Indochina’s alcohol monopoly was financially unproductive and politically disastrous. Making sense of this seemingly senseless policy requires placing the monopoly in both global and local contexts. Global contexts include advances in microbiology, the consolidation of the distilling industry, and the spread of new fiscal and administrative technologies. Local contexts include Indochina’s complex physical and human geographies, the contested and incomplete nature of French rule, the dominant position of ethnic Chinese in the Indochinese economy, and widespread popular resistance to the monopoly. As a result, Indochina’s alcohol regime simultaneously transcends and confirms its colonial setting: made possible by developments in industry and government worldwide, at the same time the alcohol regime was indelibly marked by the people and spaces of Indochina and by the authoritarian and racist nature of colonial rule.
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