free France.45 It is worth underscoring that Free French-British relations in Africa closely followed the ebbs and flows of the turbulent ones at the summit between Charles de Gaulle and Winston Churchill. Thus, in April 1943, Félix Eboué sent an impassioned missive to the British consul in Brazzaville demanding “clarity” regarding the British and US position on de Gaulle’s role in Algiers, at a time when Washington was still stubbornly clinging to General Henri Giraud, de Gaulle’s bitter rival. That letter was destined for outside consumption. Simultaneously, Eboué dispatched instructions to his subordinates in Africa. They were to avoid uttering anything that  ANOM 2Y 14.  ANC GGAEF 128. 45  Jennings, Free French Africa, 132; Saul Kelly, “Ce fruit savoureux du désert: Britain, France and the Fezzan, 1941–1956,” Maghreb Review 26 1 (2001): 3–4. 43 44



might resemble criticism of Free France’s allies. Eboué added for good measure: “We must form with precision and dignity a united front against foreign interventions which compromise not only the unity of French people today, but even the future independence of our country such as we conceive it… We will show the Anglo-Saxons that we can keep our sang-­ froid and lucidity, but also that we harbour enough courage and tenacity to avoid being strangled.”46 Such strong words were at least partly the product of a relationship of dependency in colonial Africa, one exacerbated by de Gaulle’s three-year quest to be recognized as the sole legal representative of France.

Epilogue From London’s perspective, Free France’s empire without a motherland was without a doubt now operating on a British orbit. In addition to de Gaulle’s, several other empires were circling on parallel paths beginning in 1940. Indeed, that year, in the midst of the Blitz, London emerged as a pluri-imperial capital, housing Belgian and Dutch governments in exile. Each of these boasted significant colonial holdings, including the Belgian Congo of course, and the Dutch East Indies, as well as Surinam and the Dutch West Indies. The Vichy regime, which kept a close watch on what it called de Gaulle’s “dissident colonies,” made a point of lumping them in with those of Belgium and the Netherlands. In a December 1941 report, Vichy’s colonial bureau reported that cotton from the Belgian Congo had been purchased by London and transited via Barcelona. Moreover, “local authorities in French Equatorial Africa and in the Belgian Congo have received from their leaders in London instructions concerning the collaboration they must practice with British rubber purchasers, who are getting ready to prospect in these regions.”47 The observation proved prescient, as it anticipated a British run on rubber in these allied colonial lands. Equally importantly, it seems worth considering Free French Africa as part of an ensemble of breakaway colonies that tore away from their motherlands in 1940 with lasting consequences. For in London, it was no longer enough to “think like an empire,” which wartime Britain undoubtedly did: it was more a matter of thinking like several intertwined empires. Hence, the strategic river-to-road conduit that ran  ANOM GGAEF 3B 2383.  ANOM 1Affpol 2006.

46 47



from the Belgian Congo through Free French Oubangui all the way to Cairo in 1942.48 What are we to conclude regarding the nature of the Franco-British relationship in the colonial realm? For one thing, 1940 brought about a schism in France; henceforth, Britain dealt with two imperial Frances, sometimes even three (French West and North Africa were briefly in General Giraud’s distinct sphere of influence). Throughout the war, the Vichy regime continuously pilloried Free France as an illegitimate, London-sponsored, mercenary puppet state, entirely dependent on Britain. Although this was a facile and grotesque caricature, it was not completely devoid of foundation. We have seen that Free France certainly relied immensely on British technical, financial, economic, maritime, and military support overseas. This in itself did not, however, entail fully harmonious relations in the colonies, any more than in London for that matter. Thus, although he secured months of wages from the United Kingdom to keep Free French Africa afloat in August and September 1940, High Commissioner Edgard de Larminat bristled at the notion that Free France was a lesser partner in the relationship.49 From 1940 to 1943, Free French and British officials alike groused over poor junction points at borders, at perceived attempts at monopolies, at the side-effects of the 1940 colonial commercial agreements, even over who should control lands conquered at the expense of Mussolini’s North African empire. And yet, Britain and Free France could at least cooperate sufficiently on technical missions to exchange know-how about rubber or discuss the best strategic military routes. Such a conclusion is, however, not globally transposable. In 1942, Free French—British relations sank below the freezing mark when Churchill planned an operation against Vichy-controlled Madagascar without so much as notifying Free France of it. These periods of chill notwithstanding, and for all of the ostensible clashes between Vichy France and Great Britain in the colonial realm, the everyday cooperation of Free French and British experts in Central Africa constitutes a longoverlooked and meaningful moment of lateral imperial engagement and even entanglement.

48  On “thinking like an empire,” see Frederick Cooper, Colonialism in Question: Theory, Knowledge, History (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005). 49  Jennings, Free French Africa, 21.



Archival Acronyms AC Archives du Mémorial de Caen AML Archives du Mémorial du Maréchal Leclerc, Paris ANC Archives nationales de la République du Congo, Brazzaville ANCAM Archives nationales du Cameroun, Yaoundé ANF Archives nationales de France, Pierrefitte ANOM Archives nationales d’outre-mer, Aix-en-Provence MF Museum Folkwang archives, Essen NAUK National Archives of the United Kingdom, Kew RH Rhodes House Library (Bodleian), Oxford

Selective Bibliography (Primary Sources) Annuaire statistique de l’Afrique équatoriale française, 1936–1950. 1952. Brazzaville: Haut-Commissariat de l’Afrique équatoriale française. Laguerre, André. 1942. L’Afrique française libre. London: Oxford University Press. Lapie, Olivier. 1943. Le Tchad Fait la Guerre. Algiers: Office français d’édition.

Selective Bibliography (Secondary Sources) Cooper, Frederick. 2005. Colonialism in Question: Theory, Knowledge, History. Berkeley: University of California Press. Jennings, Eric. 2006. Curing the Colonizers. Raleigh: Duke University Press. ———. 2015. Free French Africa in World War II: The African Resistance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Keese, Alexander. 2016. Hunting “Wrongdoers” and “Vagrants”: The Long-Term Perspective of Flight, Evasion and Persecution in Colonial and Postcolonial Congo-Brazzaville, 1920–1980. African Economic History 44: 152–180. Kelly, Saul. 2001. Ce fruit savoureux du désert: Britain, France and the Fezzan, 1941–1956. The Maghreb Review 26 (1): 2–21. Neill, Deborah. 2012. Networks in Tropical Medicine. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Thomas, Martin, and Richard Toye. 2017. Arguing About Empire: Imperial Rhetoric in Britain and France 1882–1956. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


The End of Empires and Some Linguistic Turns: British and French Language Policies in Inter- and Postwar Africa Diana Lemberg

This chapter analyzes two contemporary discourses about language in relation to the intertwined histories of the British and French empires: “global English” and “the Francophone world” (in French, le monde francophone or la francophonie). In the broadest sense, there is truth to the commonplace that global English and the Francophone world are the products of European imperialism. Historians and language scholars have shown how English, and to a lesser extent French, spread outside of Europe through white settlement in the imperial hinterlands of North America, Australasia, and Africa. A second, more politically engaged variation on this theme has been the “linguistic imperialism” critique made by the linguist Robert Phillipson and others. Phillipson holds that English has historically served as a medium of cultural and economic domination of non-Anglophone societies. Similar critiques have been made of France

D. Lemberg (*) Lingnan University, Tuen Mun, Hong Kong © The Author(s) 2019 J. R. Fichter (ed.), British and French Colonialism in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies Series,




for imposing its language upon colonial Algeria and West Africa, for instance, to the detriment of local languages and cultures.1 Examining the history of English and French in twentieth-century sub-­ Saharan Africa, however, yields a more complicated chronology. In their present guises—secular not religious; mass-rather than class-based—global English and la francophonie were products not of the beginning but rather of the very end of European empires, when Britain and France sought new means of preserving their influence in postcolonial states and in what was then coming to be known as the “developing world.” The contingent and late emergence of these discourses is evidenced by the fact that, through the 1930s, many colonial policymakers would have been alarmed at the thought of English or French being widely spoken by nonwhite, nonelite subjects in Africa. Below, I trace the history of ideas about vehicular English and French through the common preoccupations of British and French colonial policymakers and language experts from the early twentieth century through the 1960s. The chapter identifies two major turning points. First, by the early twentieth century and especially after the First World War, influential figures in both empires began to reconsider the so-called civilizing mission and to embrace policies designed to forestall the growth of communities of Western-educated, politically engaged colonial subjects—in other words, to practice a kind of educational and linguistic containment. This desire to contain Western languages and Western-style education in Africa has been recognized by scholars of the twentieth-century British Empire. The historian Susan Pedersen has described the influential British statesman Lord (Frederick) Lugard’s goals for colonial and mandate governance as “character-building and containment”; while the linguist Richard C. Smith has likewise described early twentieth-century British colonial priorities in terms of a “concern to contain or at least manage the spread of English.” The concept of containment has less commonly been applied to French colonial rule, which has often been characterized in Anglophone scholarship as relentlessly assimilationist and oriented toward producing French speakers in 1  James Belich, Replenishing the Earth: The Settler Revolution and the Rise of the AngloWorld, 1783–1939 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009); Ronald Wardhaugh, Languages in Competition (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1987), 128–76, 221–9; Robert Phillipson, Linguistic Imperialism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992); Mohamed Benrabah, Language Conflict in Algeria: From Colonialism to Post-independence (Bristol: Multilingual Matters, 2013), see esp. xi–xiv, 21–50; Ibrahima Diallo, The Politics of National Languages in Postcolonial Senegal (New York: Cambria Press, 2010), 6, 11, 31–55.



the colonies. A partial exception is the work of political scientist Ericka Albaugh, who identifies a common Franco-­British desire for “[containment] of education in a European language to only a few” in colonial Africa; but who retains key comparativist assumptions regarding distinctive British and French “[styles] of rule” and contrasts British “adapted” educational methods with French assimilationism.2 As I discuss below, however, intercolonial contact helped to produce convergence between the two empires in the early twentieth century around questions of language and language education, not least around what one French official described as the imperative to “pursue an adaptation [rechercher une adaptation]” of teaching methods to the “social and economic conditions” of colonial territories—which signified a turn toward vocational and agricultural training and away from book learning.3 A second transition occurred in the roughly two decades following the Second World War, as British and French policymakers negotiated colonial subjects’ demands for expanded education and increasingly potent anticolonial nationalist movements. These pressures spurred Britain and France to seek to expand the use of English and French, respectively, which they began to view as vectors of developmental knowledge and as mechanisms for maintaining cultural and economic relationships even where their political control had collapsed. This second shift was concretized through new programs of development aid and the creation or reorientation of institutions devoted to language education. The British Council, the original purview of which had not included colonial Asia or Africa, became deeply involved in teacher training and curriculum-development activities geared toward postcolonial English teaching. Likewise, the French government created new institutions dedicated to researching and promoting the teaching of French outside the Hexagon, notably in its former African colonies.4 This second turn also resulted in escalating linguistic competition between the former colonial powers. Britain’s embrace of vehicular English had as much to do with the global reach of its Anglophone ally the United 2  Susan Pedersen, The Guardians: The League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 110; Richard C. Smith, introduction to Teaching English as a Foreign Language, 1912–1936: Pioneers of ELT, vol. 1, ed. Richard C.  Smith (London: Routledge, 2003), xx, emphasis Smith’s; Ericka A. Albaugh, State-building and Multilingual Education in Africa (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 22–52, quotations on 23, 52. 3  AOF Governor-General Jules Brévié in Bulletin de l’enseignement de l’Afrique occidentale française (hereafter Bulletin) 80 (Jul.–Dec. 1932): 167. All issues of the Bulletin accessed on the Bibliothèque nationale de France’s Gallica database ( 4  Phillipson, Linguistic Imperialism, 137–52; Valérie Spaëth, “Enseignement du français, linguistique et politique,” Mots 61 (Dec. 1999): 81–3.



States as it did with the geography of its own shrinking empire.5 In turn, the Anglophone alliance fed Paris’ growing sense of linguistic urgency. The words francophone and francophonie had first appeared in print in the late nineteenth century, in the writings of the geographer Onésime Reclus, who argued that spreading the French language in Africa was key to France’s civilizing mission. Tellingly, however, it was only in the 1960s that the cultural cartographies of a “Francophone world” and “Francophone Africa” gained traction in French policymaking circles, as postcolonial alternatives to the juggernaut of global English.6 This chapter’s focus on sub-Saharan Africa also allows us to assess common presuppositions about the contrasting nature of British and French colonialisms that more generally, this volume seeks to complicate. It might be said that it was in sub-Saharan Africa that the two empires’ educational policies most closely converged with stereotypes of British “indirect” versus French “direct” rule and with corollary assumptions regarding the British elevation of local languages versus the French insistence on teaching in French. In the British case, Lord Lugard, drawing on his extensive experience in Nigeria, advised limiting English-language education in sub-Saharan Africa to a tiny subset of indigenous students who would be needed to collaborate with the colonial administration. By contrast, in his time as governor of Hong Kong (1907–1912), where he had helped to found the University of Hong Kong, Lugard framed the English language as an important vector of Western scientific and technical discoveries—perhaps because he viewed Hong Kong’s Chinese community as being culturally prepared to handle Western thought, unlike the subjects of, say, British Nigeria, which was not graced with its first university until the late 1940s.7 Concerning the French Empire, scholars of 5  On American interest in vehicular English after 1945, see Diana Lemberg, “‘The Universal Language of the Future’: Decolonization, Development, and the American Embrace of Global English, 1945–1965,” Modern Intellectual History 15/2 (Aug. 2018): 561–92. 6  Luc Pinhas, “Aux origines du discours francophone,” Communication et langages 140 (2004): 69–82. 7  Expressing a hierarchical view of colonized societies, Lugard wrote in 1926 that “[unlike] the ancient civilizations of Asia and South America, the former inhabitants of Africa have left no monuments and no records other than rude drawings on rocks like those of neolithic man.” Cited in Alastair Pennycook, English and the Discourses of Colonialism (London: Routledge, 1998), 56, see also 95–6, 117–22. On Lugard and English-language instruction in Hong Kong, see also Anthony Sweeting and Edward Vickers, “Language and the History of Colonial Education: The Case of Hong Kong,” Modern Asian Studies 41/4 (Jan. 2007): 20. On the creation of universities in late-colonial British Africa, see Tim Livsey, Nigeria’s University Age: Reframing Decolonisation and Development (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017).



colonial education have pointed out important exceptions to the general policy of mandating education in French, notably the cases of French Indochina and Madagascar, where French administrations pursued instruction in local languages in addition to French. In these colonies, as well as North Africa, early colonial administrators confronted societies with written languages and well-established educational systems (on the eve of the French conquest of Algeria, by one estimate, the Arabic-language literacy rate was over 40 percent).8 In sub-Saharan Africa, by contrast, a much lower percentage of the population even had access to alphabetic scripts for their languages: Albaugh puts the figure for sub-Saharan Africa plus Algeria at roughly 14 percent in 1850.9 There, as nowhere else, the construction of education systems (or their deferment) was a colonial affair, which—I will argue—was shaped by intercolonial contact as well as intercolonial rivalries.

The Rise of Linguistic Containment in Late-Colonial British and French Africa In the British case, a key source in scholarly conceptualizations of linguistic imperialism is Thomas Babington Macaulay’s Minute of 1835, which declared the desirability of spreading English as a vehicular language in British India. In penning the minute, Macaulay, recently arrived to India, was entering an existing debate between colonial administrators who favored preserving classical learning in Indian languages and those seeking to reform Indian education along European lines. Subsequent critics of the minute have focused, with good reason, on the cultural hubris underlying Macaulay’s case for spreading English on the subcontinent. “A single shelf of a good European library,” Macaulay famously wrote, was “worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia.” There was, however, an important caveat in Macaulay’s program, one downplayed in subsequent accounts of English-language imperialism. 8  Gail P. Kelly, “Colonialism, Indigenous Society, and School Practices: French West Africa and Indochina, 1918–1938,” in Education and the Colonial Experience, 2nd rev. ed., eds. Philip G.  Altbach and Gail P.  Kelly (New Brunswick: Transaction Books, 1984), 9–32; Albaugh, State-building and Multilingual Education, 23–30; Linda S. Lehmil, “A l’école du français: Politiques coloniales de la langue 1830–1944” (PhD. diss., Tulane University, 2007). On education in precolonial Algeria, see Farid Aitsiselmi, “Language Planning in Algeria: Linguistic and Cultural Conflicts,” in French in and out of France, ed. Kamal Salhi (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2002), 381. 9  Albaugh, State-building and Multilingual Education, 25. Albaugh notes that her estimates are principally for transcriptions using the Latin alphabet (23n3).



According to Macaulay, the goal of the British East India Company—then the administering power on the subcontinent—should not be to teach English to India’s masses but rather to educate a much smaller “class of persons Indian in blood and colour, but English in tastes,” to act as “interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern.” In fact, by the late nineteenth century, booming demand for English-language education among subcontinental subjects had become a source of anxiety, not pride, for the colonial (now Crown) regime. Growing numbers of English-­ educated Indians—referred to, derogatorily, as “Babus”—were increasingly seen as politically troublesome by colonial administrators.10 The Indian prelude is significant for how it shaped subsequent discourses of governance and language as applied elsewhere in the British Empire. By the interwar era, India had become a cautionary tale for British rule in Africa. This was in part thanks to the work of Lord Lugard, veteran administrator of British Nigeria and author of The Dual Mandate in British Tropical Africa (1922), the foremost articulation of a British model of “indirect” colonial rule. In his writings and official capacities, Lugard warned that Africa was “[traveling] along the same road” as India: “Here, too, an educated class was formed, out of touch with the people, imbued with theories of self-determination and half-understood catch-words… and rapidly drifting towards the goal of ‘Indian unrest.’” To quell this unrest, Lugard proposed linguistic containment: In Africa, he argued, British administrations should promote education in vernacular languages, and should limit the teaching of English to that small coterie of elites pursuing higher studies.11 To a certain extent, Lugard’s program of linguistic containment dovetailed with the wishes of hardline white settler communities in British Kenya and southern Africa, where, more egregiously than elsewhere, white hegemony was erected via racialized land alienation and the coercion of black labor. In Kenya, for instance, the settler politician E.  S. Grogan frankly stated that he could not envision “a more desperate happening than which we should introduce the language (English) to large 10  For a useful challenge to the “linguistic imperialism” interpretation of the minute, see Stephen Evans, “Macaulay’s Minute Revisited: Colonial Language Policy in Nineteenthcentury India,” Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 23/4 (2002): 260–81. 11  F. D. Lugard, “Education in Tropical Africa,” Edinburgh Review, Jul. 1925, reprinted by the Colonial Office, Aug. 1930, CO879/123/12, 4. On Lugard’s influence, see Pedersen, Guardians, esp. 107–111; and Evans, “Macaulay’s Minute Revisited,” 279.



numbers of people… whose proper education is to work in the fields.”12 For Lugard, by contrast, the goal was not to deny educational investment to Africans outright (an influential 1925 paper he helped to prepare for the Colonial Office in fact recommended more government spending on education). Rather, his views on language formed part of a broader philosophy of paternalistic governance, whereby native races and cultures would be protected from pernicious Western influences—by wise Western policymaking. Vernacular literacy, in this view, was to go hand-in-hand with technical and vocational training that would ultimately enable a measure of socioeconomic advancement in colonial and mandate territories, though Lugard did not specify when these territories would be ready for self-rule.13 The prospect of vernacular education was not without its challenges. Lugard admitted that it pitted African languages with “expansive tendencies” against those “spoken only by small groups”—the latter of which he thought “should be eliminated.” In places like British Kenya, split between coastal trading communities using Swahili and inland groups for whom Swahili was not a lingua franca, this prescription posed a particular challenge, for it meant elevating one African language at the expense of others. Nevertheless, such localized difficulties appeared insignificant from Lugard’s lofty perches on the League of Nations Permanent Mandates Commission and the Colonial Office’s Advisory Committee on Native Education in Tropical Africa (from 1929, the Advisory Committee on Education in the Colonies), from which he defended vernacular instruction as the best possible means of preserving and enriching African cultures. He cited the German linguist and Africanist Diedrich Hermann Westermann: “‘[The] native language is the expression of the soul of a people.’”14 For many advocates of education in local languages, this culturalist justification was complemented by a pedagogical one. The Conservative politician 12  Grogan in T. P. Gorman, “The Development of Language Policy in Kenya with Particular Reference to the Educational System,” in Language in Kenya, ed. W. H. Whiteley (Nairobi: Oxford University Press, 1974), 417–18. On settler colonialism, see Caroline Elkins, “Race, Citizenship, and Governance: Settler Tyranny and the End of Empire,” in Settler Colonialism in the Twentieth Century: Projects, Practices, Legacies, eds. Caroline Elkins and Susan Pedersen (New York: Routledge, 2005), 203–222. 13  Clive Whitehead, “The Advisory Committee on Education in the [British] Colonies 1924–1961,” Paedagogica Historica 27/3 (1991): 395–7; Pedersen, Guardians, esp. 130–4. 14  Lugard, “Education in Tropical Africa,” 16; Gorman, “Development of Language Policy in Kenya,” 397–407; Whitehead, “Advisory Committee,” 386.



and colonial official William Ormsby-Gore—younger than Lord Lugard, and considerably more open to the prospect of self-determination for Britain’s mandate territories—defended vernacular education on instructional grounds. According to Ormsby-Gore, who for much of the 1920s served as undersecretary of state for the colonies, it was “essential that the children should begin their learning in their mother tongue. You cannot begin to teach a child the use of words unless you do it in the tongue in which it has first learned to think.”15 Many in the missionary community, which was still a dominant force in education in British Africa in the early twentieth century, agreed, considering vernacular instruction to be a more effective multiplier of Christian teachings.16 In the 1920s, the philosophy of linguistic containment became embedded in a series of interwar recommendations emanating from the Colonial Office. In 1925, the East Africa Commission, led by William O ­ rmsby-­Gore, suggested that instruction should be in native languages at the elementary and primary levels and that “English should be introduced only at a later stage.” These recommendations were echoed by those of the Advisory Committee on Native Education in Tropical Africa, also chaired by Ormsby-Gore. In its report The Place of the Vernacular in Native Education (1927), the Advisory Committee recommended conducting elementary education in Africa in indigenous languages and limiting the use of English at the secondary level. The committee held this line in its advice to c­ olonial governors throughout the 1930s.17 But the genie, so to speak, was already out of the bottle. In interwar British Africa, as had been the case in British India, far-flung subject populations demanded more education in English, viewing it as a means of economic and social advancement.18 This pressure from below, in tandem with the geopolitical upheavals of the mid-twentieth century, would spur Britain to reconsider linguistic containment in the decades ahead. 15  Ormsby-Gore in House of Commons Debates, Hansard (H.C. Deb.), 30 Apr. 1929 vol 227 cc1506–8. On Ormsby-Gore, see Pedersen, Guardians, 109–10. 16  See, for example, Gorman, “Development of Language Policy in Kenya,” 403–5. 17  Gorman, “Development of Language Policy in Kenya,” 410–11; Clive Whitehead, “The Medium of Instruction in British Colonial Education,” History of Education 24/1 (1995): 1–15; Whitehead, “Advisory Committee,” 391–405. 18  Sybille Küster, “‘Book Learning’ versus ‘Adapted Education’: The Impact of PhelpsStokesism on Colonial Education Systems in Central Africa in the Interwar Period,” Paedagogica Historica 43/1 (2007): 88–97; David Northrup, How English Became the Global Language (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), Chap. 4.



Relying on discourse alone to assess linguistic and educational policy in France’s sub-Saharan colonies, we might conclude that it was markedly different from that of British Africa. In the 1880s, as Europe launched an era of renewed imperial expansion, the influential republican imperialist Jules Ferry framed French colonialism as a moral project to enlighten and educate inferior races through the spread of French culture and institutions. Some four decades later, the rhetoric was much the same: As French West Africa’s governor-general William Merlaud-Ponty proclaimed in 1913, “We are now only at the dawning of the influence of our language among these races of an inferior civilization.”19 French paeans to the role of language in the country’s mission civilisatrice were matched by British critiques of the same. According to the stereotypes of the day, French colonial rule was characterized by a greater level of direct involvement in the life of colonial subjects, as against the “indirect” model favored by Britain. Lord Lugard, whose Dual Mandate had helped to propagate this dichotomous picture of British and French colonization, suggested that the latter had elevated French at the expense of native languages and cultures.20 The numbers, however, paint a different picture. As of 1945, in French West Africa (Afrique-Occidentale française, or AOF) and French Equatorial Africa (Afrique-Equatoriale française, or AEF), only about 3 percent of school-aged children were in school, almost none of them girls. On the eve of decolonization in Senegal—the historic hub of French influence south of the Sahara, where France had enjoyed a coastal presence since the seventeenth century—roughly 94 percent of adults were illiterate in French.21 On the whole, in French Africa, the literacy rate in 1960 was around 10 percent—far lower than British Africa’s 31 percent literacy rate (a disparity Albaugh attributes to the greater influence, in British territories, of missionary institutions, which tended to favor local-language 19  Gilbert Rist, Le développement: Histoire d’une croyance occidentale, rev. 4th ed. (Paris: Presses de la Fondation nationale des sciences politiques, 2013), 99–113; Pinhas, “Aux origines du discours francophone,” esp. 72–77. Merlaud-Ponty in Bulletin 1 (Jan. 1913): 21–22. 20  Lugard, “Education in Tropical Africa,” 16. 21  Spaëth, “Enseignement du français,” 75; Literacy, 1969–1971: Progress Achieved in Literacy throughout the World (Paris: UNESCO, 1972), 109, accessed 30 Jan. 2017 at; Ibrahima Diallo, “Literacy and Education in West Africa: From Ajami to Francophonie,” Africa Review 8/1 (2016): 60–70, see esp. 66.



instruction). As Gail P. Kelly has indicated, prior to the Second World War, in French West Africa neither schooling nor French-language literacy was intended for the bulk of the population.22 In fact, there were important parallels between British and French desires to manage the spread of their respective languages in sub-Saharan Africa before 1945. In turn-of-the-century French West Africa, teaching did tend to be in French as opposed to local languages—but European-­ style schools were few and far between and were primarily run by Christian missionaries. As Harry Gamble’s study of education in the AOF has shown, in the early 1900s, as the Government-General of the AOF began to consolidate its control over education, racialized thinking increasingly began to subvert the principle of linguistic assimilation: Students of European origin were channeled into schools following metropolitan norms; while Africans were relegated to “adapted” schools granting lesser diplomas. In the coastal enclaves of Dakar, Gorée, Saint-Louis, and Rufisque (the Quatre communes), whose residents enjoyed rights not granted to Africans elsewhere in the AOF, the colonial administration faced pushback as it attempted to introduce a series of racially tinged reforms between 1909 and 1914. One of the administration’s responses was to mobilize language as a proxy for race, granting students whose mother tongue was French (Europeans and a small coterie of primarily Catholic mixed-race students) access to metropolitan education and funneling the rest (primarily black Muslims) into lesser schools and segregated classes. Thus, in early twentieth-century French West Africa, the French language was explicitly used to limit, and not to expand, African access to metropolitan education.23 Assimilationist principles fell further out of favor after the First World War. The historian Alice Conklin has shown how the interwar regime in French West Africa embraced “associationalist” policies, which aimed to bolster the authority of tribal elites as against that of more politically demanding urban subjects.24 The purpose of schooling was not to produce “poets or novelists,” education inspector André Davesne reminded his fellow educators in a 1930 issue of the AOF’s official pedagogical bulletin. 22  Kelly, “Colonialism, Indigenous Society, and School Practices,” 9–32. Literacy statistics in Albaugh, State-building and Multilingual Education, 54–55. 23  Harry Gamble, Contesting French West Africa: Battles over Schools and the Colonial Order, 1900–1950 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2017), Chap. 1. 24  Alice Conklin, A Mission to Civilize: The Republican Idea of Empire in France and West Africa, 1895–1930 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997), Chaps. 5 and 6.



On the contrary, Davesne emphasized the need to discipline black Africans’ innate tendency toward “pompous oratory.”25 These remarks are notable in that Davesne—also the author of a popular series of readers for teaching French to Africans (the Mamadou et Bineta series)—concerned himself here with how to contain, and not to encourage, African ambitions in French. More and more, schooling in the AOF was viewed as an instrument to channel social change in the direction desired by the French administration: to encourage the provision of staple crops to the metropole. The push to expand rural schooling in these years, in particular during the Great Depression, was linked to imperial economics. The French administration wanted to produce farmers and laborers who were just educated enough to comprehend the agricultural innovations it recommended—not, Davesne might have added, poets or novelists.26 Unsurprisingly, it was also during this time that teaching in local languages gained a foothold, albeit a limited one, in the AOF. In 1922, the colonial administration began to permit the use of local languages in religious instruction. In 1932, it approved their use in adult education.27 In circulars from 1932, Governor-General Jules Brévié described native idioms as an essential tool for reaching the masses of African adults who were beyond the reach of conventional schooling. The administration’s educational journal, the Bulletin de l’enseignement de l’Afrique Occidentale Française, reported on adult-education classes and talks on hygiene and agriculture given in indigenous languages during this time. Brévié also emphasized that the philosophy of adapted popular education that had taken root in French West Africa dovetailed with policies in British Africa and in French Madagascar, both areas where alphabetic transcriptions of local languages were more developed and where teaching in those languages was accepted practice.28 The following year, in a review of a biography of General Joseph Galliéni, who had in the 1890s consolidated the French conquest of Madagascar, the Bulletin expressed approval for  Davesne in Bulletin 73 (Jul.–Dec. 1930): 21, 25.  Gamble, Contesting French West Africa, Chap. 3. 27  Lehmil, “A l’école du français,” 199–201. 28  Gamble, Contesting French West Africa, 74–75, 79. Brévié in Bulletin 79 (Jan.–Mar. 1932): 5–6, and Bulletin 80 (Jul.–Dec. 1932): 169, 171. See also Bulletin 84 (Jul.–Dec. 1933): 243; and Bulletin 93 (Jan.–Mar. 1936): 4. On the transcription of African languages in British and French Africa, see Albaugh, State-Building and Multilingual Education, 25–26. On Malagasy-language instruction in French Madagascar, see Lehmil, “A l’école du français.” 25 26



Galliéni’s efforts to encourage bilingual education in French and Malagasy—a reflection of his broader “concern to adapt instruction [souci d’adapter l’enseignement] to the mindset of the race” and to the needs of the colonial economy.29 Brévié’s approving mention of British policy, in particular, points to how intercolonial relations were shaping colonial educational norms by the interwar period. At times, this dynamic took the form of borrowing. As Barbara Cooper notes elsewhere in this volume, interwar officials in French Niger (where Brévié had been lieutenant-governor prior to assuming leadership of the entire AOF) frequently “looked across the border” to British Nigeria as they elaborated associationalist policies of collaboration with indigenous chiefs.30 At other times, British influences assumed a more constraining form. In the 1920s and early 1930s, Lord Lugard used his clout at the League of Nations Permanent Mandates Commission to emphasize the superior wisdom of British “indirect” over French “direct” rule. Although the contrast was more a rhetorical hammer than an accurate depiction of on-the-ground realities, it had a powerful impact on international discussions of empire. French officials found themselves under pressure to demonstrate the local and adapted aspects of education in French colonial and mandate Africa. Susan Pedersen relates the case of one official from French mandate Togo who “had come to Geneva [in 1925] to impress the Commission with his progressive Togoland administration,” only to receive a thorough dressing-down from Lugard, who criticized the administration’s policy of teaching French to local populations.31 In addition to the international pressures being brought to bear on the French Empire, there were also anxieties shared transnationally by British and French officials. The French, like their British counterparts, fretted 29  A. Dirand, review of G.-S. Chapus’ L’organisation de l’enseignement à Madagascar sous l’Administration du Général Galliéni, Bulletin 84 (Jul.–Dec. 1933): 247–9, quotation on 248. 30  Barbara M. Cooper, “‘Our Anglo-Saxon Colleagues’: French Administration of Niger and the Constraining Embrace of British Northern Nigeria,” in this volume. 31  Pedersen, Guardians, 134–40, quotation on 140; Véronique Dimier, “Direct or Indirect Rule: Propaganda around a Scientific Controversy,” in Promoting the Colonial Idea: Propaganda and Visions of Empire in France, eds. Tony Chafer and Amanda Sackur (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002), 168–83.



continually about the potential for upheaval generated by educated African subjects (often referred to as déclassés).32 As late as 1947, the French linguist Aurélien Sauvageot—sounding, mutatis mutandis, like Lord Lugard twenty years earlier—concluded that the policy of educating colonial subjects in the French language had been mistaken, pointing to unrest in Indochina and French North Africa as evidence of the instability it had generated. As Sauvageot reported to a meeting of language specialists held that year by the new United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), “French speaking natives formed a caste which had a ­tendency to become a shield or screen between the bulk of the population and France. This caste… wanted to govern for its own benefit.”33 By the late 1940s, however, other voices in Britain and France were starting to acknowledge the failure of linguistic containment and to search for policy alternatives.

The Postwar Turn Toward Western-Language Education in Africa The years immediately following the Second World War were liminal ones for colonial policymakers. On one hand, under pressure from anticolonial nationalists and the international community, Britain and France worked together to block the United Nations from accepting or investigating unsanctioned complaints (“petitions”) emanating from the colonial world.34 This late efflorescence of intercolonial collusion was also evident in UNESCO’s work. The organization, headquartered in Paris, quickly became an important hub for language-teaching discussions. But not all of its functionaries were disinterested, starting from the top: its first director-­ general, the English biologist Julian Huxley (in office 1946–1948), had close ties to the British Colonial Office and its Advisory Committee on Education in the Colonies. And not all member states received equal treatment. The farsighted French functionary René Maheu criticized his colleagues in 1951 for submitting a draft report on vernacular-language  Gamble, Contesting French West Africa, see, for example, 28, 35, 61–2, 65–66, 201.  Sauvageot in “Summary Report of the Fourth Meeting,” UNESCO Archives, File 375:4.A.064.‘47’, Paris, France. 34  Fabian Klose, “‘Source of Embarrassment’: Human Rights, State of Emergency, and the Wars of Decolonization,” in Human Rights in the Twentieth Century, ed. Stefan-Ludwig Hoffmann (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 245–6. 32 33



education “to the preliminary screening of three of our member-states which happen to be the three principal colonial powers”: France, Britain, and Belgium. Maheu cautioned that “such preferential treatment” might stimulate justifiable criticism from other countries, thereby undermining UNESCO’s international legitimacy.35 If the postwar internationalization of anticolonialism spurred defensive collaboration between Britain and France, however, the linguistic ground beneath them was shifting. The occasion for Maheu’s memorandum pointed to the rapidly evolving politics of vernacular-language education after 1945, as the United Nations and its specialized agencies welcomed new member states including the Philippines, India, Pakistan, Burma, and Indonesia. Postcolonial states sought to redress colonial cultural hierarchies and (often) to strengthen education in non-Western languages. In 1949, the expanding UN General Assembly resolved that member states should make vernacular languages “the languages of instruction in elementary, primary and secondary schools” and requested that UNESCO investigate further the relationship between vernacular languages and education.36 Vernacular education—previously a guiding tenet of Lugardian paternalism—was transforming into a desideratum for many postcolonial nationalists. But not everyone cheered these UN recommendations. Postwar calls to expand education in non-Western languages stimulated new anxieties for many British and French observers, who began to view multilingualism as a greater menace to their influence than that posed by Westerneducated Asians and Africans. For these observers, the threat was no longer “Babus”; it was, increasingly, Babel.37 As a result, some began to argue that Western-­language education in colonial territories and postcolonial states would help to shore up European influence and thus should be expanded. As early as 1953, UNESCO’s René Maheu was calling attention to the interest generated by a meeting held that year in Ceylon— officially titled the UNESCO “Seminar on the Contribution of the Teaching of Modern Languages towards Education for Living in a World 35  René Maheu, memo to M. de Blonay and M.  Guiton, 10 Sept. 1951, UNESCO Archives, File 375: 408.8, Part II.  On links between the British Colonial Office and UNESCO, see Whitehead, “Advisory Committee,” 410. 36  U.N. Resolution 329 (IV) cited in UNESCO’s untitled progress report of 10 Jul. 1951, UNESCO Archives, File 375:408.8, Part I. 37  On “Babel” as a recurring trope in UNESCO’s postwar language-education work, see Lemberg, “‘The Universal Language of the Future.’”



Community”—as a means of maintaining relationships between developed countries and newly independent Asian nations. It was imperative, wrote Maheu, to avoid the cutting of links forged during the colonial period.38 In sub-Saharan Africa, too, popular mobilizations in the aftermath of the Second World War helped to transform language discourses and policies. As British and French hopes of retaining their colonies there in general lasted somewhat longer than in Asia (Hong Kong being an important exception), the changes initially took the shape of colonial reforms designed to mollify widespread African demands for expanded educational opportunities. The education scholar Clive Whitehead has written of the “decisive shift” in the British Colonial Office’s stance toward education in British Africa in the 1940s, when it abandoned the containment approach that had dominated the interwar years and launched a program of aid intended to expand schooling. The changes encompassed an emphasis on spreading vehicular English.39 This transition was not always linear or straightforward. The title of one 1952 language meeting, held by UNESCO in British Nigeria with the cooperation of the Colonial Office, was the unwieldy product of compromise: the “Meeting of Experts on the Use in Education of African Languages in Relation to English, Where English Is the Accepted Second Language.” Although the meeting report commented at length on issues pertaining to vernacular education, one of its stated ideals was for African schools to introduce English in the early primary years.40 Meanwhile, under the new Fourth Republic constitution of 1946, the inhabitants of the French Empire—now the “French Union”—were granted citizenship rights and expanded political representation. These reforms gave weight to arguments in favor of bringing colonial education in line with metropolitan standards. Jean Capelle, the incoming head of education in French West Africa, argued that, since the “populations of the AOF [had] obtained the right to send representatives to Parliament,” it had “become urgent that the AOF’s school populations… benefit from 38  René Maheu, memo to Lionel Elvin, 3 Nov. 1953, ODG memo 10730, UNESCO Archives, File 408.3:37, Part I. 39  Whitehead, “Advisory Committee,” 408–14. 40  “Meeting of Experts on the Use in Education of African Languages in Relation to English, where English Is the Accepted Second Language: Report Presented to the DirectorGeneral of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization,” 15 Dec. 1952, EJD/PZ, UNESCO Archives, File 375: 408.8 (6) A0 64 (669) “52,” Part II.



an education modeled on the French plan and sanctioned by exams having the quality and prestige of metropolitan exams.” The postwar case for reforming African education along metropolitan lines comprised a case for more and better French teaching in Africa.41 In the decade and a half following the Second World War, the strategic rationale behind these educational reforms would be superseded by new political realities. Yet British and French interest in spreading English and French, respectively, as vehicular languages only grew as the process of decolonization gathered momentum. The British government began to adopt the discourse of “universal” or “world” English in the 1950s. It convened an Official Committee on the Teaching of English Overseas, which brought together the voices of the Colonial Office, the Commonwealth Relations Office, the Foreign Office, the British Council, and the Ministry of Education, among others. The committee’s 1956 report offered a strong statement of English’s potential role as a global vehicular language: “Within a generation from now English could be a world language—that is to say, a universal second language in those countries in which it is not already the native or primary tongue.” The report, adopted by a Conservative cabinet, recommended a multipronged program of governmental support for the emerging field of overseas English-­ language teaching (ELT), including greater funding for teacher training, the expanded dissemination of English-language radio, and preferential policies for British publishers.42 Initially, British ELT aid targeted Asia; but as the “wind of change” reached Africa in the early 1960s, it expanded there, too. The report of the 1961 Commonwealth Conference on the Teaching of English as a Second Language, held in Makerere, Uganda, the year prior to Ugandan independence, described improving English teaching as a “matter of great importance to the future of millions” in Asia and Africa. This objective was to be achieved in part through reforming curricula to reflect up-to-date methods. The conference also called for an expanded program of teacher training and, in the short- to medium-term (i.e., before sufficient numbers of local teachers could be trained), the provision of native-speaker teachers to 41  Spaëth, “Enseignement du français,” 73–6, Capelle quoted on 74; Gamble, Contesting French West Africa, Chap. 8. On the expansion of citizenship in postwar French Africa, see Frederick Cooper, Citizenship between Empire and Nation: Remaking France and French Africa, 1945–1960 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014). 42  Phillipson, Linguistic Imperialism, 147–51, quotation on 147.



postcolonial and developing states. “Expatriate teachers from the English-­ speaking countries will be needed for many years to come,” concluded the conference report, pointing to Britain’s interest in preserving ties to decolonizing Africa through ongoing infusions of personnel and expertise.43 The Makerere Conference also reflected growing Anglo-American cooperation in the field of overseas English-language teaching. American interests were well represented at Makerere, with Clifford Prator of UCLA and Charles Ferguson of the Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL) in attendance.44 Of course, Anglo-American cooperation in the fields of African education and English-language teaching was not a wholly new phenomenon. In the 1920s, the Phelps-Stokes Commission, a multiyear inquiry into education in British colonial Africa funded by the American Phelps-Stokes Fund, had recommended vernacular education for black Africans, a point heartily endorsed by the Advisory Committee on Native Education in Tropical Africa. Conversely, the Carnegie Report of 1936, the product of two years of Anglo-American collaboration funded by the New York-based Carnegie Corporation, marked a milestone in the gradually coalescing field of ELT.45 What was new in the late 1950s and 1960s was the object of Anglo-American cooperation: buttressing the two powers’ shared language in previously overlooked areas of Asia and Africa. In the words of the 1956 report of the Official Committee on the Teaching of English Overseas, Britain had “nothing to lose and much to gain by the closest possible collaboration with the United States.”46 Ten years on, this insight had yielded an array of collaborations in postcolonial Asia and Africa. In Nigeria, for instance, the Ford Foundation partnered with the British Council and the Nigerian government to survey the teaching of English as a foreign language. In Kenya, the work of a Nairobi-based “Special Centre” set up in the twilight of the colonial era and dedicated to 43  Report of the Commonwealth Conference on the Teaching of English as a Second Language (Entebbe, Uganda: Printed for the Commonwealth Education Liaison Committee by the Government Printer, Uganda, 1961), 1, 6, also cited in Phillipson, Linguistic Imperialism, 183–5; Richard C.  Smith, introduction to Teaching English as a Foreign Language, 1936–1961: Foundations of ELT, vol. 1, ed. Richard C. Smith (London: Routledge, 2005), xxvi–xxxi. 44  Report of the Commonwealth Conference, 52. 45  Küster, “‘Book Learning’ versus ‘Adapted Education,’” 79–97; Whitehead, “Medium of Instruction,” 3–4; Smith, introduction to Teaching English as a Foreign Language, 1912–1936. 46  Cited in Phillipson, Linguistic Imperialism, 150.



developing English-medium instruction was the subject of a glowing post-­ independence assessment funded by the Ford Foundation, then a major patron of developmental ELT work.47 Tripartite cooperation around language issues also emerged between the United States, Britain, and France in the late 1950s and 1960s. In 1959, the CAL, with Ford Foundation funding, began an ambitious “World Second Language Survey”—though, lest the initiative appear too “American,” the Americans in charge took pains to attract British and French participation. The field of second-language teaching, Ford’s Melvin Fox noted, was “for a variety of quite obvious reasons a matter of considerable importance to the foreign policy interests of England, the United States and France.”48 One of the fruits of this cooperation was an emerging discourse of language teaching that framed English and French as the privileged linguistic instruments of socioeconomic advancement in the developing and decolonizing world. As one 1961 CAL report put it, “all developing countries” shared one thing in common: “the need for increased learning of a language of wider communication (LWC) such as English or French.” The survey project also yielded a series of annual conferences, the International Conferences on Second Language Problems, which ran until 1969.49 47  F.  Champion Ward, memo to “Members of the Committee on English as a Second Language,” 9 Dec. 1965, Folder 1, Box 10, FA582, Ford Foundation records (FF), Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC), Sleepy Hollow, NY; F.  Champion Ward, memo to “Members of the Committee on English as a Second Language,” 23 Dec. 1965, with attachments, Folder 1, Box 10, FA582, FF, RAC; Gorman, “Development of Language Policy in Kenya,” 435–7; Marnixius Hutasoit and Clifford H. Prator, “A Study of the ‘New Primary Approach’ in the Schools of Kenya,” 3 Mar. 1965, Ministry of Education, Nairobi, accessed 24 Feb. 2018 at 48  Melvin J.  Fox, memo to John B.  Howard and George F.  Gant, 2 Oct. 1959, Folder labeled “Africa—Trip to Africa…,” Box 3; Melvin J. Fox, memo to George F. Gant and John B. Howard, copied from handwritten letter dated 10 Nov. 1959, Folder labeled “Africa— Trip to Africa…,” Box 3; Melvin J. Fox, memo to George Gant and John Howard, 27 Jan. 1960, Folder labeled “Africa—Trip to Africa…,” Box 3; Melvin J. Fox, draft memo to F. F. Hill, 31 May 1961, Folder labeled “Language Development: World Language Survey, 1962,” Box 17. All in Series I, FA608, FF, RAC. 49  CAL, Second Language Learning as a Factor in National Development in Asia, Africa, and Latin America: Summary Statement and Recommendations of an International Meeting of Specialists Held in London, December 1960 (Washington, DC: Center for Applied Linguistics of the Modern Language Association of America, 1961), 2; Sirarpi Ohannessian, “Retrospective Language Survey: Background to Ford Foundation Grants to U.S. Universities as Resource Bases in ESL,” Aug. 1973, Report 009908, Box 405, FA739D, FF, RAC; Melvin J.  Fox, Language and Development: A Retrospective Survey of Ford Foundation Language Projects, 1952–1974 (New York: Ford Foundation, 1975), 36–7; Lemberg, “‘The Universal Language of the Future.’”



La francophonie and the French Response to Postcolonial Anglo-American Influence But this three-way collaboration was not symmetrical; the Anglo-American tandem dominated. (Or, in the words of the CAL report, English was “the most important of the LWC’s.”50) France was keenly aware it was the lesser partner. Perceptions of Anglo-American complicity and the increasingly international stature of English fed French anxieties about a loss of French influence the postcolonial world. These worries were exacerbated by the arrival, in the 1960s, of satellite broadcasting, a technology then dominated by the United States. One 1969 study undertaken by France’s national space agency and its government broadcasting monopoly (the Centre National des Etudes Spatiales (CNES) and Office de Radiodiffusion-­ Télévision Française (ORTF), respectively) made ominous mention of the “inevitable emergence of educational-television initiatives for Anglophone African countries in the coming decade.”51 For much of the 1960s, Paris was hesitant to open itself to charges of neocolonialism in sub-Saharan Africa, given its dreary track record of decolonization in Indochina and Algeria. The resurgence of the concept of la francophonie during the decade at first owed less to France itself and more to the work of postcolonial elites, notably Léopold Sédar Senghor of Senegal, who as a brilliant student had been one of very few AOF subjects to receive a classical French education and who viewed French as a tool of national cohesion and international connection; and Habib Bourguiba of Tunisia, who had received a bilingual education in French and Arabic and who (like Senghor) had his own domestic political considerations in mind. But despite this initial caution, la francophonie gained momentum in the Hexagon. By 1966 or 1967, Charles de Gaulle and Georges Pompidou had begun to embrace postcolonial Francophone ties as a means of furthering French interests internationally.52  CAL, Second Language Learning, 2.  “Projet Socrate: Télévision Educative en Afrique Noire francophone: Etude économique comparative entre un Système à Satellite d’Education et des Chaines de Télévision éducatives nationales” (report, CNES and ORTF, 1969, Inathèque de France, Paris, France). 52  Pierre Alexandre, “Francophonie: The French and Africa,” Journal of Contemporary History 4/1 (Jan. 1969): 121–4; Michel Chansou, “Politique de la langue et idéologie en français contemporain,” Mots 6 (Mar. 1983): 61–3. On Senghor, see Gamble, Contesting French West Africa, 133–6. On Bourguiba and Tunisia, see Mansour Sayah, “Linguistic Issues and Policies in Tunisia,” trans. Kamal Salhi and Anne Judge, in French in and out of France, 411–31. 50 51



The 1969 CNES–ORTF study, “Projet Socrate” (Project Socrates), reflected the uptake of the concept of la francophonie within the French administration, as well as a certain residuum of colonial grandiosity. The study proposed to bring French-language educational television via Franco-German Symphonie satellite to schools in seventeen “Francophone” African countries, in a receiving zone that stretched for thousands of kilometers across sub-Saharan Africa and covered roughly 65 million people— “more than France and Quebec combined.” The head count was reminiscent of the “wider France of one hundred million inhabitants” vaunted by fin-de-siècle imperialists like Jules Ferry and Onésime Reclus. In its final pages, Project Socrates underscored the need to “[defend] la francophonie” against the “attitude of the Anglophone countries,” as well as the “movement currently pushing certain states towards education in vernacular languages.”53 As was the case with many contemporaneous modernization projects, Project Socrates’ sweeping ambitions did not come to fruition. By the late 1970s, only a handful of African countries had participated in educational-­ television experiments via Symphonie hookup.54 But a number of other initiatives proved more durable. In the late 1950s and 1960s, the French government created new institutions dedicated to the teaching of French abroad, notably the Centre de recherche et d’étude pour la diffusion du français (CREDIF, established 1959), and the Bureau d’étude et de l­ iaison (BEL, also founded 1959, later known as the Bureau pour l’enseignement de la langue et de la civilisation, or 53   “Projet Socrate.” On the “numbers game” in Francophone advocacy, see Brian Weinstein, “Francophonie: A Language-Based Movement in World Politics,” International Organization 30/3 (Summer 1976): 494–5. 54  Reports from the late 1970s and 1980s show that educational-television experiments using Symphonie satellites had been conducted in two countries, the Ivory Coast and Cameroon; as of 1976, Gabon was also expected to participate. See Y. Demerliac, “Etudes et expérimentations d’Eurospace dans le domaine de l’éducation et du service public,” 761–3, and Francis Billot-Piot, “Bilan des Expérimentations Symphonie en Côte d’Ivoire,” 769–73, both in Symphonie Symposium Berlin 1980: Textes des Conférences (Toulouse: Imprimerie du Sud, 1980); Ph. Dosiere, “Le système Symphonie et ses applications” (conference proceedings for “Les Télécommunications par satellite,” Abidjan, 21–24 Nov. 1978), Inathèque de France; “L’Unesco et ‘Symphonie’: Documents préparatoires” (documents prepared by Radio France and Institut National de l’Audiovisuel, 1976), Inathèque de France; and Frédéric Engel, “L’Europe, troisième force spatiale: le cas du satellite de télécommunications européen” (Mémoire de maitrise de géographie, Université Paris X, 1985), Inathèque de France.



BELC). France also helped to fund research and teaching institutions in its former colonies, including the Centre de linguistique appliquée de Dakar (CLAD, founded 1963). As of the early to mid-1970s, the Quai d’Orsay’s cultural-affairs branch and the French Ministry of Cooperation were underwriting the salaries of tens of thousands of French teachers working outside of France—7,000 of them in France’s former sub-Saharan African colonies. As one contemporary observer wrote of France’s changing role in Africa, “[The] budget headings changed but the various appropriations for aid programmes were on a level with those of the disbanded Colonial Office. This was the price that had to be paid for keeping friends and influencing peoples.” Too, “Francophone” cooperation became institutionalized with the formation in 1970 of the Agence de Coopération Culturelle et Technique, later renamed the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIT). The organization brought together France with postcolonial African states including Senegal and Tunisia, as well as actors from countries with large Francophone minorities, such as Canada and Belgium. Into the twenty-first century, France continues to underwrite both bilateral and multilateral Francophone initiatives. In 2005, it supplied 60 percent of the OIT’s budget.55 To conclude, the history of British and French linguistic and educational policies in twentieth-century Africa confounds the notion that power determines language use in any straightforward fashion (and complicates the attendant idea that the spread of vehicular English has been the inevitable outcome of Anglo-American power). The reverse has been true in many historical contexts: Discourses about language have shaped power relations and policymaking. To Anglophone observers, the culturally and politically constructed aspects of la francophonie are perhaps more evident than those of global English. But evolving Anglophone ideas about vehicular English have also helped to generate politics and policies, in part through the various forms of interimperial and international contact explored in this chapter. 55  Spaëth, “Enseignement du français,” 81–82; Alexandre, “Francophonie,” quotation on 118; Weinstein, “Francophonie,” 496–7, 499–500; Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, “Une histoire de la Francophonie,” accessed 4 Apr. 2017, https://www.; Albaugh, State-building and Multilingual Education, 65–66; Gabrielle Parker, “The Fifth Republic and the Francophone Project,” in French in and out of France, 11–33.



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A Abd Al-Aziz as-Sayyid, 140 Abdullah Haroon, Seth Haji, 102 Abu Hilal Ahmad bin Said, Imama, 134 Aden, 138–139, 151, 152, 155 Administration, systems of, 11 Adventurers, 229 Advisory Committee on Education in the Colonies, 309 Advisory Committee on Native Education in Tropical Africa, 303, 304, 313 Aerial surveillance, 99 Africa British rule in, 302–305, 307 British ties to decolonizing, 313 cultures and languages, 303 empires in, 10–11 English-language teaching in, 312 linguistic containment in, 302–305 migrations, 291

scramble for, 38, 41 Western-language education in, 309–314 African colonies British and French compared, 305–306 surveys in, 256, 256n16 Africans adults, education of, 307 educated subjects, 308–309 population, attraction and retention of, 61 religious intellectuals, movement of, 53 during World War II, 290–291 African states, 19 Agence de Coopération Culturelle et Technique (later Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIT)), 317 Agence de la France d’Outre-Mer (French Overseas Agency), 268

 Page numbers in italics indicate illustrations


© The Author(s) 2019 J. R. Fichter (ed.), British and French Colonialism in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies Series,




Agence générale des colonies (General Agency for the Colonies), 262 Age of Empire, 243 “Aggressive accommodation” (term), 53–54 Agnew, John, 243 Agreement of 1724, 23 Agricultural statistics, 251, 251n6, 262 Agricultural training, 299 Ahmad bin Said al Bussaid, 134, 134n7 Ahmadiyya movement, 105 Albough, Ericka, 299 Albreda, Senegambia (comptoir), 22, 24–27 Alby, Gustave, 193, 199 Aleppo, endowment in, 104, 104n61 Algeria decolonization in, 315 as French possession, 113–116, 126 mail service, 123 railway system, 123 statistics compiled in, 251 trade and shipping, 124 as unit of analysis, 10 Algerian Muslims, pilgrimages by, 52–53 Algerian population in Syria, 90, 90n5 Algiers, 116–119, 125 Ali Dinar, Sultan of Darfur, 70, 79–81, 83–85 Allen, Godfrey, 282 Alliance francaise, 144, 144n42 Alma (French naval ship), coaling for, 162–163 Al-Qaeda, 42 Amadhis, Indian, 91 American Revolutionary wars, 31 Anglo-American cooperation in English-language teaching, 313

Anglo-American influence, post-­ colonial, 315–317 Anglo-American power, English-­ language spread due to, 317 Anglo-Free French relations, 277–295 Anglo-French colonial borderlands, 39–40 Anglo-French cooperation Bolshevism threat, response to, 71 case studies, 85–86 in Crimean War, 127 examples of, 11–12, 69 intelligence sharing, 73–75 surveillance and policing, 104 in World War I, 75, 85 in World War II, 12, 277–295 Anglo-French inter-imperial connections, 1–4 Anglo-French relations after Fashoda crisis, 145 competitive and cooperative nature of, 70 conflict, potential in, 11 evolution of, 135–137 French-flagged dhows, strain over, 148 religion and, 12 Anglo-French rivalry after Seven Years’ War, 1756-1763, 31 in Barbary, 115–117 exploitation of, 29 during Napoleonic Wars, 31 over Oman, 128, 131–132, 140–149 over South China, 191–192, 216 over Suez Canal, 6–7 in Senegambia, 20–25, 31 in slave trade, 19–20, 130 Anglo-French security landscape and concerns, 105–107 Anglophone alliance, 300


Anglophone missionaries, 46, 48–50 Anglophone Muslims, 53 “Anglo-Saxon” Protestant missionaries, 36–37, 61 “Anglo-Saxon” Protestant missions in French colonies, 47, 50 Animal epidemics, 39 Annam, 169, 176, 196, 267 Annuaire statistique de l’Indochina/ Statistical Yearbooks for Indochina, 266 Anti-clericalism, French, 37 Anticolonialism, internationalization of, 310 Anticolonial nationalism, 70 Anticolonial nationalist movements, 299 Antwerp coal, 164, 164n48 Aoba, 241 AOF (Afrique Occidentale Française), see French West Africa Arab dhows French flag grants to, 141, 141n36 Arabia, native literature of, 301 Arabic-language literacy rate, 301 Area studies, imperial boundaries transcended by, 9 Arguin (island), 20, 22 A. R. Marty & Co., 195, 196n43 Arrêté 753, 94 Asia British coal in, 165–167 Britons in, 155n13, 156 English-language teaching in, 312 French imperial expansion in, 115 waters, 151–152, 160 during World War II, 288 As-Senussi, Ahmad, 78 As-Senussi, Idris, 78 As-Senussi, Muhammad ibn Ali, 72 Assimilationism, 298–299 Associationism/associationist policy, 42–45, 56–57, 306–308


Auricoste, Noël, 258–259, 261–262 Australia, land status in, 229 Australian coal, 151–152 Australians, 235 Authority, submission to, 49 B Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, 136 Bab Jabia quarter (Damascus), waqf in, 101, 101n47 “Babus,” 302, 310 Bambuk “Mountain of gold,” 31 Bar, sovereigns of, 26–27, 29 Bar as slave trade currency, 23 Barbary, 115–117 Bartholdi, Frédéric Auguste, 5 Batavia, coaling in, 162 Bayero, Alhaji Abdullahi, 53 Beau, Paul, 200, 201, 206, 207 Beaulieu, Paul-Leroy, 126 Beaumont, Jean-Olivier de la Bonninière, Comte de, 184n4, 185n5, 187–188 Bedouins, 51 Beihai, 209–211 Belgian colonial statistics, 272 Belgian Congo, 282–283, 286, 294–295 Belgian government in exile, 294 Belgian Quetelet, 252 Belgium, 317 Belhai, 216 Bencoolen, coal from, 168 Berbera, 136 Berlin, Treaty of, 1889, 237, 237n21 Besnard, Armand, 188, 190 Biblical teaching, 49 Bilingual education, 307–308 Birth rates in French colonies, 58–59 Boisson, Pierre, 59, 281 Boko Haram, 42



Bolshevism, 71 Bombay Express, 126 Bonninière, Jean-Olivier de la (Comte de Beaumont), 184, 187, 188n16 Book learning, 299 Borgnis-Desbordes, Gustavie, 193 Borneo coal, 168 Bourdillion, Imbert, 280 Bourdillon, Sir Bernard, 281 Bourguiba, Habib, 315 Bournier, Georges, 265–266 Boutet, Captain, 188, 190 Boxer Rebellion, 1900, 11 Brazzaville conference, 49–50 Brévié, Jules, 44, 45, 54–56, 307, 308 Briquettes, 174 Britain coal exports to, 173–174 Darfur, involvement in, 79–85 education, investment in, 36 Foreign Enlistment Act, 159, 169–170 Franco-Prussian War, neutrality during, 159–161 French, aid to, 76–79, 279–280, 282–283, 292–293, 295 French invasion scare, 1859, 11 French threat perceived by, 132–133 imperial tariff system, 166 mail transport, 122 maritime supremacy, 124 Mediterranean as passageway for, 113–114 Ottomans backed by, 7 Persian Gulf dominated by, 131 slave trade, efforts to curtail, 141, 141n36 state religion versus secular governance, reconciling, 45 during World War II, 277–283, 291–295 Britain and the Persian Gulf (Busch), 147–148

British and French subjects, mingling of, 53 British Board of Trade, 254 British coal in Asia, 165–167 competition with, 168 French dependence on, 114–115, 125, 127, 151–152, 161 quality of, 163–164 British colonial administration, 38 British Colonial Africa, 290 British colonial historians, 8 British Colonial Office, see Colonial Office (Britain) British colonies English language containment in, 298, 302–305 French state reliance on, 151–152 migration to, 54–55 officials, 289 Saigon links to, 156 universities in, 300 British commerce, 7 British Council, 299, 312 British East India Company, 302 British Empire, 253, 267, 272, 283 British-French, see terms beginning with Anglo-French British imperial historiography, 8 British imperial history, 2–3 British imperial telegraph network, 152 British Indian Army, 96, 96n30 British India Steam Navigation Company, 122 British indirect rule, see Indirect rule British Mandate, 99 British Mandate authorities in Iraq, 99 British-Omani relationship, 137 British-Omani treaty, first, 134 British ports, depots in, 161–162 British shipbuilding, 124, 127 British Timber Control, 284


British versus French military power, imbalance between, 71, 76–79, 279–280, 295 British West Africa, 284, 290 Britons in Asia, 155, 155n13 in New Hebrides, 229, 230, 232, 244 Brunskill, Stephen, 289 Bureau d’étude et de liaison (BEL) (later Bureau pour l’enseignement de la langue et de la civilisation (BELC)), 316–317 Busch, Briton C., 147–148 C Caillard, Gaston, 214 Calcutta, 155n13 Cambodia, 141, 267 Cambon, Jules, 237 Cambon, Paul, 144–146 Camels, 291 Cameroon Anglo-French dialog at, 278–279 economy of, 284 Free French takeover in, 280, 282 Germans in, 76 gold from, 292 television satellite experiments in, 316, 316n54 trade with, 283 Canada, 317 Canton, 216 Capelle, Jean, 311 Cape of Good Hope, 119–120 Captives, 30 Carbon independence, French goal of, 168–169 Carbon interdependence, Anglo-­ French, 159, 173–174 Carnegie Report, 1936, 313 Casey, James, 12 Casey, Richard, 293


Catholic Church, 46–47 Catholic missionaries, 48 Catholic schools, 48 Caullier, Louis, 21 Cavaignac, Jean-Baptiste de, 134 Censuses, 250, 253, 255–256, 265 Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL), 313–315 Central Africa, 281, 295 Central African Republic, 289 Centre de linguistique appliquée de Dakar (CLAD), 317 Centre de recherche et d’étude pour la diffusion du français (CREDIF), 316 Centre National des Etudes Spatiales (CNES), 315, 316 Ceylon, 160, 162, 166–167, 167 Chad, 82, 283, 288, 291 Chater, Sir Paul, 173 Chater and Mody (firm), 173 Cheikh Saïd, Yemen, proposed depot at, 160 Chevalier, Michel, 115, 120–121, 126 Chevry, Gabeil, 266 Chieftaincy, French policy toward, 44 China Anglo-French rivalry over, 191–192, 216 Annam given up by, 196 coal, 167–168 coast, French operations on, 169 exploitation of, 181, 186 foreign occupation, resistance to, 192–194 French colonial system exports to, 176 imperial leaseholds acquired in, 184–194 Kwang-chow-wan returned to, 217 maps, 183 mines, 167 seas, French fleet in, 171



Christian converts, 61 Christian enslavement, 116, 117 Christian missionaries, see Missionaries Christian missions, 36–37, 45–50, 60 Christian-Sanussiyya relations, 74 Christian teachings, 304 Churchill, Winston, 279, 281, 283, 292, 293, 295 Cities, prices in, 266 Civilizational solidarity, 71 CLAD (Centre de linguistique appliquée de Dakar), 317 Classifications, golden age of, 252 Clayton, Gilbert, 74–75, 80–82 Clifford, Geoffrey Miles, 280 CNES (Centre National des Etudes Spatiales), 315, 316 Coal British dominance of, 114, 124 export of, 176 extraction of, 163, 163n42, 171–172 and Franco-Prussian War, 159–163 French Asia and Britain linked by, 156–159 increasing importance of, 158 quality, British and other compared, 163–164 sources of, 165, 168–170, 170n63, 172 value of, 174 as war contraband, 169 Coaling-station affair, Oman, 1904, 132, 137–149 Cobden-Chevalier Treaty, 1860, 11 Cochinchina British investment in, 173, 173n69 coal sources for, 164, 168, 170 colony, maintaining, 160 economy, 158 France, connection to, 154–155, 158

hospital transports, 161 rice from, 154 Cochin China Brigade, 201, 201n53 Cohen, William, 45 Co-imperialism, 132, 148, 149 Colombel, Alexandre, 118 Colonial borders, good, peoples, ideas, and beliefs crossing, 67–68 Colonial boundaries, 9, 38 Colonial cultural hierarchies, 310 Colonial educational norms, 308 Colonial education policy, 37 Colonial empires, see Empires Colonial-era boundary-drawing, 9–10 Colonial geographies, 92 Colonialism, economic aspects of, 176, 188 Colonial labor force, 269 Colonial leaves, 291–292 Colonial manpower, 269 Colonial military administrators, rulers selected by, 44 Colonial Office (Britain) Advisory Committee on Education in the Colonies, 309 Advisory Committee on Native Education in Tropical Africa, 303, 304, 313 East Africa Commission, 304 education stance, shifting of, 311 English, spread of, involvement in, 312 establishment of, 253 responsibilities of, 254 Colonial Office (France), 257–261 Colonial presence, anticipating threats to, 250 Colonial rule, comparative studies of, 37–38 Colonial sea, Mediterranean as, 113, 127 Colonial sovereignty, 228, 243–244 Colonial space, nature of, 107


Colonial state, 99 Colonial statistics addressing of, 12 Anglo-French convergence, 267–269 Britain and France compared, 250–251, 267 British, 267–268, 272 colony cooperation challenges, 260–263 competition around, 269–271 costs and funding, 259, 261–262, 266n54, 267n59 diffusion of practices, 252 French, 256–263 international statistics, 272 political importance of, 271 in World War I and beyond, 263–264 Colonial territoriality, 53–54 Colonial territories, conditions in, 299 Colonial trade, British, expansion of, 257 Colonies British and French compared, 305–306 empires, connections to, 5 immigrants to, 258 Italian, 73 knowledge about, value of, 263–264 management by figures, 272 political control of, relinquishing of, 11 realities of life in, 272 surveys, 256, 256n16 during World War II, 289, 294 see also British colonies; French colonies Colonists in New Hebrides, 229 Colonized societies, hierarchical view of, 300, 300n7 Combes, Emile, 200–201


Commerce, see Trade Committee of French East Asia, 202 Commonwealth Conference on the Teaching of English as a Second Language, 1961, 312–313 Commonwealth Relations Office (Britain), 312 Comoros archipelago, 134, 135 Compagnie Bazin, 123 Compagnie de l’Est Asiatique française (French East Asiatic Company), 183, 209–213 Compagnie des Indes, 23, 24, 26, 27 Compagnie du Sénégal, 21–22 Compagnie Générale Transatlantique (French line), 123 Compagnie Maritime Indochinoise (Indochinese Shipping Company), 213 Compagnie Royale d’Afrique, 116 Comptoirs (Senegambia), 20–22, 28 Condominium definition and overview of, 226 efforts to avoid, 227 option of, 240 Samoan Islands protectorate, 237, 237n21 term usage, 228, 240 see also New Hebrides Condominium Congo, 292 Congo-to-Cairo supply route, 289 Congrégation des Soeurs Blanches, 48 Conklin, Alice, 37–38, 306 Conquered lands, 293 Conscription, 54, 56, 78 Constantin, E., 196 Constitutional rerendum, 1958 (France), 42 Constitution of 1946 (France), 311 ‘Contrast’ school of colonial historiography, 38



“Convention of London,” 228 Cooper, Barbara, 12 Coronnat, Pierre-Guillaume-Paul, 201 Correspondence d’Afrique, 123 Corsairs, 117 Corsica, 118 Corvée labor, 291 Co-sovereignty, 228, 240 Cost of living, 291 Cost-of-living indexes, 265 Council for Foreign Trade, 258 Council of the Protectorate of Annam-Tonkin, 205 Courbet, Admiral, 169–170 CREDIF (Centre de recherche et d’étude pour la diffusion du français), 316 Crédit industriel et commercial (CIC), 172–173 Crimean War, 127, 163, 253 Crouzet, Guillemette, 11 Cucherousset, Henri, 214 Cultural and economic relationships, 299 Cultural relativism, 37 Cultural universalism, 37 Currency, 61, 100, 100n42 Curzon, Lord during coaling-station crisis, 140–142, 144, 146–148 French threat perceived by, 133 as India Viceroy, 139 Vice Royalty of India, rise to, 137 Whitehall correspondence with, 140 D D’Abbadie, Édouard Jules, 196, 197, 205–206 Dagain, Charles, 284 Dakar, 279 Dalian, 189

Damascus Indian cavalry entering, 97 as Ottoman power site, 90, 90n6 waqf in, 91, 99–102, 104 Danakil tribes, 136, 136n14 Darfur, 70, 79–85 D’Assas (corvette), 162 D’Aunet, Biard, 235, 238 Davesne, André, 306–307 De Caix, Robert, 202, 202n55 Decolonization, 11, 54, 305, 312 De Gaulle, Charles British, work with, 279–280 Churchill, work with, 283, 293 economic concerns of, 281, 284 Free French movement founded by, 278 Mandate territories, attempt to reimpose rule over, 106 postcolonial Francophone ties embraced by, 315 proponents of, 282 as representative of France, 294 De la colonisation chez les peuples modernes (Beaulieu), 126 Delavignette, Robert, 44 Delcassé, Théophile, 135, 135n12, 137–138, 147 Demographic data, 250, 266 Demographic surveys, inaccuracies in, 251 Des intérets matérials en France (Chevalier), 121 Developing states, 312–313 Developing world, 298 Development aid programs, 299 Direct rule, French, 300, 305, 308 Dispute mediation, 43–44 Djibouti, 136, 143, 146 Dominion Office (Great Britain), 254 Douglas, Archibald L., 141–143


Doumer, Paul, 182, 189–190, 193–194, 199, 200, 204 Doumergue circular, 1904, 260, 261 Duala “coup d’état,” 282 Dual colonization, 225 Dual Mandate in British Tropical Africa (Lugard), 302, 305 Dual Mandate in Tropical Africa, The (Lugard), 68–69 Dubail, Georges, 190 Dufrenil, Paul-Edgard, 209 Dunkirk, 279 Dutch East Indies, 162, 162n34, 294 Dutch government in exile, 294 Dutch in Senegambia, 20–22 Dutch West Indies, 294 E East Asia, 153, 163–169 East Asia Squadron, 202 Eastern Africa, 134 East India Company, 122 Eboué, Félix, 278, 281, 284–286, 289, 293–294 Eclipse (ship), 141–144 Economic crisis, 1920s, 215–216 Economic crisis, 1930s, 263–264 Economic relationships, 299 Economic warfare, 169–170 Eden, Anthony, 293 Educated African subjects, potential upheaval generated by, 308–309 Education Britain and France compared, 37, 38, 299, 308–309 colonial education norms, 308 colonial education policy, 37 colonial subjects’ demands for, 299, 311 in French colonies, 35–61 interest in, 12


public, 46, 261 segregated, 306–307 systems, 301, 305 Western-language, 309–314 Educational containment, 298 Educational television experiments, 316 Egypt British occupation of, 169 as French possession, 118 Ottoman Empire, rivalry with, 7 Ottoman suzerainty over, 7 Sanussiyya invasion of, 73 trade with, 115 Egyptian Campaign, 133 Electricity, 158 Empires boundaries imposed by, 9 British Empire, 253, 267, 272, 283 British support for, 294 colonies, connections to, 5 end of European, 298 rise of, 243–244 twilight of, 106–107 understanding of, 3–4 see also French Empire Endowment property revenues, 93, 93n15 Enfantin, Prosper, 120, 121 English language containing spread of, 298–299 as global academic language, 8 introduction of, 304 as language of dominance, 297 socioeconomic advancement, role in, 314 spreading, 312–314 vehicular, spread of, 299–300, 311, 317 English-language education, 300, 302, 304 English-language teaching (ELT), 299, 312–314



Entente Cordiale architects of, 137, 137n19 naval cooperation after, 127 negotiations for, 133 New Hebrides Anglo-French joint control covered in, 239 Oman Franco-British rivalry after signing of, 128 protecting, 148 Epidemics, 39 Espiritu Santo island, New Hebrides, 226, 226n5, 231, 232, 239 Ethnic territoriality, 38 Eugenics, 255 Eugenie, Empress, 7 European coal, sources of, 170, 170n63 European empires, end of, 298 European imperialism, 86, 127, 297 European influence, post-colonial, 310–311 Europeanists, historians as, 2 European ports, coal from, 165 European powers, 116 Europeans, commercial relations with African states, 19 Europeans, cost-of-living indexes for, 265 Evangelism, 49 F Fagan, Christopher G. F., 139–140 Falvy, Maurice, 60 Famine, 270 Far East, 201, 212, 216 Far Eastern Naval Squadron (France), 184, 187, 188 Far East Printing Office, 266 Fashoda, second, 132, 137–139, 148 Fashoda crisis Anglo-French relations after, 145

conflict, possible through, 11 diplomat replacement during, 135, 135n12 fallout from, 146 humiliation of, 138 Faure, Félix, 187 Faysal bin Turk, Sayyid, 136, 140, 142–145, 147 Female missionaries, 48 Ferguson, Charles, 313 Ferry, Jules, 188, 305, 316 Feudal Europe, 240 Fezzan, 293 Fichter, James R., 10, 115, 125 Fiji, 237 “Flag sentimentality” (term), 199 Flagstaff Hill, Tai Po, 192 Food insecurity, 95 Forbes, M., 54 Forced labor, 57–58, 271, 290–291, 302 Ford Foundation, 313–114 Foreign Enlistment Act (Britain), 159, 169–170 Foreign Office (Britain), 312 Foreign trade, statistics on, 256, 256n16, 262, 271–272 Fort Bayard, Kwang-chow-wan, 194 Fox, Melvyn, 314 France China acquisitions, 184–194 coal dependence of, 114–115, 125, 127, 151–152, 161, 170–174 coal from, 165 Cochinchina, connection to, 154–155, 158 colonial expansion, 135, 135n12, 188 colonial history renaissance in, 2 economic policy, 175–176 expansionist policy, 187 Far East policies, 212


German occupation, 280 Germany, fall to, 41–42 Germany, rapprochement with, 135, 135n12 global nature of, 5 histories of, 6 imperialist-colonialist ambitions, 198 invasion, British fears of, 11 joint political experience with Britain, 226 Muslim population education overseen by, 47 ports valued by, 143 religious authority, attitude toward, 45–46 Russia relations with, 145 during Russo-Japanese War, 201–202 schism in, 295 secular governance ideal versus association reality, 45 statistics practices, 253–256 threat, imaginary posed by, 132–133 Western Mediterranean importance to, 114, 115, 118–119 France as naval power British shipbuilding, reliance on, 127 in China, 187–188 coal supply, 151–152, 162, 171, 174 in East Asia, 202 in Far East, 201, 216 in Franco-Prussian War, 159–160 Indian Ocean fleet, loss of, 134–135 Mediterranean concentration of forces, 127 under Napoleon III, 160 naval policy in Far East, 201 naval transport, 195 and other countries compared, 124


steamships used by, 118–119, 121–122 Western Mediterranean, interest in, 115 Franco-Algerian shipping, 125 Franco-British Alliance, 279 Franco-British cooperation, see Anglo-French cooperation “Franco-British empire” (term), 279 Franco-British relations after Fashoda crisis, 145 competitive and cooperative nature of, 70 conflict, potential in, 11 evolution of, 135–137 French-flagged dhows, strain over, 148 religion and, 12 Franco-British rivalry, see Anglo-­ French rivalry Franco-British Treaty of 1844, 144, 145 Franco-British Treaty of 1862, 145 Franco-British “union,” 279 Franco-Chinese War, 1883-1885, 152–153, 168–170, 184, 184n4, 196 Franco-Omani treaty of 1844, 140–141 Francophone (term), 300 “Francophone Africa,” 300 Francophone Muslims, 53 “Francophone world,” 297, 300 Francophonie, la, 298, 300, 315–317 Franco-Prussian War, 159–163 Franco-Russian alliance, 137, 137n19, 186 Free French agreements signed by, 283 British support for, 278, 280, 294, 295 leaves and, 291–292 movement, spread of, 281



Free French Africa as alternate colonial empire, 278 breakaway colonies, 294 and British Colonial Africa, transport corridors between, 290 British relations (general) with, 292–294 British support for, 278–283, 292–293 creation of, 282 economies and economic aid to, 282–285 forced labor in, 290–291 products from, 284 road construction in, 288–289 transport corridors in, 290 work on, 12 Free French colonies, 289 Free French Congo, 292 Free French empire, 294 French in Asia, 155, 155n13 British military assistance provided to, 76–79 Darfur involvement, 79–85 Islam as seen by, 43 language influence loss feared by, 315 in New Hebrides, 244 French and British subjects, mingling of, 53 French army, 159 French assimilationism, 298–299 French black Africa, demographics of, 250, 250n3 French colonial economic system, exports outside, 176 French colonial historians, 8 French colonial history, 2, 5 French colonialism as moral project, 305

French colonial ports, potential coal supply through, 171 French colonial rule, assimilationist emphasis in, 298–299 French colonial style, 39 French colonial subjects, mobility of, 61 French colonies administrators, 36–39 Anglophone missionaries in, 48–50 demography of, 58 exodus from, 54–60 forced labor in, 57–58 indigenous populations in, 260, 261 leaves, paid, 291–292 manpower, 250 pilgrims in, 50–51, 60 religious fanaticism in, 45 segregated education in, 306–307 statistics, 267, 271–272 sub-Saharan, 305 in West Indies, 250 after World War I, 47–48 after World War II, 49–50 during World War II, 59–60, 283, 294 French Congo, 286 French conscription, 78 French culture and institutions, spread of, 305 French East Asiatic Company (Compagnie de l’Est Asiatique française), 183, 209–213 French Empire administrative structures of, 254 after World War II, 311 alternate colonial, 278, 280–281 Free French empire, 294 French-language education mandated in, 300–301 historiography of, 38 international pressures on, 308 schism across, 278


during World War II, 279 French Equatorial Africa British, dealings with, 294 de Gaulle, siding with, 281 education in, 305 imports of, 285 rallying of, 278 statistics in, 270 trade with, 283 French Far Eastern Naval Squadron (France), 184, 187, 188 French-flagged dhows, 141, 141n36, 148 French Fourth Republic, constitution of 1946, 311 French imperial history, 2 “French Imperial Meridian” (term), 2 French Interministerial Commission, 237, 238 “French lake” Gulf of Tonkin as, 188 Mediterranean as, 114, 117–119, 121, 125, 127 French language education conducted in, 47, 48, 50, 300–301, 309 elevation at expense of native languages, 305 instruction, 307 as language of dominance, 297–298 socioeconomic advancement, role in, 314 spreading, 300, 312 teaching, 299, 315–317 French line, 123 French Mandate (for Lebanon), 94 French Mandate (for Syria), 90–91, 94–99 French Mandate state, 99 French merchant marine, 154 French missionaries, 49 French-Omani relationship, 131, 133–135


French Overseas Agency (Agence de la France d’Outre-Mer), 268 French policy, 38 French postal steamer service, 184 French Revolution, 46, 134 French Second Empire, 154, 156 French-sourced coal, 164 French South Pacific, 281 French speakers, colonial goal of, 298–299 French Third Republic, 126, 154, 156, 200–201 French Union, inhabitants of, 311 French West Africa anti-Sufi perspectives in, 53 bloody events in, 41 colonial rule in, 38 demography of, 59 education in, 305–307, 311–312 industrial output in, 256, 256n16 invasions of, 76 Niger marginal to, 41 pilgrims, 51 population non-growth in, 58–60 spheres of influence, 295 statistics and surveys in, 255–256, 270 subjects in Muslim territories, 51 teacher-training institutions in, 36 during World War I, 77–79 G Gabon, 283, 284, 288, 292, 293, 316, 316n54 Galam, 26, 27 Galle, 151, 152, 155, 161–162 Galliéni, Joseph, 307–308 Gambia, The, 22, 28, 29, 280 Gambia River, British control over, 21, 30 Gamble, Harry, 306 Gandhi, 269



Gender in law and society, 104, 104n62 General Agency for the Colonies (Agence générale des colonies), 262 General Statistical Service of Indochina, 264 General Statistics of France (Statistique Générale de la France) (SGF), 255, 256, 268 Geographic frameworks of history, 5 Gérard, Auguste, 187–190 Germans in Cameroon, 76 Germany China aspirations of, 187–189, 192, 192n30, 195, 195n38 France fall to, 41–42 rising influence of, 145 threat posed by, 127, 133 Getten, Maxime, 216 Gibralter, 119, 127 Gide, André, 286 Gigault de La Bedollière, Lucien-­ Pierre-­Jean-Baptiste, 184 Giraud, Henri, 293, 295 Global economic crisis, 1920s, 215–216 “Global English,” 297, 298, 300, 312, 317 Global history, 6, 8–9 Globalist ideology, 6 Globalization, 243 Globalization and Sovereignty (Agnew), 243 Goguyer, Antonin, 131 Gold, 26, 27, 29, 100, 100n42, 292 Gold Coast, 280 Gordon, Charles, 71 Gorée, Senegambia (comptoir) battle for, 21–22 British ceding of, 25–26, 28 British occupation of, 20, 30 dependencies of, 23

establishment of, 21 French control over, 22, 28, 30 Government schools, British, 36 Great Britain imperialist expansion, views on, 191 imperial statistics, 253–254 joint political experience with France, 226 Great Depression, 307 Great Game, 133 Great Syrian Revolt, 1925-1927, 106 Grogan, E. S., 302–303 Guadeloupe, 269, 270 Guangdong (Kwangtung), 189, 191–192, 194 Guangxi (Kwangsi), 194, 205 Guangzhou, 215 Guernut Commission, 268 Guha, Ranajit, 94–95 Guinea, 288 Gulf of Siam, 171 Gulf of Tonkin carrying trade of, 200, 200n49 eastern side of, 187 France’s imperialist-colonialist ambitions in, 198 in France’s sphere of interest, 189 French flag represented in, 209–210, 213 as “French lake,” 188 French postal-steamer service in, 212–213, 217 maps, 183 Gum arabic, 22, 27 Gum trade British involvement in, 29–30 France monopoly on, 22–24 from Galam, 26 Moor involvement in, 24, 29–30 Senegambia role in, 4, 19, 20, 22, 23 Gunboats, 160, 160n28


H Hague, Treaty of The, 1720, 22–23 Haikou (Hoihow), 209–211, 213 Haily, Lord, 282–283 Hai Mun (steamer), 211 Hainan island, 184, 187–190, 190n21 Hainan Strait, 188 Haiphong French colonial forces around, 217 as French defense zone borderline, 203, 203n59 French trading and shipping activities in, 196, 197, 197–198, 198, 204–205, 215 harbor entrance, improvements to, 201 postal service to Kwang-chow-wan, 182–183, 194–195, 217 Reserve Brigade of the Occupation Corps of China headquartered in, 199 Haiphong-Canton service, 216 Haiphong Chamber of Commerce, 201, 205–206, 213, 213n91 Haiphong-Hong Kong line, 208–210, 213, 215 Haiphong-Shanghai line, 208 Hajj, 50–54, 60–61, 96–97 Halong Bay, 203, 203n59 Hamburg-Amerika Line, 214, 214n95 Hamilton, John Cole, 293 Hamilton, Lord, 147 Hamza, Mahmoud, 102, 103 Hanoi, 152, 265 Hanoi (merchant steamer), 197, 207, 215 Hanoi Chamber of Commerce, 208 Hanotaux, Gabriel China policy favored by, 187, 190 correspondence, 191 Dubail, G., dealings with, 190


French colonial expansion promoted by, 188 Oman, involvement in, 135 Russians, dealings with, 186 Harmois, Alfred, 262–263 Harris, Percy Graham, 286 Hausa farmers, 58 Hausaland, 40–42 Hausa speakers, 40, 44, 52, 61 Hausa-speaking communities, 50–51 Headrick, Daniel, 124 Health, statistics on, 261 Hejaz Railroad, 103 Hevea trees, 286 Higginson, John, 230, 235, 236, 238 High Council on Statistics (France), 255, 257, 259, 260 Hilaire, Col., 81–83 Hiskett, Mervyn, 52 Histoire mondiale de la France, 5, 6 Historiographic specialization, 9 History writing, 6 HMS Newport (ship), 6–7 Hodges, Cornelius, 26 Hohenlohe, Chancellor, 142 Holmes, Sir Robert, 21 Hongay coal, 174 Hongay mines, 170, 174, 174n71 Hongay mines, coal extraction attempts at, 171–172 Hong Kong boundaries, extension of, 191–192 coal and fuel imported into, 165–166 coaling in, 156, 160, 171, 174 coal market, 172–173 education in, 300 exports, 204–205 during Franco-Prussian War, 159 French colonial system exports to, 176 French navy base in, 151



Hong Kong (cont.) French ship repair in, 152 imports, 176, 204–205 and Indochina, shipping services between, 208–216 Kwang-chow-wan compared to, 199 Kwang-chow-wan dependence on, 183, 217 Kwang-chow-wan service, potential to, 206–207 New Territories of, 216 route to and from, 195, 197, 206–207 Saigon compared to, 152 as unit of analysis, 10 Hongkong (merchant steamer), 197, 215 Hong Kong-Kwang-chow-wan service, 200, 206–207 Hong Kong-Shanghai service, 208–209 Hova War, First, 1883-1886, 169 Huber, Michel, 268 Hué (steamer), 198, 206, 214, 215 Human resources, 288 Hurgronje, Christiaan Snouck, 68 Husain, Sayed Izhar, 101 Huxley, Julian, 309 I IIS (International Institute of Statistics), 252 ILO, 269–271 Immigrants to colonies, 258 Imperial and naval power, link between, 124 Imperial axes, Mediterranean crossing of, 113–127 Imperial history, 2 Imperial Institute, 254, 257 Imperial stability, mutual, 69

Imperial Statistical Conference, 1920, 267–268 India alternate French Empire encompassing holdings in, 281 British Indian Army, 96, 96n30 British measures to protect, 142 British overland route to, 119–120, 125–126 as British possession, 113, 126 British possessions in, 133 British transport to, 125–126 cavalry, 97 censuses in, 265 comptoirs in, 134 English language learning in, 301–302 French ambitions in, 134 French threat, imagined to, 132–133 hajj management by Britain in, 51–52 imperial defense, 146 independence movement, 269 Indochina compared to, 263 link to Britain, 127 native literature of, 301 Oman influence sought by, 146 Persian Gulf, influence in, 135 Persian Gulf control justified by government of, 133 religions and castes, knowledge of, 250 wartime famine in, 106 India Mills (Malle des Indes), 126 Indian languages, classical learning in, 301 Indian Muslims circulation of, 107 “Malabari,” 103–104 in Morocco, 68 pilgrims, accommodation for, 100–102


surveillance and policing of, 104 in Syria, 99 Syria, relationships to, 98 troops, 91, 106, 107 waqf in Syria, 89–91, 95–96, 98, 104, 107 Indian Ocean French-British rivalry in, 135 French-flagged dhows in, 141, 141n36 French imperialism in, 134 French influence in, 145 French positions in, 137 French strategy in, 138 Napoleonic project in, 143 Indian Ocean fleet, French loss of, 134–135 Indigenous chiefs, 308 Indigenous command structures, 56–57, 60 Indigenous labor, regulation of, 271 Indigenous populations, 260, 261 Indigenous rulers, 44 Indirect rule versus direct, 300, 305, 308 doctrine of, 45, 302 in Nigeria, 55, 60 Indochina censuses, 265 characteristics of, 263 coal, 171, 174, 176 coal and coke imports, 171 conquest of, 151 decolonization in, 315 economic information, 266–267 economic progress, 212 education in, 301 French colonialism in, 10 French economic policy toward, 175–176 French flag represented in, 210–211 and Hong Kong, shipping services between, 208–216


interest in, 188 Japanese attack, potential on, 202 Kwang-chow-wan, trade with, 204 military, economic, and cultural outpost of, 199 protection of, 202–203, 217 railway building, 196, 197n43 statistics and statistical service, 255, 261, 262, 264–267, 271 territory, new linked to, 194–195 traffic network, 196, 197n43 travel to, 211 troops, 192–193, 201, 201n53, 203, 203n59 Indochinese Customs Union, 152–153 Indochinese Shipping Company (Compagnie Maritime Indochinoise), 213, 216 Industrial census (France), 255–256 Industrial mining techniques for coal extraction, 163, 163n42 Industrial-scale transport, 164 Infrastructure, mutual and transnational use of, 115, 125–126 Intelligence gathering and sharing, 73, 99 Intercolonial connections, 3, 301, 308 Inter-imperial connection, growing interest in, 12 Inter-imperial relations, 8–9 Interministerial Commission, 237, 238 International Conferences on Second Language Problems, 314 International Institute of Statistics (IIS), 252 International Labor Bureau, 57 International power politics, 216 International Statistical Association (ISA), 252 International Statistical Institute (ISI), 255



International statistics, 272 Iraq, 99 Iraq Petroleum Company, 149 ISA (International Statistical Association), 252 ISI (International Statistical Institute), 255 Islam empires’ relationship with, 10–11, 69–70 European perceptions of, 71, 85 French view of, 43, 45 governance of, 67 ideas transmitted through, 70–71 “Islamic intrigue,” 75 militant, 71, 85 “safe” version of, 43 scholarship on colonial, 92 Islamic fanaticism, 68–70, 81 Islamic societies, 93 Italian colonies, 73 Italy, 72–76 Ivory Coast, 316, 316n54 J James, Fort (Saint-André), 21, 23, 24, 28, 30 Japan, 202–203, 217, 285 Japanese coal, 166–168, 174 Japanese coal mines, 168 Jardine Matheson & Co, 173 J. Charles et Cie (firm), 199 Jennings, Eric T., 11, 12 Jiaozhou, 192, 192n30, 195, 195n38, 214 Jiaozhou Bay, 189 Jihad, 40–41, 84–85 Jinnah, Muhammad Ali, 106 Jobson, Richard, 26 John Holt and Co., 284 Joint Court (New Hebrides), 240

Joint Naval Commission administrative role of, 230 end of, 231 New Hebrides territorial division, role in, 232, 234 New Hebridian jurisdiction and, 240–241 purpose of, 227 K Kahn, Camille-Gaston, 184, 185 Kaiping mine (China), 167 Kébao mines, 171–173 Keller, Jean, 49 Kelly, Gail P., 306 Kenya, 302–303, 313–314 Keraint (French men-of-war), 184, 184n4 Khan, Ajab, 89–90, 95–99, 103, 106 Kitchener, Sir Herbert, 277 Klobukowski, Antony, 208–209 Knappe, Wilhelm, 185–186 Knowhow, transfer of, 287 Krull, Germaine, 286 Kwang-chow Bay, 182, 187–188 Kwang-chow-wan advantages of, 189 China, return to, 217 declining importance of, 214, 216, 217 demarcation of, 193 French acquisition of, 190–194 French lease of, 192, 216 as French naval hub, abandonment of, 200–203, 216–217 French occupation of, 186 geography of, 182 Hong Kong, dependence on, 183–184, 217 Hong Kong comparison to, 199


imports and exports of, 204, 205, 215 as minor port, 205 officers at, 194 postal-steamer service, 182–183, 194–200, 203–208, 213 service, potential to, 206–207 stopovers at, 208–211, 211n85 territorial links to, 188 travel to, 211 troops sent to, 192–193 troop withdrawal from, 203–204, 206, 217 Kwangsi, 194, 205 Kwangtung, 189, 191–192, 194 Kwantung, 205 L Labor, French territory loss of, 57–58 Labor migration, 58, 61 Labour Office (France), 255 Lagarde, Leonce de, 136, 136n14 Lagrené, Thédose de, 187, 187n11 L’Aigle (ship), 6–7 Lambert, Thomas, 21 Land ownership in New Hebrides, 228–232, 240 Land seizure in New Hebrides, 244, 244n36 Language cultural and economic relationships, role in maintaining, 299 discourses and policies, post-World War II, 311 influence maintained through, 11 interest in, 12 vehicular, 299–300, 311, 312, 317 Language education, 299 Language issues, tripartite cooperation around, 314 Language-learning requirements and interests, 9–10


Language of wider communication (LWC), 314, 315 Lapicque, Paul Augustin, 215–216n103 Larminnat, Edgard de, 295 Laronce, Lucien, 138 Laurentie, Henri, 285 Lay education, 47 League of Nations, 57, 243, 271, 303, 308 Lebanon, 91, 94 Lebon, André, 189 LeBrasseur, Governor, 28, 29 Lebrun, Albert, 212 Leclerc, Philippe, 280, 282, 292 Lee-Warner, William, 140 Lefebvre, Camille, 38 Leftist Radicals (France), 200–201 Lemaire, Paul, 200, 210 Lemberg, Diana, 12 Lenoir, Marcel, 265 Leroux, Léon-Guillaume, 191 Lesseps, Ferdinand de, 6, 121 Leurence, Fernand, 264–265 Levant, 114, 115 Liaodong Peninsula, 186, 186n9, 189 Libya, 72–76 Lieux de Mémoire, Les (Nora), 6 Linguistic assimilation, 306 Linguistic competition, 299–300 Linguistic containment, 298, 301–309, 311 Linguistic imperialism, 297, 301 Literacy, 301, 303, 305–306 Living conditions, improving, 268 Local intermediaries, French colonial statistics without, 257–260 Local languages, education in, 36, 301, 303–304, 307 Local peoples, colonial empire boundaries imposed on, 9 Local peoples, road construction impact on, 288



Local populations (Niger), dispute mediation among, 43–44 London, as pluri-imperial capital, 294 London, convention of, 228 Louis XIV, King of France, 21 Loyalty Islands, 239 Lugard, Frederick English-language education, attitude concerning, 300, 302 French-language education, attitude concerning, 309 governance goals of, 298 indirect rule advocated by, 308 Islam intrigue combated by, 75 Ormsby-Gore’s views contrasted with, 304 Western education in Africa, attitude concerning, 303 works by, 68–69, 302, 305 during World War I, 76–78 Lyautey, Hubert, 280 M Macao, 204, 205 Macaulay, Thomas Babington, 301–302 MacDonald, Sir Claude Maxwell, 191, 192 Mackenzie, 285–286 Madagascar coal production, 176 education in, 301, 307 emigration and immigration to, 269 French influence in, 135 power in Indian Ocean, key to, 134 during World War II, 295 Mahé depot, coal supplied through, 161, 162 Maheu, René, 309–310 Mail transport, 122 Makerere Conference, 313

Makodu, Damel-Tenn, 29 “Malabari” Indian Muslims, 103–104 Maldives, proposed depot at, 160 Malik, G. F., 105 Maliki law, 57 Mallicolo, 239 Malta, 119, 163 Manche (steamer), 211 Mandate period, 91 Mandate State, 92, 93 Mandingo traders, 23, 24 Manpower surveys, 270 March, Lucien, 255 Marchand, Jean-Baptiste, 277 Marie, Princess of Denmark, 209, 210n81 Marriage age, 59 Marty, Auguste Raphael birth and background, 195–196 company name changed by, 197n43 as company’s sole owner, 206, 207, 209–210 death, 215 steamers, 200, 214 subsidies requested by, 213 Marty et D’Abbadie (firm) establishment and early years, 196–198 liquidation of, 215 as mail service front-runner, 195 military transport role of, 199, 203–204 setbacks, 205–207, 210 Mauclère, Roger, 282 Mauritania, 23 Mauritius, 134–135, 277 Meade, Malcolm J., 139–142, 145, 147 Mecca, pilgrimage to, 96–97 Medicine, 49–50, 277 Medina, pilgrimage to, 96–97 Mediterranean, 113–127, 288


Méline tariff (1892), 175–176 Merchant marines, 11, 124 Merlaud-Ponty, William, 305 Mers-el-Kébir, 11, 279 Messageries Impériales (MI) (later renamed Messageries Maritimes) agent for, 210 coal expenditures, 158 coal use, 163 early years, 123 foreign shippers, business with, 154 Hong Kong as stop for, 152 Indochina and Hong Kong, shipping services between, 208–209 packet services in addition to, 153 P&O, departures alternating with, 124 steamers, 211 Métis, 31, 48 Metzelthin, Theodor, 213–214 Middle East, 288 Middle Eastern Mandates, 92 Migration Africa, 291 to British colonies, 54–55 international conference on, 271 labor, 58, 61 of Sufi orders, 76 Miles, William, 37 Militant Islam, 71, 85 Military recruitment, 76, 291 Military routes in World War II, 295 Military service, 58 Military transport, 195, 195n38, 199, 203–204, 291 Ministry of Education (Britain), 312 Ministry of Foreign Affairs (France), 239, 241, 243 Ministry of the Colonies (France) circulars and directives issued by, 256


correspondence, 270–271 departments in, 263 establishment of, 254 focus of, 256, 256n16 offices attached to, 257–258 statistical compiling goals of, 272 territorial partition scheme proposed by, 241 Ministry of Trade and Industry (France), 254 Minute of 1835, 301–302 Missionaries Anglophone, 46, 48–50 “Anglo-Saxon” Protestant, 36–37, 61 education role of, 306 in New Hebrides, 229, 230, 230, 232 in Nigeria, 46 Missions, 36–37, 45–50, 60 Mission schools, British, 36 Mission to Civilize, A (Conklin), 37–38 Mitzic, 288 M. Jebsen Shipping Company, 214, 214n95 Mody, Sir H. N., 173 Monnet, Jean, 279 Montcalm, Marquis de, 277 “Moor” (defined), 22, 22n10 Moors, 22, 24, 29–30 Moreau de Jonnès, Alexandre, 254, 255 Mornington, Lord, 133 Morocco, 68, 115 Mubarak, Sheikh, treaty with, 139, 139n28 Multilingualism, 310 Muscat, 134, 139, 139n27, 141 Muslim environment, 46 Muslim/Islamic fanaticism, 68–70, 81



Muslims Algerian, 52–53 in Allied territories, 75 Anglophone and Francophone, 53 clerics, moral authority of, 54 education of, 46, 47 in India, 51–52 interactions during hajjes, 53–54 non-Syrian, 105 pilgrimage, 50–54, 60–61, 96–98 ruling over, 67–71 surveillance and policing of, 104 wars between, 40 in West Punjab, 96, 96n25 Muslim territories, 51 Mussolini, Benito, 293, 295 N Nanking, Treaty of, 187, 187n11 Napoleon, 118, 133, 134 Napoleonic Empire, collapse of, 135 Napoleonic Wars, 31, 119, 253 Napoleon III, 136, 160 Nares, George, 6–7 National histories, 2, 6 National statistical offices, cooperation between, 252 Nation-state, modern, 9–10, 243–244 Native languages, 303–305 Naval and imperial power, link between, 124 Navies, shipping and coaling needs of, 11 Neteko (Nettico), 26 Netherlands, 117 Neutral states, 170, 170n63 New Caledonia, 176, 230, 237, 239 New Caledonians, 235 New Hebrides administration, 11, 226–228, 230 Anglo-French cooperation in, 277

colonial domination, limited in, 244, 244n36 colonial political history of, 225–226 colonial sovereignty in, 228 decolonization, 228 geography, 226 independence, 225, 227 maps, 227, 233–234, 236, 238, 242 New Caledonian involvement in, 235 occupation of territory, 228 political systems, 229, 229n13 from property to sovereignty, 230–231 real estate litigation and imperial rivalries, 228–230 territorial division, prospective, 232–237, 241–243 territorial integrity maintained in, 237, 239–241 Vanuatu, 225, 244, 244n36, 277 New Hebrides Condominium Anglo-French experience of, 11–12 British and French imperial practices in, 245 deterritorialization of sovereignty in, 244 establishment of, 228 Joint Court as central element of, 241 longevity of, 244–245 options and alternatives, 243 New Hebridians, jurisdiction over, 240–241 New Imperialism, 132, 133, 159, 169 New Territories, 182, 192, 216 Niasse, Cheikh Ibrahim, 53 Niger administrative staff posted to, 44, 44n30 during and after World War II, 42


education in, 35–37, 46, 48, 50, 60, 308 exodus from, 54 famines across, 60 French rule in, 39, 41–42 independence movement, 42, 43, 54 rule of, 43–45, 54–55 soldiers from, 56 as unit of analysis, 10 Nigeria British in, 42–43, 52, 308 education in, 35–36, 300, 313 French subject migration into, 54–55 indigenous chiefs in, 55 indirect rule in, 55, 60 missionaries in, 46 northern, 41, 45 pilgrims in, 51, 52 Sudan, link to, 288 travels through, 39 as unit of analysis, 10 in Vichy period, 61 during World War I, 77 during World War II, 75–76, 280 Niger-Nigeria border, 39–40 Niger Valley, 19 Non-Anglophone societies, 297 Non-Muslim waqf, 93, 93n14 Non-standardized statistics, 269 Non-statistical information, 263 Non-Syrian Muslims, 91 Non-Syrian waqf, 91 Non-Western languages, education in, 310 Nora, Pierre, 6 North Africa expansion, French, 127 piracy, 116, 117 protectorates, 251 statistics in, 255, 256


in World War II, 295 written languages and educational systems in, 301 North African Regencies, 116 North Africans, pilgrimages by, 52–53 Northern Vietnam, 152 Numerical nebula, 252 O Obock, 136, 143, 169 O’Brien Butler, Pierre Essex, 185 Office de Radiodiffusion-Télévision Française (ORTF), 315, 316 Office International d’Hygiene, 58 Official Committee on the Teaching of English Overseas, 312, 313 O’Hara, Charles, 27, 30 Oman Anglo-French rivalry over, 128, 131–132, 140–149 battle, 2nd over, 143 British-French cooperation over, 140 British-Indian domination over, 137, 137n16 British protectorate over, 133, 148 French consulate, reopening of, 135–137 French influence in, 131, 133–136 independence of, 140, 144–145 India influence in, 135, 148 Opium smuggling, 205, 205n64 Opium War, Second, 1856-1860, 11, 153 Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIT), 317 Orient Express, 126 Ormsby-Gore, William, 303–304 ORTF (Office de Radiodiffusion-­ Télévision Française), 315, 316 Osterhammel, Jürgen, 181



Ottavi, Paul, 131, 136–138, 143 Ottoman Empire Egypt, rivalry with, 7 France and Britain rivalry over, 114 North African regencies established by, 116 power sites, 90, 90n6 territories, 115 threat posed by, 133 Ottoman gold, 100, 100n42 Ottoman Libya, Italian invasion of, 72–73 Ottoman rule, Syria after, 91 Ottomans, 73–76, 84–85 Oubangui (Central African Republic), 289 Oubangui-Chari, 283 Oubangui-to Cairo route, 294–295 Overseas empires, Britain and France compared, 124 Owendo, air base at, 293 P Page, François, 153 P. A. Lapicque & Co., 215–216 Palmerston, Lord, 7 Paquebots-Poste du Levant, 122 “Paramount rights” (term), 240 Paris, Treaty of, 1763, 25, 27–31 Parr, Robert, 284 Partition, 228 Passageway, Mediterranean as, 113–114 Paternalistic governance, 303 Patriarchal indigenous authority, 57 Pax Britannica, 127 Pederson, Susan, 298, 308 Pedler, Sir Frederick, 282–283 Pelet, Paul, 239 Pelletan, Camille, 201, 216–217 Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&O), 122–124

Peninsular Steam Navigation Company, 122 Pentecost, New Hebrides, 241 Pereire, Isaac and Emile, 123 Permanent Colonial Exposition, 256–257 Permanent Mandates Commission (League of Nations), 303, 308 Perry, John, 11 Persian Gulf, 131–133, 135, 145–147 Pétain, Marshal Philippe, 278, 281, 282 Petrol, 176 Phelps-Stokes Commission, 313 Philips, H. A., 139–140 Phillipson, Robert, 297 Picanon, Captain, 231 Pilgrimage, controlling, 98 Pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina, 96–97 Pilgrims, 50–51, 53–54, 60 Pious endowments, see waqf Pirates, 117 Pitt, Sir William, 26 Place of the Vernacular in Native Education, The (Advisory Committee), 304 Platon, René-Charles, 281–282 Pleven, René, 289 Podor, Fort of, abandonment of, 30 Polignac, Jules de, 117 Political control, collapse of, 299 Political instability, 95 Pompidou, Georges, 315 Pondicherry coal depot, 161 Popular Front, 264, 268 Population movements, 54–60 Population purchasing power, 267 Port Arthur Japanese siege of, 202 Russian claim to, 189, 191, 192, 192n30, 202 Portendick, 22–25


Portuguese, 20 Port Vila, New Hebrides, 240 Postal-steamer service, 182–184, 194–200, 203–208, 212–216 Postcolonial nationalists, 310 Postcolonial states, 298, 310, 312–313 Postel, Raoul, 155 Power relations, 272 Pratore, Clifford, 313 Prices, 266, 267 “Projet Socrate” (Project Socrates), 316 Protestant missionaries, 49, 60 Protestant missions, 50 Prussia, war with France, 159–163 Public education, 46, 261 Public health, 262 Public order, 270 Purchasing power, 267 Q Qadiriyya brotherhood, 42–43 Quasi-territorial jurisdiction, 240 Québec, 5, 5n5, 277 R Racial solidarity, 71 Railroad imperialism, 10 Railroads, transformative power of, 120–121 Railway networks, 126 Rain forest, 286 Rapenne, Jean, 59, 60 Real property, waqf other than, 93, 93n12 Reciprocal non-intervention, policy of, 227 Reclus, Onésime, 300, 316 Reconstruction period, 263–264 Redbreast (warship), 142


Religion, Anglo-French relations and, 12 Religion, education role of, 46–47 Religious authority, French attitude toward, 45–46 Religious fanaticism, 45 Relly, Henri, 287 Reserve Brigade of the Occupation Corps of China, 199, 202–203 Resources and property, administrative and fiscal legibility of, 94–95 Réunion, 135 Revue coloniale (journal), 259–260 “Rhetoric of fear,” 133, 146 Rice processing, 158 Rice trade, 153–154, 176 “Rights of jurisdiction” (term), 240 River Shipping Service of Tonkin, 197 River transport corridors (Africa), 290 Road construction, 288–289, 291, 292 Roque Brothers (Roque frères), 195 Rouvroy, Claude-Henri de, 120 Royal Navy (Britain), 121–122, 161–162, 168 Royal Niger Company, 41 Royal Statistical Society (Britain), 267 Rubber, 283, 285–287, 292, 294, 295 Russia, 145, 186, 189, 288 Russo-Japanese War, 1904-1905, 201–202, 204, 217 S Saalum, British and French dealings with, 28–29 Sahara, 114 Sahelian zone, 37, 57 Said bin Sultan, Sayyid, 134, 135



Saigon coal importance to, 157, 164 coal imported at, 165, 172 coaling obstacles at, 171 and east Asian coal environment, 163–168 Europeans in, 265 as free port, 153 French colonial forces around, 217 French government at, 158 French telegraph connection to, 152 Hong Kong and Singapore, dependence on, 152–154 location of, 171, 171n64 port, improvements to, 201, 201n52 protection for, 158 shipping at, 154 tonnage entering, 157 travel to, 156 Saigon-Singapore telegraph line, 153 Sailing ships, 118 Sailing tonnage at Saigon, 157 Saint-André (island), fort on, 21, 24, 28, 30 Saint-Louis, Senegambia (comptoir) British at, 20, 29, 31 British influence on, 26 British plans to seize, 25–26 French control over, 22, 30–31 as Senegambia capital, 27 Saint-Simonianism, 115, 120–121, 123, 127 Sakhalin, 240 Salisbury, Lord (Robert Gascoyne-­ Cecil), 139, 139n27, 144, 144n43, 145, 147 Sallé, René, 215 Samoa, 239–240 Samoan archipelago, partition of islands in, 235, 237 Sanussiyya Sufi order, 70, 72–79, 82, 83, 85

Sarraut, Albert, 56–57, 212–214, 264 Satellite broadcasting, 315 Satiru uprising, 39 Saudi states, 133 Sauvageot, Aurélien, 309 Sawaba movement, 54 Scramble for Africa, 38, 41 Screened coal, 174 Sculfort, Louis, 200 Sea-bound links, 10 Seaward, Samuel, 121 Sectarian anxieties, transnational, 105–106 Security apparatus, 99 Segregated education, 306–307 Self-determination, 302, 304 Sène, Cheikh, 11 Senegal, 305, 317 Senegal River, 24 Senegal valley, states of, 29 Senegambia Anglo-French rivalry in, 20–25, 31 British occupation of, 25–31 creation of, 27 European rivalries in, 20–22 slave and gum trades of, 4, 19–31 territories north of, 27 Senghor, Léopold Sédar, 315 Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, 250 Seven Years’ War, 1756-1763, 25, 31, 134 SFNH (Société française des Nouvelles-Hébrides), 230, 231, 235, 237 SGF (General Statistics of France) (Statistique Générale de la France), 254–256, 268 Shams, Jalal al-Din, 105, 106 Shanghai, 167–168, 208 Shimonoseki, Treaty of, 186 Shipbuilding, 124, 127, 152, 152n1


Shipping, economic crisis impact on, 215–216 Shipping and trading boom, postwar (World War I), 215–216 Shipping companies, 207 Shipyards, 213, 213n94 Siam, Kingdom of, 266 Sicé, Adolphe, 284 Sierra Leone, 280 Sikiang (steamer), 211–213, 213n91 Sindi community, India, 100–102 Singapore coal, origin of, 164–165 coal imports to, 166 coaling in, 156, 160, 162, 171 French and British tonnage compared, 154, 155 French navy use of, 151 goods shipped to, 205 as packet service stop, 155 Singapore-Hong Kong telegraph line, 152 Sino-British convention, 1898, 192 Sino-French relations, 184–187 Sino-French War, 1883-1885, 152–153, 168–170, 184, 184n4, 196 Sino-Japanese War, 1894-1895, 152–153, 181, 186 Slavery, abolition of, 250 Slave trade Anglo-French rivalry in, 19–20, 30 British domination of, 23–24 international movement to curtail, 141, 141n36 Senegambia role in, 4, 19, 20, 22, 23, 29 Slight, John, 12, 92 Small coal, 174 Smith, Richard C., 298 Smolski, Thadée, 265, 266 Social change, 307


Social services, 49–50 Société française des Nouvelles-­ Hébrides (SFNH), 230, 231, 235, 237 Socotra Island, 136 Sokoto Caliphate, 40, 41 Sokoto jihad, 40–41 Somali Coast, 136 Song Bo (steamer), 216 Song-Ma (steamer), 215 South China Anglo-French rivalry over, 191–192, 216 French imperialist designs, abandonment of, 217 French military base in, 199 French political and economic interests in, 197–198 scramble for concessions in, 182 Tonkin, relations with, 212 Southern Africa, 302 Southern Sudan, 289 Sovereignty analysis of, 38 in conquered lands, 293 deterritorialization of, 244 globalization impact on, 243 partition and, 228 term usage, 240 territory, relationship to, 226, 243–244 Spain, 116 Spanish Guinea, 288 Sphynx (gunboat), 139–140 Standard of living, settlers, 266 State expenditures, 93, 93n15 Statelets, 94, 94n16 State of the Population, Agriculture and Trade, 256 States, function of, 94–95 Statistical Abstract for the British Empire, 272



Statistical Blue Books, 253 Statisticians, French colonial statistics without, 256–257 Statistics, 249, 250, 252–253, 272 see also Colonial statistics Statistique Générale de la France (General Statistics of France) (SGF), 254–256, 268 Statue of Liberty, 5 Steamer and train schedules, 126 Steamer tonnage at Saigon, 157 Steamships, 117–124, 127 Steam technology, 158, 169 Stoler, Ann Laura, 91 Strait of Hormuz, French interest in, 136 Subjects, governability of, 104 Sub-Saharan Africa, 263, 279–280, 300, 301, 305 Subsidized River Shipping Service of Tonkin, 196 Sudan as Anglo-Egyptian condominium, 240 British military recruitment in, 291 education in, 47 Nigeria, link to, 288 Oubangui (Central African Republic) linked to southern, 289 Sudan Interior Mission, 50 Suez Canal Anglo-French rivalry over, 6–7 construction of, 121 India-Britain link through, 127 opening of, 5, 113–114, 125 Suez-Hong Kong steamer line, 154–155 Sufi influence, spread of, 53 Sufi movements, 54 Sufi orders, 42, 76 Supra-national histories, 6

Surinam, 294 Surun, Isabel, 38 Surveillance, 99, 104, 107 Surveys, 250, 253, 270–271 Swahili, 303 Symphonie satellites, 316 Syria after Ottoman rule, 91 currency in, 100, 100n42 demographics of, 90–91 French Mandate for, 90–91, 94–99 governance of, 95–96 Indian Muslim relationships to, 98 violence in, 106 waqf in, 89–91, 93, 95–96, 98–104, 107 Système de la Méditerranée (Chevalier), 120–121 T Takruri, 51 Talon, J., 168 Taxation analysis of, 267 evasion of, 51 in Hausaland, 40–42 missionary views on, 49 in Nigeria, 55 work, encouraging through, 270 during World War II, 291 Taxonomy, golden age of, 252 Technical innovation, 99 Technical training, 303 Technology, 127 Teen, Joseph, 103 Telegraph communication, 152, 153 Tellicherry, coal supplied through, 161 Territory relationship to sovereignty, 226, 243–244 Thévenot, Charles, 31 Thiers, Adolphe, 254


Thomas, Albert, 269–270 Thomas, Martin, 132 Tianjn, Treaty of, 1885, 196 Tijaniyya, 43, 72 Tijaniyya-Ibrahimiyya, 53, 54 Todd, David, 115 Togo, 256, 269–270, 308 Tongking, 176, 176n75 Tonkin Chinese sovereignty over, relinquishing, 196 Chinese territory bordering on, 192 coal exports, 172, 175 coal production, 176 commercial exchanges with, 217 conquest aftermath, 170–171 conquest of, 169 exports from, 204–205 France war in, 138–139, 196 French control of, 170 French operations in, support for, 169 mines seized in, 169 provincial budgets in, 267 South China, relations with, 212 statistics in, 266 transport services, 208 Tonkin (steamer), 216 Tonkin Shipping Company (Compaignie de Navigation Tonkinoise) contract expiration, 208 establishment of, 197–198 fleet and steamers operated by, 198, 205, 214 funding and profits, 199, 203, 206, 207, 213, 217 Kwang-chow-wan postal-steamer service operated by, 182–183 Toorodo, Revolution of, 30 Touareg (later Sikiang) (steamer), 211–213, 213n91


Touchelay, Béatrice, 12 Toye, Richard, 132 Trade economic crisis impact on, 215–216 expansion of British, 257 statistics on, 256, 256n16, 259, 262, 271–272 subsidies supporting, 123–124 Train and steamer schedules, 126 Transportation networks, 113–115, 123 Transport corridors (Africa), 288–290 Transport services, pitfalls of, 207 Treaty of 1862, 140 Tribunal of Arbitration, Hague, 1904, 141, 141n36 Tripartite Convention, 235, 237 Tsungli Yamen, 189, 190 Tunisia, 317 U Ugandan independence, 312 Ulmer, Henri, 265–266 United Africa Company, 284 United Kingdom, 253, 283 United Nations, 309, 310 United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), 309–311 United States, 117, 145, 299–300 Unit of analysis, historical, 10 Universities, 300 V Valéry-Frères, 123 Van Den Broeck, Pieter, 20–21 Vannière, Antoine, 204 Vanuatu, 225, 244, 244n36, 277 see also New Hebrides Van Walraven, Klaas, 54



Varchmin, Hans von, 203, 203n59 Vehicular language, 299–300, 311, 312, 317 Vernacular-language education for black Africans, 313 British advocates of, 302, 304 missionary preference for, 48, 50 pros and cons of, 303 reports on, 309–310 Vernacular literacy, 303 Vernes, O., 262 Versailles, Treaty of, 1783, 31, 134, 134n8 Vichy France backers and defenders of, 42, 60 Britain, relations with, 278 Britain, war with, 11 Catholicism under, 46 forces in Syria, 106 Free French Africa versus, 282 Free French as seen by, 294, 295 statistics keeping under, 263 Vichy period, 48, 61 Vietnam, 9–10, 174 Vocational training, 299, 303 W Waalo, civil war in, 30 Wagons-Lits sleeping car company, 126 Wahhabis, 72, 133 Walthert, F., 215, 216n103 Waqf (pious endowment) administrative legibility of, 99 Anglo-Indian perspective of Syrian, 91, 95–99 colonial surveillance through, 107 in Damascus, 91, 99–102, 104 definition and overview of, 92–93 governance of, 95 nationality of, 103

overview of, 89–90 Waqf dhur ī/ahl ī (family waqf), 92–93 Waqf khayrī (public charitable waqf), 92–93 Waqf mushtarak (hybrid public/ private mixed waqf), 93 War, actual and potential between Britain and France, 11 Wartime cooperation, Anglo-French, 12 Wavell, Archibald, 91, 106, 107 Wax, 284 Weihaiwei, lease of, 192, 192n30 Welsh coal, 125 West Africa (British), 284, 290 West Africa (French), see French West Africa West African colonies, 35 West coast of Africa, 31 Westermann, Diedrich Hermann, 303 Western Asia, 132, 148 Western-educated colonial subjects, 298 Western education, 36, 303 Western Front, French manpower in, 71 Western Indian Ocean, 134 Western influences, protecting native races and cultures from, 303 Western-language education, 309–314 Western Mediterranean, importance to France, 114, 115, 118–119 Western powers, Oman relations with, 135 West Indies, 250 West Punjab, Muslim community of, 96, 96n25 West River valley, 190, 190n21, 194 Whampoa, Treaty of, 187, 187n11 White, Bob, 38 Whitehead, Clive, 311


White hegemony, 302 White settler communities, 302 Wingate, Sir Reginald, 79–84 Wolfe, James, 277 Work, tax aimed at encouraging, 270 Work, volume of, 249 World Health Organization, 58 World War I Anglo-French cooperation during, 75, 85 Britain, France, and Darfur during, 79–85 colonial revolts during, 11 French colonies after, 47–48 Islam governance during, 70 New Hebrides after, 243 postal-steamer service during and after, 215–216 recruitment drives of, 56 Sanussiyya during, 75 shipbuilding impacted by, 213–214n94 statistics collecting after, 254, 263–264 World War II in Africa, 277–295


Anglo-French colonial cooperation during, 277–278 Anglo-French imperial relationship during, 11 colonial statistics collecting halted at start of, 268–269 French colonies after, 49–50 French colonies during, 59–60, 283, 294 popular mobilizations after, 311 recruitment drives of, 56 Written languages, precolonial, 301 Y Yunnan, domination of, 194 Z Zanzibar, 135, 142, 148 Zawiat-ul-Hanood (Indian hostel), 100 Z āwiyya (term), 100, 100n39 Zeila, 136 Zhanjiang (formerly Kwang-chow-­ wan), 217 see also Kwang-chow-wan