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Sino-French Trade at Canton, 1698-1842$
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Susan E. Schopp

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9789888528509

Published to Hong Kong Scholarship Online: September 2021

DOI: 10.5790/hongkong/9789888528509.001.0001

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A “Versailles of Trade”

A “Versailles of Trade”

The French Company Model of Sino-European Trade

(p.25) 2 A “Versailles of Trade”
Sino-French Trade at Canton, 1698-1842

Susan E. Schopp

Hong Kong University Press

Chapter 2 examines the French East India Company model of Sino-European trade, with a particular emphasis on the features that distinguish it from the two other major models, the English and the Dutch. In France, not merchants but the state itself gave birth to the French East Company, once memorably described as a “Versailles of trade,” and the state continued to play a dominant role in the Company’s operations, exerting the power of approval over the Company’s decisions and issuing the edicts that established its policies. But the lure of private trade, and in particular, the appeal of the Chinese market, played a major role in hastening the demise of the company model, which from the mid-1700s was seen as increasingly obsolete in view of contemporary attitudes and conditions. The creation of the third French East India Company in 1785 after a fifteen-year period of private (open) trade was followed in 1790 by France’s opening her East India and China trade once more to the private sector, and this time it was definitive; the French East Company was permanently abolished in 1793, and for the rest of the Canton era, trade remained open.

Keywords:   French East India Company, French company model, “Versailles of trade”, state relationship to Company, Company administration, administrative assembly, general assembly, commodities, crew and trader profiles

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