Colonization and forestry in French Indochina: The control, use, and exploitation of forests

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This paper aims to illustrate how forests, which play an important role in the economy, the environment, the military, and culture, were managed and used in French Indochina through the colonial period. The Forest Service's plan involved rational, systematic logging with the participation of companies that generally excluded local inhabitants from the reserved forests and restricted forest use for their livelihoods. Also, the “communal reserves” established in some areas to prioritize locals' forest use led to regional strife. Despite the colonial authorities' view that maintenance of the abundant forests was a manifestation of their civilizing mission, the actual implementation of such policies was frequently accompanied by strict policies and repressive control. Friction existed between the various parties using the forest and the Forest Service concerning forest management. The views and behavior of the colonial authorities were also inconsistent, due to the multifaceted nature of the forests, which were at once natural treasures that supported people's lives as well as a stage for conflicts between varied actors and interests, including local inhabitants, villages, outsiders, the Forest Service, and administrative agencies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-58
Number of pages35
JournalAsian Review of World Histories
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Colonization
  • Environment
  • Forest
  • France
  • Indochina

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science


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