British infrastructure and French empire : Anglo-French steam interdependency in Asian waters, c. 1852-1870


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This article considers the Anglo-French imperial relationship in the Asian littoral 1852–1870, revealing the ways in which Britain afforded France the use of key elements of maritime steam infrastructure in Asia, including coal supplies, coal storage depots, and ship repair yards. This facilitated the projection of French naval and military force to Asia. It also facilitated French colonization of Southeast Asia. This also left France dependent upon Britain for important parts of its maritime infrastructure in Asia. This article explores the dynamic of competitive-collaboration between the two powers, arguing that both deepened their interdependence in Asian maritime infrastructure for wholly self-interested reasons (Britain forestalled the development of independent, coal-based French power in Asia and France used British port facilities to support the development of French colonial power in Asia). In this collaborative relationship, Britain remained the senior partner.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-203
Number of pages21
JournalBritain and the World
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012



  • Coal
  • Collier
  • France
  • Hong Kong
  • Navy
  • Steam

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