Vietnam under French colonial rule

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Beginning of colonial rule

Until the middle of the 19th century, the European powers had little interest in Indochina , because due to the poverty of the population, the trading opportunities appeared to them to be very limited. In the 19th century, however, the importance of Indochina as a land route and for securing the sea route to China , which had opened up to foreign trade, grew .

The French colonial rule in Vietnam began with the appearance of a naval squadron in front of the central Vietnamese port city of Tourane (à Nẵng) on ​​August 31, 1858. The French asked the mandaring governor to surrender the city. When this refused, the soldiers of Napoleon III occupied. forcibly the forts of the bay. The declared aim of the expedition was to intimidate the Vietnamese government in Huế and thus to protect the French missionaries . At least as important, however, was the establishment of a base in Indochina in order to better assert French trade interests in China.

However, the company failed. Huế refused to negotiate under duress and the Vietnamese army successfully resisted, so the French had to withdraw from Tourane in March 1860. Meanwhile, however, they had succeeded in conquering Saigon , from where they took control of other areas in the following year and began to build a permanent political administration. In view of the military successes of the French and the resurgence of peasant unrest in Tongking , the government in Hue was forced to sign a treaty with France in June 1862 in which it ceded three northern provinces of Cochinchina to France. In addition, she undertook to pay reparations and guaranteed the French the right to proselytize, to trade on the Mekong and to trade in some port cities.

First effects

Due to the claim that the new colony should finance itself, the colonial administration continuously increased the taxes. By 1879 the tax burden on the people of Cochinchina had increased tenfold. Another source of income for the French was the export of rice, which the former Mandarin government had banned for fear of famine. It drove up prices and made it impossible for farmers to store supplies in case of emergency. Due to a lack of labor, the farmers were also obliged to do poorly paid forced labor, the so-called "big fron".

So it was not surprising that the peasants were hostile to the French. Mandarins and scholars also resolutely refused to serve the new regime. The uprisings that broke out again and again were put down by the French with cruel punitive expeditions. In order to cut off the rebels from any support, the French Navy occupied and annexed the other provinces of Cochinchina by force in June 1867.

Expansion of French rule

After the French realized that it was not the Mekong but the Red River that opened the land route to China, they also occupied parts of Tongking in 1872. In the treaty of March 15, 1874, France undertook to evacuate Tongking, but Vietnam had to recognize the annexation of the territories occupied in 1867 and open further ports and the Red River to French trade. The Vietnamese government also undertook to coordinate its foreign policy with that of France and also granted France the right to assist in maintaining internal order and national defense.

French expansion in Indochina

These extensive restrictions on Vietnam's sovereignty sparked an uprising in Tongking . France took advantage of this situation to send further troops to Tongking and after the suppression of the uprising the government in Huế by threatening military force on August 25, 1883 to sign a provisional treaty ( Harmand Treaty ) and then on June 6, 1884 to force the final treaty of Huế (Patenôtre Treaty). With that, Vietnam lost its sovereignty. However, the government in Paris saw this treaty as only an intermediate step on the way to the full annexation of Vietnam.

In the Sino-French War of 1884/85, France forced China to forego Tongking and the French finally defeated the black flags . The procedure in the years 1883–1885 was also called the Tonkin Campaign in France .

With the consent of the Navy Ministry, General de Courcy provoked a violent clash between Vietnamese and French troops in early July 1885, whereupon the Vietnamese government called for general resistance against the French. Revolts broke out across Vietnam, led by Confucian scholars loyal to the emperor and supported by large sections of the population.

In the decades that followed, the individual guerrilla groups continued to receive new influx of armed groups of Vietnamese farmers. The reasons for this lay in the colonial regime itself, because the population suffered from the oppressive tax burden, forced labor and unrestrained expropriations as well as from the violent attacks by the French soldiers. Nevertheless, the French troops gradually managed to subdue the entire country. The resistance movement failed because of the cruel repression of the French (executions without a judicial judgment were the order of the day) and because of their internal fragmentation.

As early as 1885, the French had started to establish a direct French administration in Tongking and Annam, similar to that in Cochinchina , and to install a tight system of political control. In contradiction to the protectorate treaty , the Vietnamese emperor was even forced in 1887 to cede his rulership rights to a viceroy who was almost directly under the French administration. With that, the Vietnamese government lost all real power. The Indigenous Guard was created as a colonial auxiliary force .

Rule and administration

One of the first governors-general of the Indochinese Union , Paul Doumer , vigorously centralized the colonial repressive apparatus during the five years of his reign from 1897 to 1902 and at the same time turned it into a lucrative benefice for entire generations of career-obsessed colonial officials. In doing so, he created a functioning system of financial exploitation and political rule that was to remain almost unchanged until 1945. As early as 1888, a uniform economic and administrative system had been created, and the piaster became the uniform currency of the colony of Indochina .

Increased repression and resistance after 1900

By 1905 the armed anti-French resistance, which had been determined by aristocratic and peasant forces, was practically over. In its place came a new political movement of the Vietnamese bourgeoisie. The stormy industrial development in Japan and its victories in the Russo-Japanese War did not remain without resonance in the French colonies.

Civil secret societies and small elite groups emerged, who saw the restoration of Vietnam's independence as a prerequisite for their own economic and political advancement. As early as 1905, Vietnamese nationalist freedom fighters around Phan Bội Châu (1868–1940) and Cuong De were active in Japan and southern China. They called for reforms in numerous pamphlets and supported their demands with acts of terrorism against the French. The colonial administration responded with the usual harshness. The indigenous regime, which was tightened in 1904, allowed the governor general to impose practically unlimited internment sentences and expropriations.

Under the impact of the October Revolution of 1917, numerous revolutionary and communist organizations arose after the First World War, which were joined by bourgeois intellectuals as well as miners, factory workers and farmers. The best known was the communist structured, but ideologically Confucian influenced Viet Nam Quoc Dan Dang ( VNQDD ). The VNQDD was crushed by the French colonial power at the same time as the Communist Party first flourished in Indochina after the Yen Bay mutiny. In 1930, some progressive groups formed the Indochinese Communist Party under the leadership of Ho Chi Minh .

However, since the colonial regime denied the locals any legal opportunity to do responsible political work and the misery of the population increased due to the consequences of the economic crisis , there were repeated uprisings in the following years, which were bloodily suppressed by the French.

The Japanese-French administration from 1940 to 9/10. March 1945 followed a first independent, short-lived government under Trần Trọng Kim . The second declaration of independence, Ho Chi Minh's, on September 2, 1945, was followed by massive repression that led to the Indochina War and killed 92,000 French soldiers. The 1954 Indochina Conference finally ended French colonial rule in Vietnam.


  • Charles Fourniau: Vietnam. Domination coloniale et résistance nationale (1858–1914) . Les Indes Savantes, Paris 2002, ISBN 2-84654-015-2 .
  • Gail P. Kelly: French colonial education. Essays on Vietnam and West Africa . AMS Press, New York 2000, ISBN 0-404-61680-1 .
  • Truong Buu Lam: Colonialism Experienced. Vietnamese Writings on Colonialism, 1900-1931 . University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, Mich. 2000, ISBN 0-472-06712-5 .
  • Pham Hông Tung: The politicization of the masses in Vietnam. 1925-1939 . Logos-Verlag, Berlin 2002, ISBN 3-89722-932-3 (also dissertation, University of Hamburg 2002).
  • The Quyen Vu: The changing Vietnamese society. Colonialism and Social Development in Vietnam . Steiner, Wiesbaden 1978, ISBN 3-515-02821-8 (Sinologica Coloniesia; 8).
  • Peter Zinoman : The Colonial Bastille. A History of Imprisonment in Vietnam, 1862-1940 . University of California Press, Berkeley, Cal. 2001, ISBN 0-520-22412-4 .

See also

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Trần Mỹ-Vân: A Vietnamese Royal Exile in Japan. Prince Cường Để (1882–1951) (= Routledge Studies in the Modern History of Asia. Vol. 29). Routledge, London et al. 2005, ISBN 0-415-29716-8 .