French Colonialism in Vietnam

HI 427: The Vietnam War

Fall 2005

The Coming of The Europeans

•      Nguyen-An, better known as Gia Long, united the various sections of the country in 1801.

•      He used the French who helped build his citadel at Hue.

•      France developed an interest in Indochina at a time when China was being carved up during the Opium Wars in the 1840s.

Key Dates for the Colonization of Indochina

•      1842- Britain gains Hong Kong.

•      1846-French intervene in Danang.

•      1847-The French destroy a Vietnamese squadron near Tourane.

•      1858-France occupies Tourane.

•      1859-France seizes Saigon.

•      1873-France occupies Hanoi.

•      1884-France proclaims a protectorate over Indochina.

Analysis of French Colonization of Vietnam

•      Seen as an example of the White Man’s Burden.

•      French rule was haphazard at best.

•      Indochina was a drain on the French National Economy.

•      Some raw materials generated funds such as tin, rubber, and coal.

•      Most money came from the French estates and the French occupation troops.

French Rule was Cruel

French Colonial Government

•      Colonial governors reflected their political supporters in Paris.

•      Between 1902 and 1945, Indochina had 23 governors.

•      Indochina did not have a coherent colonial policy.

•      Since Paris did give their governors the direct guidance to governing Indochina.

Appearance of Independence

The Vietnamese and the French

•      Vietnamese never received the same pay as the French.

•      Even in the military Vietnamese never the same honors.

•      Vietnamese intellectuals found social advancement closed to them.

•      The French still used the Corvee in Vietnam.

The Rise of Opposition to French Rule

•      With the coming of the worldwide depression, both rubber and rice prices collapsed.

•      This gave birth to Vietnamese opposition to French rule.

•      The first was the Trotskyite Party of Indochina.

•      The Second was the Indochinese Communist Party.

Organization Opposition to the French

Japan and the Fall of France

•      With the Fall of France, Indochina could never count on aid from France.

•      The Japanese wanted to cut off sources of outside aid for China.

•      Washington had hoped that the French in Indochina could bluff Tokyo.

•      With no aid coming, the Vichy French recognized Japanese predominant position in Asia.

The Might of Japan

•      Negotiations were held between Japan and the French in Hanoi.

•      When negotiations reached an impasse, Japan attacked in September.

•      The Japanese sized the outposts on the Chinese border, occupied Haiphong, and airfields in northern Vietnam.

•      On Jan. 9, 1941, Thailand attacked southern Vietnam.

•      Giving Tokyo a reason to move on Saigon.

The American Response to Japanese Moves in South Vietnam

•      The US froze Japanese assets in the United States on July 26, 1941.

•      Also established a trade embargo on Japan to include Iron and Petroleum products.

And The Result Was . . .

Vietnam 1941-45

FDR Had A Different View Concerning Vietnam

The Free French in Vietnam

•      Though that they would have to make some kind of move before the war ended.

•      Roosevelt distrusted the French and ordered the services chiefs that no aid go to the French.

•      Still the French planned a coup but the Japanese struck first on March 9, 1945.

•      The French barely made it out of Vietnam to China, but the U.S. would not provide any aid.

•      The Japanese responded by creating an independent Vietnam under Bo Dai.

Early History of the Vietminh

•      After the round-up by the French of the membership of the ICP.

•      Many fled to Southern China.

•      The Chinese Warlords in the region saw aiding the ICP as means of getting their hands on the Tonkin.

•      Even before any collaboration with the warlords took place, Ho Chi Minh decided to broaden his base of support.

•      In May 1941, the Vietminh was born.

Ho Chi Minh

•      Born in 1890 as Hoang Tru.

•      1911 Sails to France to study and work.

•      Forms the Vietnam Independence League (Vietminh).

•      Collaborates with the American OSS to rescue downed American pilots.

The Trains the Vietminh and Ho Plans

•      OSS sent in special teams to train the guerillas.

•      By March 1944 Ho and the ICP establishes a provisional government.

•      The Vietminh start to disarm the Japanese as quickly as possible before the British and Chinese arrive.

•      Ho looked to the United States for support.

•      It was denied.

Myth and Mystery of Vietnamese History

•      Not much is known of early Vietnamese history.

•      The northern part of the country was part of Kwantung Province in China.

•      This region was called Nam-Viet, meaning the Southern Viet, in 111 BC.

•      Soon this area was crushed by the Chinese and annexed

•      For the next 1000 years it was par of the Chinese Empire.

Chinese Rule

•       Ruled by a governor.

•       Chinese settlers moved into the region.

•       Overtime Chinese rule became more brutal.

•       The first revolt was led by the Trung Sisters in 39 AD.

•       Within a year Vietnam was free from Chinese rule.

•       The Chinese returned in 43 AD.

•       The Trung Sisters committed suicide.

Additional Vietnamese Resistance
to Chinese Rule

•      Another revolt occurred in 248 AD and two between 544-47 AD.

•      All failed.

•      The Chinese called the region An-Nam, Pacified South.

•      By 940 the Vietnamese won their independence from China.

•      But the Chinese maintained suzerainty until the arrival of the French in 1883.

  Vietnamese Imperialism

•      The first victims of Vietnamese expansionism were the Chams.

•      By 1400 the Vietnamese were in control of Hue and overwhelmed the Chams.

•      The Vietnamese established farming settlements along the Khmer border.

•      By 1658 all of Vietnam north of Saigon was in control of the Vietnamese.

•      Soon the Vietnamese exerted suzerainty over the Khmer like China did over them.

 The Failures of Vietnamese Colonialism

•      The Vietnamese rarely incorporated the conquered people into Vietnamese society.

•      The hill peoples, later called the Montagnards by the French, would be a case in point.

•      Soon friction developed between the two sections of Vietnam.

•      Two ruling dynasties emerged, the Nguyens in the South, and the Trinhs in the North.

•      Neither could dominate the other until the rise of a new figure, Tay-Son, who managed to unify Vietnam.

•      However, civil wars opened the way for the French.

Map of Vietnam