Article published on 26 January 2024
last modification on 12 February 2024


Historical account from 1890 to 1956.

In 1740, Dupleix, the Governor of the establishments of the French Indies Company (Compagnie française des Indes) founded in 1664 by Colbert, seeks to extend French influence in South India from Pondicherry with the help of sepoys (Indian soldiers). He succeeds in controlling the largest area of the Dekkan. But the company finds that its conquests are more of a nuisance than an advantage. Louis XV, caught up in European wars, does not provide assistance and, above all, France does not control the seas.

However, at the same time, La Bourdonnais, from Mauritius (which belongs to France) and the Reunion (Bourbon), had converted the Mascareignes into a base capable of helping Dupleix. Both La Bourdonnais and Dupleix are repudiated and recalled. During the European war that follows, the Seven Years War, Pondicherry is captured by the British and the Treaty of Paris of 1763 leaves France only five trading posts : Pondicherry, Karikal, Mahé, Chandernagor and Yanaon which will be handed back to India in 1956.

INDOCHINA (now Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos)

Historical account from 1890 to 1956.

In Indochina, from 1867 onwards, France clashes with an organized empire ruled by a royal family, the Nguyens, successors of Gia Long, and administered by a caste, the "literates", highly influenced by Chinese culture. The capital is Hué, in the centre of the country, in Annam, which extends its protectorates over Cambodia, Cochin China, Tonkin and Laos. The French take-over makes Cochin China a colony from 1862. Tonkin (1882) and Annam (1884) are gradually invested with the title of a protectorate. The Indochinese Union, which in addition brings together the protectorates of Cambodia (1884) and Laos, is formally instituted in 1887.

In 1911, the new Governor, A. Sarraut, introduces a strategy of "association", much appreciated by the populations, which is confirmed by the size of the annamese contingent participating in the war effort. In the post-war period, a nationalistic trend appears and, from 1930, the Communist Party, led by Nguyen Ai Quo (who will later be called Ho Chi Minh) triggers off social unrest which will be severely repressed. In 1932, the young Emperor, Bao Dai, inherits a royal title while the power of the realm is in the hands of the chief foreign military resident (résident-général).

In June 1941, the French (the Vichy government) authorizes the landing of the Japanese in Indochina. On the 9th March 1945, the Japanese defeat the French troops and take over the government of the country. On the 6th of August, the Atomic Bomb explodes in Hiroshima and on the 29th of August, Ho Chi Minh forms a government which proclaims the Republic and the unity of the three "Ky" - Bac Ky (Tonkin), Trung Ky (Annam) and Nam Ky (Cochin China). Bao-Dai abdicates. In June 1946, Sainteny signs accords with Ho Chi Minh but the Conference of Fontainebleau ends in failure and an insurrection breaks out in Hanoi. The war spreads rapidly over the whole of the Indochinese peninsula. It is going to last thirty years, first with France and then with the United States.

In 1946, France grants internal autonomy to the kingdoms of Cambodia and Laos and, in 1949, Independence to Vietnam. In 1949, Bao-Dai is back again as the Vietnamese Head of State, with full sovereignty. In 1955, he is deposed following a referendum organized by his Prime Minister, Ngô Dinh Diêm.

France, defeated at Diên Bien Phu, leaves Indochina in 1956.