- Hardcover: 592 pages
- Publisher: Basic Books; 1 edition (13 September 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0465094368
- ISBN-13: 978-0465094363
- Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 4.4 x 24.1 cm
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #3,43,124 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Vietnam Hardcover – 13 Sep 2016
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Odd Arne Westad, author of Restless Empire: China and the World Since 1750
For those who have wanted a distinct and comprehensive overview of Vietnam's history, this is it. Christopher Goscha has an eye for how history connects through generations and how a country can rise from disasters in a new form, without losing sight of its past.”
Fredrik Logevall, Pulitzer Prizewinning author of Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America's Vietnam
A splendid achievement. Christopher Goscha is one of our leading historians of modern Vietnam, and he shows it in this nuanced, fair-minded, deeply humane book. Destined to be a standard work on the subject.”
Rana Mitter, author of Forgotten Ally: China's World War II, 1937-1945
Powerful and compelling. Vietnam will be of growing importance in the twenty-first-century world, particularly as China and the US rethink their roles in Asia. Christopher Goscha's book is a brilliant account of that country's history. Paying careful attention to Vietnamese voices as well as those of colonizers, he constructs a narrative that sets Vietnam in context, and makes it for western readers so much more than a half-remembered event in the Cold War.”
Mr. Goscha is one of the most talented and prolific of a new group of American and French historians who have examined the modern history of Vietnam not in regard to the country's relationship to the U.S. or the Cold War but on its own terms... [he] has put together what will probably be for some time the best one-volume history of modern Vietnam in English... for readers seeking a concise, insightful and readable guide to the complexity and variety of Vietnam's modern history, this book is an excellent choice.”
Groundbreaking... Goscha has provided quite simply the finest, most readable single-volume history of Vietnam in English.”
[A] thorough and thoughtful new history.”
The VVA Veteran
[An] excellent book.... Goscha is rigorously objective; but he does not shy away from analysis amid his historical fact finding.”
Washington Independent Review of Books
A welcome new scholarly take on the story of a fascinating country.”
A vigorous, eye-opening account of a country of great importance to the world, past and future.”
From the Inside Flap
Vietnam's role in one of the Cold War's longest-running conflicts has meant that its past has been endlessly abused. Popular accounts have cherry-picked from the Vietnamese past to tell politicized, American-centered storieseither reducing the story of Vietnam and the Vietnamese to a noble tradition of anticolonial resistance embodied by the communist leader Ho Chi Minh, or alternatively seeking to rehabilitate American allies by making similarly essentialist claims about "the Vietnamese" and their history. Now, over forty years after the end of the American war in Vietnam, the events which created the modern state of Vietnam can be seen in truly historical perspective. Christopher Goscha's Vietnam: A New History tells the story of this fascinating and complex country on its own terms, emphasizing the contingency that characterizes Vietnam's history and the diversity of its people, polities, geography, and experiences as both colonized and colonizers. Goscha describes the complicated legacies of generations of emperors, rebels, priests, and colonizers, showing how various strains of imperialism that have shaped Vietnam and its culturenot only the crucial periods of Chinese, French, and Japanese rule, but also Vietnam's own colonial enterprises, as the Vietnamese gradually extended their influence southward from the Red River basin. He examines the many ways Vietnam has historically been divided, from the separate states ruled by Trinh and Nguyen military lords in the seventeenth century, to the three territorial subunits created by French colonizers in the nineteenth century, to the warring nations of Democratic Republic of Vietnam and Republic of Vietnam in the Cold War era. Vietnam first took its modern shape in 1802, but it has only existed along these boundaries for about 84 years, interrupted by French colonization in 1862 and then again by the wars of the 1940s-1970s. Goscha shows how Western colonialism was far from the only force bringing Vietnam into theSee all Product description
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Vietnam, far from being a “backwater,” as characterized by Henry Kissinger, was always a strategically important area. As such, it has long been subject to outside influences, especially from China and France. As Goscha points out, the country’s history is more than the story of the winners. Its history could have taken another course, for example, Vietnam, like Korea, might still be divided. And the country’s character could have been different if reform movements had succeeded.
Goscha’s emphasis is on the 19th and 20th centuries. He devotes only 80 pages to the entire period before the French conquest (1858). The organization of the volume is somewhat confusing; some early developments, which should have been treated in chapter one, are relegated to chapter 14. (In some respects, chapter 14, which deals with highland peoples, feels a bit like an afterthought.) Thus, only after the main account has taken us to 1995, does Goscha describe how the Vietnamese descend from the Austronesians (from Taiwan) and Austroasiatics (from China), both of which arrived in the Red River delta around 4,000 years ago, and gradually expanded southward through conquest and settlement.
Goscha briefly describes the actions of the Ly, Tran, Le, and Nguyen dynasties, which came to power after the tenth century, in which Vietnam gained independence, after centuries of domination by China. He recounts the conflicts between the Vietnamese and the border peoples (e.g., Cham, Khmer, Jarai, Tai) with which they fought. At times, various military clans exercised the real power behind a figurehead emperor. The only rulers treated in detail are the Nguyen emperors Gia Long (1802-1820) and Minh Mang (1820-1841).
Goscha does not believe that the French conquest brought about a sudden modernization of Vietnam. Change was more gradual. The Catholic Church had brought Christianity and the Roman alphabet to Vietnam two centuries earlier. And the French retained many of the existing administrative procedures, including the Confucian examination system, and assisted ongoing Vietnamese expansion at the expense of neighboring peoples. But the French did promote urbanization, capitalism, science, and medicine. Such French policies as construction of roads, railroads, and canals had a major impact on Vietnam.
Some Vietnamese patriots were influenced by the anti-imperialist ideas circulating in China and Japan. Others hoped Japan would drive the French out of Vietnam. Still others sought a liberalization of French colonial policies. But the French responded to the 1908 peasant revolt with a crackdown. Although some liberals in France disapproved of such repression and such colonial policies as high taxes, monopolies, and coercion of labor, and despite the efforts of such colonial officials as Governor General Albert Sarraut, the reform impulse was frustrated. French settlers in Vietnam opposed most reforms. Moreover, the changes sought by most Vietnamese reformers would benefit Vietnamese elites, while not affecting most Vietnamese. French liberals, even French Communists, continued to support French control of Vietnam. In this situation, some, like Ho Chi Minh, who had initially sought moderate reforms, eventually turned to Communism.
The brief Nationalist Chinese occupation of Red River delta after World War II provided a rare opportunity for some free speech and organization, but also permitted Vietnamese Communists to consolidate their organization and build their own army. When the French attempted to restore their control in 1946, the first Indochina War (1946-1954) broke out between them and Vietnamese nationalists, including the Communists. After the 1954 Geneva Conference ended that war, Vietnam was divided along the 17th parallel. Both North Vietnam under Ho Chi Minh and South Vietnam under Ngo Dinh Diem were centralized one-party states that practiced indoctrination, censorship, and employed security forces to suppress their opponents, some of whom were incarcerated in concentration camps.
Goscha’s book does not delve deeply into the policy-making decisions of the nations involved in the Indochina Wars. But it does reveal some perhaps surprising differences among top North Vietnamese leaders—for example, General Vo Nguyen Giap opposed conventional war against South Vietnam after Diem’s fall in 1963, fearing such escalation would bring direct military conflict with the U.S. (Later, Giap opposed the TET offensive.) As Giap had anticipated, the second Indochina War (1964-1975) led to a major military confrontation with the U.S. Communist involvement in Southeast Asia was neither monolithic nor consistent. (In the late 1950s, both Russia and China discouraged North Vietnam from attacking South Vietnam. The Soviet Union even proposed that the U.N. admit both North and South Vietnam.) In the third Indochina War (1977-1991), Vietnamese fears of encirclement by China and Cambodia as China’s surrogate, and Chinese fears of encirclement by Russia and Russia’s surrogate Vietnam, led to war among these Communist countries as Cambodia, and later China, invaded Vietnam.
Goscha contends that modern conditions may bring change to Vietnam. Such developments as the end of central economic planning, the end of collectivized agriculture, the growth of the middle and managerial classes, the desire for more consumer goods, the quest for upward mobility, and the pursuit of education abroad, all press the government toward new policies. The government must maintain prosperity in order to retain its power. Meanwhile, the proliferation of private associations stimulates interest in a wide range of particular concerns. And the Internet encourages organization and the exchange of ideas.
This book is based on secondary literature, mainly recent articles in scholarly journals and monographs published in the U.S. and France. Goscha cites almost no Vietnamese publications, or archival records. Goscha alludes to recently opened Vietnamese records, but does not specify which records have been opened or which remain closed. The book contains 8 maps showing ethnic and political divisions over the years; 461 pages of text, 60 pages of endnotes which (in the absence of a bibliography) serve as a useful guide to sources, a 30-page index, and two 8-page sections of black and white photographs.
This important book provides a solid history of modern Vietnam and its neighbors. It will prove highly valuable to anyone interested in these subjects.
Prof. Goscha looks at the country through a kaleidoscope, identifying the ever changing coloration and patterns of politics and culture. He sees not one monolithic Vietnam but “several remarkable varied ones.” He recognizes the complexity of Vietnamese historical experience and shows us imperial Vietnams, divided Vietnams, and modern Vietnams..
For example, he perceives Vietnam as the product of several colonial pasts – which also includes its own! This aspect is seldom highlighted by Vietnamese scholars. Here, we are shown how after pushing out the Chinese in the 15th century, Vietnam began to push its own empire southwards, conquering weaker tribes, establishing settlements, imitating the Chinese by testing direct and indirect rule, thus enacting its own version of ‘mission civilisatrice’ long before French colonizers arrived in mid 19th century.
Focusing on developments of the last 200 years, Prof. Goscha includes many aspects of the country’s historical development which have been overlooked in more conventional accounts. Eschewing periodization (the tendency of historians to split up the history of a country into neat periods), he chronicles the continuity of phenomena such as modernization, industrialization and bureaucratization. He also does not ‘exceptionalize’ Vietnam, but often compares the country’s historical path with the experience of other countries.
The author can write. His sentences and paragraphs are crisp and lucid. He can sketch a minor persona in a few clear-cut lines:
‘A fiery young man who had returned from Pakistan led the charge. His name was Nguyen An Ninh. Born in Cochinchina in 1900, Ninh was a product of the colonial education system. A graduate of Chasseloup-Laubat (elite licée), he spoke French beautifully and wrote it elegantly. He translated Rousseau’s Social Contract’ into quoc ngu. He obtained his undergraduate degree in law in Paris in 1921. He travelled widely in France and Europe and developed a keen interest in politics, nationalism, journalism, philosophy, and religion.’ (p. 131)
The volume is 460 pages of narrative, plus notes and Index. But it reads smoothly. There are eight helpful maps and two sets of illustrations. The cover is beautiful.
Prof. Goscha has admitted elsewhere that an eventual publisher had counselled him to write a general history of Vietnam that would be of interest to the informed, (those who travel and need more than they get from travel guides) as well as to specialists. Thus, not to go overboard on details and footnotes, and produce about 500 pages of engaging, jargon free prose, spangled with appropriate quotes and anecdotes. A tall order that has now been filled.