Prostitution in French colonial Tonkin was highly regulated and closely monitored by vice-squad police, physicians, administrators, and even by journalists. As a result, reports from these sources have preserved a wealth of information on the subject. Yet the records present prostitutes as faceless, nameless figures. They lived in the shadows of colonial cities, were forced to work in brothels or in their homes, not in the streets, and forced to hide from the police for fear of being locked up. Their stories now live on in the shadows of the colonial archives where the historian sifts through the fragmentary and often distorted traces of their existence.
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