Due to its central trade location, wealth flowed in Laos. The present cultural identity is tied to a kingdom that lasted the four centuries to 1707. Internal conflicts led to a split into three kingdoms. In 1893 all three were joined in a French Protectorate. France's colonial aspirations in the Americas were lost in C18/19th European squabbles. After 1850, France locked and reloaded in Africa and Indochina. A 'moral mission' to bring Christianity and French Culture. A competition with Britain. Protectorates were different from colonies in that they remained 'ruled by local people' - but gave up some decision making (e.g. foreign policy) for defensive muscle. Effectively vassal states paying tribute. After punching itself in the face repeatedly, Europe lost its muscle. A Civil War erupted after independence in 1953, as part of the Cold War, and the Communist Party came to power in 1975. It remains a one-party state.