France was a key participant in the Canton Trade, although she has not received sufficient attention in its scholarship. Early to enter the trade, she continued, with occasional interruptions, to the end of the Canton System in 1842, and her vessels made over 265 voyages to China. The French model of Sino-European trade was distinctive, both in the structure and governance of the French East India Company and in the role of the private sector, and the nation’s contributions to, and influences on, the trade were both significant and diverse, not limited to the strictly commercial. A knowledge of the French experience is essential to a thorough understanding of the Canton Trade, as well as to an appreciation of the cultural, political, economic, and other factors that shaped each nation’s response.
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