French colonial trade patterns: facts and impacts

Tania El Kallab

Using an original database from French archives on French trade statistics, this article undertakes a comprehensive study of the nature and dynamic of French sectoral trade for the period 1880 to 1912. The results highlight a common trend regarding Franco-colonial trade compared to French trade with non-French colonies. In particular, we found that French trade with its colonies was based mainly on imports of primary products and exports of manufactured goods, meaning that the Empire was used as the main dispenser of French exports and the country’s main provider of natural
resources. Statistics also emphasise that the event of colonisation was followed by an increase in trade between France and its own colonies, while colonisation by Britain and other colonising countries did not affect trade between France and non-French colonies. The article finally reveals that trade with French colonies was unbalanced and unidirectional, without any advantage in favour of those colonies.