The Impact of the French colonisation of Vietnam

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The Impact of the French colonisation of Vietnam


There were both positive and negative effects of the French colonisation of Vietnam. Before elaborating the impact of French rule on Vietnam, it is important to understand what life was like before, during and after colonisation. However, it is difficult to fully assess the period immediately after French colonisation due to the influence of American intervention in 1961, starting the Vietnam War, which ended in 1975. The reunification of North and South Vietnam in 1976 and its evolution until today is a result not only of the role of the French but also that of the Americans. It is important to highlight that the French period of colonisation was for more than 90 years during a time of peace while the period of American intervention was for only 15 years under difficult war conditions. To be able to isolate the impact of French rule, this essay will limit its extent to civil administration, which was largely unaffected by the presence of the American military.

How was the country colonised?

In the nineteenth century, the French wanted to extend its influence into the Asian territories. There was a possibility that they thought that the Mekong river delta was a gateway to China’s huge market.

This strategy commenced with the military action of the attack on Tourane (Da Nang, Central Vietnam) in 1858 by Rigault de Genouilly, a French naval commander. By 1859 the French forces had moved south and taken Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City).

By signing the peace treaty of Saigon in1862, the Vietnamese acknowledged the presence of French rule in Cochinchina. This key event marks the start of French colonial rule in Vietnam until self-proclaimed Independence in 1945. During the period there were different forms of resistance particularly in 1930 there was a rebellion led by Ho Chi Minh against the French authorities.  Only in 1954, when the French were defeated in the battle of Dien Bien Phu did the French renounce their rule. The independence of Vietnam was officially recognised by France only in 1956 (Geneva Agreement). Nevertheless, after gaining it’s independence Vietnam split into to countries: a communist North Vietnam and a non-communist South Vietnam.

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What was life like under colonial rule?

In 1897, the monarchy lost the support of the common people and was abolished. This may be because during the period of the foreign invasion, the common people saw an opportunity to get rid of the feudal system. At the same time there were floods, famines, locust infestations, droughts etc and Emperor Tu Duc was not able to manage the situation. During his reign, Catholics were repressed.  The Vietnamese Catholics then decided to collaborate with the French and were often rewarded with land. French settlers also received large amounts of ...

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