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"Gunboat Diplomacy: Franco-Siamese War of 1893" Topic


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317 hits since 6 May 2017
©1994-2017 Bill Armintrout
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Tango0106 May 2017 11:47 a.m. PST

"France's crushing defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, and the added humiliation of the loss of the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine to the newly-proclaimed German Empire, led many French to see acquisition of overseas colonies as a way to restore national pride. A main driver of this policy was the politician Jules Ferry (1832 1893) who justified this, as he stated in the Chamber of Deputies in 1885, because "It is a right for the superior races, because they have a duty. They have the duty to civilize the inferior races." The French were, of course, to consider themselves a superior race. This drive was instrumental in consolidation and extension of the French presence in Indo-China, occupations of Tunisia and Madagascar and acquisition of vast territories in West and Central Africa. This policy also led to a major war with China in the mid-1880s and was to remain a source of friction with Britain until the end of the century.

The French presence in Indo-China, which by the early 1890s extended over modern Vietnam and involved holding of Cambodia as a protectorate, inevitably brought about confrontation with the Kingdom of Siam now Thailand. In this period, Siam's King Rama V (1853-1910) initiated a programme of reforms and modernisation which would help withstand pressure for colonisation by European powers of which France represented the greatest threat. Up to this time Siam's eastern and western frontiers had been poorly defined, lying as they often did, in remote and difficult terrain. In due course the frontier with the British possessions of Burma was settled amicably but the problem proved more intractable on the eastern frontier with French Indo-China. The concern reached crisis proportions in 1893 over control of Laos where the French already had commercial interests. The expulsion of French merchants in late 1892 on accusations of opium smuggling followed by a refusal to withdraw Siamese forces from east of the Mekong River, triggered indignation by pro-colonial politicians in France. As a clear statement of intent not to back down, a gunboat, the Lutin, was accordingly sent to Bangkok and moored close to the French legation…"
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