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Vietnam, protest against colonialism, 1858–1896

Daniel Hémery


At the time of the Second Opium War (1858) initiated by Britain, France, and Spain against China, Napoleon III began to colonize Vietnam. After a failed attempt to take the Imperial Courtin Hue, Saigon was conquered on February 17, 1859. However, the city and its Chinese annex of Cholon were effectively besieged by more than 12,000 soldiers and Vietnamese militiamen gathered by the imperial authorities in the south. It was only in February 1861 that resistance fell to a French task force, inaugurating the French conquest of the interior provinces. Hue's government was divided between partisans seeking a conciliatory strategy to modernize the country and those favoring resistance to French colonial rule. Partisans were militarily weakened by an uprising of the Catholic Le Duy Phung in the old Le dynasty in Vietnam's northern provinces and were forced to cede three eastern provinces of the south (My Tho, Gia Dinh, and Ba Ria) to France, along with Saigon and the archipelago of Poulo Condore. These areas constituted the territorial core of French Cochinchina. In the Treaty of Saigon of June 5, 1862, Hue's government agreed to open three commercial ports in the center and north of Vietnam. In 1863 in the occupied provinces, a small group of influential intellectuals organized in the villages with the clandestine support of the Hue Imperial Court. They formed an active guerilla resistance ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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