counter create hit Vietnam: A New History - Download Free eBook
Hot Best Seller

Vietnam: A New History

Availability: Ready to download

The definitive history of modern Vietnam, lauded as "groundbreaking" (Guardian) and "the best one-volume history of modern Vietnam in English" (Wall Street Journal) and a finalist for the Cundill History Prize In Vietnam, Christopher Goscha tells the full history of Vietnam, from antiquity to the present day. Generations of emperors, rebels, priests, and colonizers left com The definitive history of modern Vietnam, lauded as "groundbreaking" (Guardian) and "the best one-volume history of modern Vietnam in English" (Wall Street Journal) and a finalist for the Cundill History Prize In Vietnam, Christopher Goscha tells the full history of Vietnam, from antiquity to the present day. Generations of emperors, rebels, priests, and colonizers left complicated legacies in this remarkable country. Periods of Chinese, French, and Japanese rule reshaped and modernized Vietnam, but so too did the colonial enterprises of the Vietnamese themselves as they extended their influence southward from the Red River Delta. Over the centuries, numerous kingdoms, dynasties, and states have ruled over -- and fought for -- what is now Vietnam. The bloody Cold War-era conflict between Ho Chi Minh's communist-backed Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the American-backed Republic of Vietnam was only the most recent instance when war divided and transformed Vietnam. A major achievement, Vietnam offers the grand narrative of the country's complex past and the creation of the modern state of Vietnam. It is the definitive single-volume history for anyone seeking to understand Vietnam today.


Compare

The definitive history of modern Vietnam, lauded as "groundbreaking" (Guardian) and "the best one-volume history of modern Vietnam in English" (Wall Street Journal) and a finalist for the Cundill History Prize In Vietnam, Christopher Goscha tells the full history of Vietnam, from antiquity to the present day. Generations of emperors, rebels, priests, and colonizers left com The definitive history of modern Vietnam, lauded as "groundbreaking" (Guardian) and "the best one-volume history of modern Vietnam in English" (Wall Street Journal) and a finalist for the Cundill History Prize In Vietnam, Christopher Goscha tells the full history of Vietnam, from antiquity to the present day. Generations of emperors, rebels, priests, and colonizers left complicated legacies in this remarkable country. Periods of Chinese, French, and Japanese rule reshaped and modernized Vietnam, but so too did the colonial enterprises of the Vietnamese themselves as they extended their influence southward from the Red River Delta. Over the centuries, numerous kingdoms, dynasties, and states have ruled over -- and fought for -- what is now Vietnam. The bloody Cold War-era conflict between Ho Chi Minh's communist-backed Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the American-backed Republic of Vietnam was only the most recent instance when war divided and transformed Vietnam. A major achievement, Vietnam offers the grand narrative of the country's complex past and the creation of the modern state of Vietnam. It is the definitive single-volume history for anyone seeking to understand Vietnam today.

30 review for Vietnam: A New History

  1. 4 out of 5

    Warwick

    There are quite a lot of books that sound like they're about Vietnam, but which, on closer inspection, are really just about the Vietnam War. The country's name has become almost synonymous with that conflict, which more careful writers (aware that the American viewpoint is only one of many) prefer to call the Second Indochina War – the second of three that racked the country more or less non-stop from 1946 to 1991. Now, I am not very interested in military history in a narrow sense, so the titl There are quite a lot of books that sound like they're about Vietnam, but which, on closer inspection, are really just about the Vietnam War. The country's name has become almost synonymous with that conflict, which more careful writers (aware that the American viewpoint is only one of many) prefer to call the Second Indochina War – the second of three that racked the country more or less non-stop from 1946 to 1991. Now, I am not very interested in military history in a narrow sense, so the title of this book (specifying ‘modern Vietnam’) slightly worried me – I was more excited about the tangled medieval dynastic history than in further retellings of US troop movements and napalm atrocities. Sure enough, Goscha's main focus is on the century running roughly 1880–1980, but to my surprise I found the details of political (and, yes, military) wrangling here completely riveting, whereas the deep historical content of the early chapters didn't grab me as I'd expected it to. Doubtless that's partly a result of the author's chosen focus. But having that deep context, even in an abbreviated form, changes everything: it takes Goscha several hundred pages to get to the ‘Vietnam War’, but when he does, the long historical set-up makes the ensuing discussion feel revelatory. Though the book does gamely attempt to guide you through the dynasties that emerged between the deltas of the Red River and the Mekong over the past thousand years or so, it only really kicks into gear once French colonisation gets going in the nineteenth century. And it is interesting to think about the status of Vietnam (though there was no such place then – only ‘Tonkin’, ‘Annam’ and ‘Cochinchina’) as part of a French empire, whose peoples and identities intermingled in weird and wonderful ways. Rigid French schools taught generations of Viet children that they were descended from Gauls; Saigon and Hanoi became home not only to French settlers but also to those from French Pondicherry, in India, from Corsica, and also from North Africa and even the Pacific islands. There were bizarre conjunctions. Goscha mentions a ‘brilliant student’ by the name of Ky Dong, who went off to finish his studies in Algiers, where he befriended the deposed Vietnamese emperor Ham Nghi; when, back in Vietnam, Dong was linked to anticolonialist rebels, the French exiled him to Polynesia, where he took up art and became a good friend of Paul Gauguin. Within French Indochina, strange hierarchies asserted themselves: As one testy Pondicherrian reminded the Corsican judge in a Saigon courtroom one day: ‘Monsieur, nous étions français cent ans avant vous’. It was after the Second World War that colonial impulses became especially complicated. The Viet regions were invaded by the Japanese (Japan had run a puppet government in Indochina during the war), who ‘liberated’ a united Vietnam under emperor Bao Dai. The French were effectively told by the international community to just drop it, and under no circumstances to try and regain their Indochinese colonies. Decolonisation was now in vogue. But the French had no intention of listening to advice like that: they wanted French Indochina back. So they invaded, via Saigon. The resulting conflict produced two warring entities – one in the south, administered as a colonial holding by the French, and the other in the north, led by Ho Chi Minh. The division was always a nebulous one – as Goscha puts it, each side ‘administered competing, archipelago-like states, whose sovereignties and control over people and territories could expand and shrink as armies moved in and out’. Nevertheless, Goscha reminds us that we could easily have been left with two Vietnams today, much as we've been left with the two Koreas and Chinas. That this did not happen has something to do with how an age of colonial wars had shifted into an age of Cold War. The French had fought Ho Chi Minh not because of his ideology, but because he was a nationalist who wanted to unite his country. In the 1950s, this was no longer a good look, and ‘French propaganda changed accordingly. Ho Chi Minh was not a nationalist, but an internationalist communist of the very worst kind’. The US had already been supporting the French with money, materiel, and various strategic ‘advisors’ on the ground; after the decisive French defeat at Dien Bien Phu, American involvement became the major factor propping up the South Vietnamese regime. The north-south conflict then officially looked more like a civil war, which was what it had been underneath all along. Of course, a lot of the South Vietnamese were nationalists too, just non-communist ones. Nor were they much less authoritarian than the communists. But their inability to beat their northern neighbours eventually annoyed the Americans so much that Kennedy gave the green light to a coup, in which the South Vietnamese leader was deposed (and, for good measure, assassinated). From then on, American involvement became much more direct and hands-on. My cultural awareness of the Second Indochina War has been dominated so completely by the US narratives – the protest songs of the 60s, the roster of classic films from Apocalypse Now to Full Metal Jacket to The Deer Hunter – that it was exquisitely moving to encounter the war through this Vietnamese perspective. It made me realise the extent to which I have always imagined the war in American terms (despite not being American myself). Goscha achieves this both through his choice of narrative line, and also through recourse to raw data. While every single life is precious, only 58,000 Americans died in the conflict, that's 1.7 percent of the 3.3 million total number of those who died. At 98.3 percent, death was a profoundly Vietnamese experience. Although I tend to be a little standoffish with ‘modern histories’, fond as I am of the pre-modern, this one seems almost exemplary to me. My only niggle is one that Goscha himself identifies – that his narrative is ‘a very “lowland”- and “Viet”-centric one’. Vietnam, almost as much as its neighbour Laos, is home to a bewildering profusion of ethnic groups which get rather short shrift here. Goscha attempts to make up for this by cramming all of the non-Viet history into one chapter near the end, focusing primarily on the Cham and the Khmer Krom, but this comes across as what it is – an afterthought. This material could have been more usefully integrated into the rest of the book, which might even have made some discussions a little clearer. But in the grand scheme of things, this is perhaps a minor flaw. I have rarely read a single-country history which kept me as engaged and involved as this one did.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    Vietnam: A New History by Christopher E. Goscha is an interesting one volume look at Vietnamese history from its earliest times to the modern day. The book seeks to move away from a Vietnamese history dominated by French and American-centric examinations, and seek a broader history of Vietnam as a geographic concept, and the forces that shaped its modern existence, from internal division, Confucian thought, Buddhism, and French Republican and Marxist thought. All of these forces, internally adap Vietnam: A New History by Christopher E. Goscha is an interesting one volume look at Vietnamese history from its earliest times to the modern day. The book seeks to move away from a Vietnamese history dominated by French and American-centric examinations, and seek a broader history of Vietnam as a geographic concept, and the forces that shaped its modern existence, from internal division, Confucian thought, Buddhism, and French Republican and Marxist thought. All of these forces, internally adapted and applied often by external forces, shaped Vietnam into the nation state it is today. However, this area was not always a homogeneous state. Vietnam developed in the Southeast Asian sphere, with many people groups and states evolving in different areas. It's early history, like many states, is one of competing tribes and people groups who constantly shift, move, displace and disappear. Modern Vietnam as a concept did not exist at this time. The Chinese under the mythical Han, right up to the Tang dynasty, controlled Northern Vietnam off and on as a province called Jiaozhi. The Chinese rulers of this area sought to export their Confucian ideology and turn Northern Vietnam into an internal Chinese province. China at this time was not a culturally unified state, and the Chinese ruled over many "foreign" peoples as subjects or vassals. Jiaozhi was on the periphery of Chinese control, and the Chinese government utilized local leaders and administrators to rule over local peoples. These administrators were trained in Confucian ideology, but also retained there local identities and religious backgrounds, and peoples in this region often mixed Buddhist and local traditional religions together to form a more Vietnamese style ideology. To the south of Jiaozhi, a kingdom called Cham arose. It took advantage of its strategic maritime position to develop valuable trading routes with China, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. This kingdom heavily incorporated Hindu and Buddhist traditions from India, mixing them with more local customs. These people were culturally separate from the Vietnamese of the north, and resisted Chinese attempts at expansion into the region. To the south of the central Cham kingdom, the Mekong delta was dominated by a collection of Khmer tribes more related to neighbouing Cambodians than the Vietnamese and Cham peoples of the north. The Chinese led domination of the north lasted for almost a thousand years, and this incubation of Chinese and Vietnamese culture led to a nominally Sinicized elite ruling over a more traditionally minded Vietnamese mass. These local people kept there own culture and religion, and sometimes resisted Chinese domination. The Sinicized elite of Jiaozhi took advantage of the cycle of growth and decay common in Chinese dynastic history to claim independence, and after the collapse of the Tang dynasty, largely succeeded. This new kingdom, called Dai Viet, incorporated both Chinese thought and local traditions to build a cultural distinct Viet polity in Northern Vietnam. Throughout its history, Dai Viet would attempt its own Imperial expansion by fighting wars of conquest in central-Southern Vietnam, and into neighbouring Laotian and Cambodian kingdoms. It also attempted to maintain its independence from China, as further Chinese dynasties grew and fell, holding off invasions from the mongol-Yuan dynasty, for example. Even so, the Viet began to import Buddhist and Confucian scholars from China in order to build there own national and state-backed ideals. They mixed these teachings with local myths, legends and personalities to form a unique Viet identity that they then tried to export to southern and central Vietnam. At times throughout history, the Dai Viet kingdom began to take the form it would largely hold as a French colony - that of Indochina. Viet military leaders expanded control over southern Vietnam, into Laos, and Cambodia, and tried there hand at cultural dominance in these regions. Far from being a long time puppet of foreign powers, Vietnam has also had its share of imperial expansion and cultural homogenization. Eventually, the French began to take interest in Vietnam. Catholic missionaries from France and the nearby Philippines (Spanish possession) began to infiltrate Vietnam and convert locals. Viet leaders looked at these incursions as potential threats, and eventually began to crack down on Catholic and other religious minorities to try and centralize Vietnam along Japanese lines - utilizing a unique brand of Confucian paternalism and local customs and myth-building to ideologically control there imperial populations. This led to eventual confrontation with France/Spain, and the French conquest of a region in the south - now called Cochinchina. The French further spread there influence over Cambodia and into Laos, and eventually conquered the entire Indochinese area and creating the colony of Indochina. They split this region into five administrative zones largely based on historical separations - Cambodia, Laos, Cochinchina (the southern Mekong region of Vietnam), Annam (the central region of Vietnam) and Tonkin (the northern region). The French utilized local mandarin bureaucrats to maintain control over the colony, and at first sought to centralize and "civilize" there colony along French lines. Colonial administrators were at first military figures from the French navy, but soon civilian administration took over. Local Vietnamese peoples were often conflicted on how to act. Cooperation was common, with local bureaucrats, but also with the French puppet monarchy and many modernizers in Vietnam who though France was the best way to modernize Vietnam into a nation-state. These Vietnamese collaborators sought education in the French Empire, going to Paris for education, gaining French citizenship, and trying to apply French models at the local level. A rival school developed that turned to Meiji Japan for ideas. Japan in the 1800's was Asia's first nation to modernize along Western lines, and Japan became a central location for nationalists to study, organize and arm. Many Vietnamese nationalists traveled to Japan, and also to China to assist in nationalist struggles, learn nationalist rhetoric, and study models for development. These two schools bred competing nationalist interests - one centered on France and professing for a slow development and eventual independence within the French Empire as a commonwealth state (much like Britain and its colonies), and the other looking at revolutionary tactics to decolonize the area and expel the French. Although nationalism did exist in Vietnam, French influence did change much on the ground. Catholicism became more popular. The French began to exploit divisions inside Vietnam to maintain control, empowering local groups like the Hao Hao, and Cao Di religious extremist groups in southern Vietnam. They also divided Vietnam into northern, central and southern regions, much like how Vietnam had been before its Imperial period. The Latinization of the Vietnamese language also occurred at this time, which France sought to use as a language to tie Vietnam into the French orbit, but has the unintentional consequence of making foreign political texts more easily translatable. French texts like those of Rousseau began to be read by nationalist elite, and revolutionary works by Chinese, Japanese, and Communist authors came pouring into the country. French instability after there loss in the Franco-Prussian war in 1871 caused some chaos in the colony, and gave the nationalists the idea that France was a weak ruler, and could not successfully run Vietnam as a state. This led to increasing revolts by local Vietnamese peoples, followed by crackdowns by the French in a cycle of repression and revolt that only exacerbated thoughts of independence. A major revolt in 1908 was brutally suppressed by colonial forces, killing many hundreds of Vietnamese peasants. This led to both horror and revulsion in Vietnam, and at home as France grappled with the Dreyfus affair and began to move toward more Socialist politics. This led to both an easing of political repression in Vietnam, and a move toward a more radically communist nationalism. French administrators began to promise more lenient rule, and a slow movement toward eventual independence along commonwealth lines. These promises empowered the collaborationist camp, and led to thoughts of internal democratic participation. This however, was a step to far for the French, who denied Vietnamese delegates the right to make decisions internally for the colony, and eventually disenfranchisement of nationalists who sought cooperation with France. As WWII got underway, France was quickly invaded by the Nazi's, and Petain supporters gained power in Vietnam. The Japanese swiftly moved in to Vietnam to take control of its geostrategic location, and at first utilized local French administrators who were sympathetic to nationalistic style rule. However, as WWII came to a close in 1945, the Japanese sought to oust the French and turn Vietnam independent (albeit under Japanese control), forming the short lived Empire of Vietnam, run by France's puppet Emperor turned nationalist. This state was short lived, but lit a fire in terms of Vietnamese national consciousness. The Empire reorganized states, merged the three separate colonies into one entity, and implemented new political elite from local peoples. After Japan lost the war, there soldiers remained in Vietnam. The allies sought to disarm them, and French troops moved into the South, while Chinese nationalist troops took the North. The Chinese had no interest in seeing a resurgent French colony, and empowered local Nationalists along the lines of China's internal party at the time. The French sought to reestablish there authority in the region in order to retake there colonial empire. A third party existed at the time; the communists under Ho Chi Minh. The communists began to operate in Vietnam as part of the broader nationalist front, and cooperated closely with Soviet internationalist Comintern directive. They cooperated largely in China's united front against Japan, and received training, arms and material in Chiang Ki-Sheck's military academies in southern China. The communists in Vietnam sought to seek wider power through cooperation with nationalist forces in a united front against French forces. They participated in the war with Japan, and China installed Ho Chi Minh in power in Vietnam in order to combat Japanese troops on his southern flank. Although the Chinese considered removing the communists from power as there war with the Chinese Communists flared up, they largely left them in power due to lack of ability to oust them, and the rapidly decaying situation at home. This led to a briefly unified Vietnam under a nationalist coalition. However, ideological differences saw more right leaning nationalists to seek French aid in ousting the Communists, leading to the occupation of southern Vietnam by French forces eager to reestablish there colonial presence. This led to a split in Vietnam, as the communists cemented power in the North, and the French in the south. The two Vietnam's came to participate in the larger conflagration between the USSR and USA on a global scale. The Americans propped up French Vietnam as a better alternative to Northern communist Vietnam. The Northern state was largely supported by Soviet and Chinese communist forces after they took power in 1949. The French were largely against a unified Vietnam unless under French control, and vetoed any attempt by the Americans at building a coalition system based on democracy. Instead, the Americans sought to avoid French hostility in their need to build a larger European alliance aligned against the USSR. The French terms were control in Vietnam. Evens so, the North began to crack down internally on dissidents and build a communist state based on collectivist and Maoist principles. They then initiated guerilla warfare against the south, as France began to maneuver to retake their old colonial territory. This war became costly for the French, who were also dealing with colonial chaos in their other colonies in Africa. As Vietnamese forces began to turn the French back, and eventually defeated the French in the historic battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954, the French began to seek an exit. This exit alarmed the Americans, who had been funding about 80% of the cost of the French's war with the Communists. The Americans began to take a greater role in southern Vietnam, first propping up the South as a rival regime, and then sending in advisors and eventually combat troops into Vietnam. This happened over a longer period. The south Vietnamese state began to take shape as a authoritarian style state in the vein of Taiwan and South Korea, two other American backed states in Asia. South Vietnamese politicians attempted developmentalist reforms along these lines, initiating there own rival land reform schemes, and seeking aid and assistance from Western backers. However, a lack of centralized control in south Vietnam led to corruption, and the growth of rival power groups in the Buddhist community, and in extremist splinter groups like the Cao Di and the Hao Hao. The south Vietnamese government began to crack down on these dissident groups, but this backfired as chaos began to reign in the south. This allowed the Northern state to being its infiltration of the south, setting up rival administrations in rural areas, and contesting southern control in various regions. It also caused the Americans to lose faith in their puppet, and initiate a coup d'etat and install a military government. Increasing hostility between the north and south led to open warfare, as the North sought to reunite the nation through force of arms, and the Americans sought to keep them apart. The US commitment to this region began to accelerate into open warfare, as the US eventually sent many hundreds of thousands of soldiers into Vietnam, and committed massive amounts of money and material to the war. Millions of Vietnamese would lose there lives in this war, which led to terrifying bombing campaigns, and inter-communal violence across Vietnam and into Laos and Cambodia. The North came out ahead through its use of guerilla tactics and declining American interest in the war, leading eventually to the evacuation of US troops in 1975 and the annexation of south Vietnam by the North. Communist regimes also took power in Cambodia and Laos. Vietnam after 1975 began to utilize communist ideology to try and integrate the culturally distinct south into a new unified sphere. The south had spent decades as a separate entity, with a larger degree of Western influence, commodification of the economy, and susceptible to greater global influences. The North sought to disrupt this by nationalizing the powerful Chinese merchant lobby in the south, and reeducating thousands of local bureaucrats and administrators. Land reform also took place, although this was less disruptive than in China due to the south's previous expirements and success with developmentalist land reform. A growing Sino-Soviet split in the late 70's, however, led to increasing tensions in southeast Asia. Vietnam had sought to support its communist brethren in Laos and Cambodia, but Cambodia's Khmer Rouge would have none of it. This genocidal group was largely backed by China for its more nationalistic brand of Communism, while Laos and Vietnam increasingly cooperated and were backed by the Soviets. The Vietnamese timed there crackdown on the Chinese community in Vietnam with growing tensions with Deng Xiaoping's modernizing China, which was increasingly improving ties with the West. This led to open warfare between Vietnam and China in 1980, as Chinese troops entered Vietnam, and swiftly occupying northern Vietnam before departing. Vietnam got the message, and its attempts to influence other southeast Asian nations and its hostility to the Khmer largely ended and Vietnam began to focus inwardly. From 1991 onward, Vietnam has begun to develop along Chinese lines. While largely holding power to this day, the Communist government has begun to espouse more market-orientated development strategies while maintaining centralized political control. This development has slowly turned Vietnam into another "Asian Tiger." Even so, it has maintained its hostility to China, and has largely warmed ties with the US, who seek to use Vietnam's important naval bases to increase their control over the south China sea. Vietnam retains border disputes with China in this coastal area, as well as with other states in the region. Vietnam has faced similar problems with this rapid development. Nationalism largely aimed at Chinese businesses and residents in prevalent. Hostilities and disputes do remain with some of its neighbours. Corruption is an issue due to the centralized nature of the Vietnamese government, and the retention of power by the Communist elite. Even so, Vietnam's rapid development has brought many out of poverty, while increasing internal pressures to increase individual rights and political participation. Vietnam has maintained a cult around Ho Chi Minh, who is in state in a similar fashion to Lenin in Russia and Mao in China.Clearly the history of Vietnam continues to develop in an interesting fashion, with internal struggles, rivalries and successes continuing to play out into the future. Goshcha has written an excellent account of Vietnamese history, focusing on internal Vietnamese factors, and largely disputing the exceptionalist versions of Vietnam that show them as as a homogeneous people dominated by evil foreign empires in from China and the West. Contrary to this, Vietnam has largely developed as separate and competing states and people groups, and has had its own experimentation with Imperial domination and attempts at cultural assimilation. This book is a great and relatively concise read on the subject of Vietnamese history, and touches on aspects of politics, global history, economics, and cultural and social changes. This is a great modern history on Vietnam as a nation. Although lacking in depth in some areas, especially Vietnam's history during its Dai Viet period, this book is largely concise, inward looking, and thoughtful. Not to be missed by those who wish to brush up on a modern account of Vietnamese history.

  3. 4 out of 5

    J.M. Hushour

    I'm no SE Asia specialist, but this is easily one of the best histories of a state/region I've read over the last few years reading a history of every country in the world. I'm sure there are those who will find something to gripe about, no matter what their political stripe. After all, that's what that stripe is for (much like a skunk). For the layfolk, this is a grand book, balancing enough ancient past for precedent's sake with enough modern stuff, thankfully giving the Second Indochinese War I'm no SE Asia specialist, but this is easily one of the best histories of a state/region I've read over the last few years reading a history of every country in the world. I'm sure there are those who will find something to gripe about, no matter what their political stripe. After all, that's what that stripe is for (much like a skunk). For the layfolk, this is a grand book, balancing enough ancient past for precedent's sake with enough modern stuff, thankfully giving the Second Indochinese War (here in the States, we call it 'Nam or, "the shit") a decent, respectable section without going overboard. As for political balance, I think Goscha does his best with what will prove to be an area of study possessed of an interminable sense of controversy. The war was fucking terrible and he makes that clear, and all sides share in the blame. What I liked best was his approach to Vietnam itself, as a state, finding the whole idea of "European colonialism" sufficient in one sense but one-sided in another, for Vietnam itself was very much a colonial state. The S-shape came from Nguyen conquests all the way done to the Mekong and back. Folks in the highlands were colonized and Vietnized just as the Viet were Frenchified and colonized. (The French come out the worse in all this.) Nothing is as clear cut. Diem was just as rank and guilty of despicable acts against his own people as much as Ho Chi Minh was. America's SE Asia policy was horrible, but so was China's, and Goscha spends some time discussing the third wave of conflict in the area involving Cambodia and Vietnam. Overall, a great book. The highland peoples and Viet culture only get one chapter each, near the end, but as it is largely a political narrative, I found that acceptable.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mike Flores

    VIETNAM A New History lives up to its title. For the first time we discover all sides of the conflict, that's right, we get Vietnam's side,too. Both the North and the South and the groups at play in both. The book takes us on a journey through Vietnam's history ands it turns out we were only one of many who had problems in the region. The book even shows us how disaster could happen again. As China and the U.S. tries to understand how to deal with each other this book becomes urgent. Best history VIETNAM A New History lives up to its title. For the first time we discover all sides of the conflict, that's right, we get Vietnam's side,too. Both the North and the South and the groups at play in both. The book takes us on a journey through Vietnam's history ands it turns out we were only one of many who had problems in the region. The book even shows us how disaster could happen again. As China and the U.S. tries to understand how to deal with each other this book becomes urgent. Best history of Vietnam I have ever read and author Christopher Goscha is now the top Vietnam historian. For the first time, all sides of Vietnam. Including Vietnam's.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Wiom biom

    WELL i had high hopes for this book! not sure what i was expecting but halfway through i felt a bit disappointed and bored... there wasn't anything really impressive or breathtaking about it. maybe it's because i already know a bit about modern Vietnamese history so it didn't feel like I wasn't learning much. anyways! some key takeawayssss 1. the Vietnamese people (ethnic-wise) were colonisers themselves! originating from around the red river delta (in the north of Vietnam), they eventually came t WELL i had high hopes for this book! not sure what i was expecting but halfway through i felt a bit disappointed and bored... there wasn't anything really impressive or breathtaking about it. maybe it's because i already know a bit about modern Vietnamese history so it didn't feel like I wasn't learning much. anyways! some key takeawayssss 1. the Vietnamese people (ethnic-wise) were colonisers themselves! originating from around the red river delta (in the north of Vietnam), they eventually came to subdue the Cham and Khmers to form the s-shape of modern-day Vietnam. 2. a unified Vietnam did not exist until the 18th century when the three clans of the Dai Viet, Trinh, and Nguyen coexisted under the Le Dynasty and the Nguyen lords proceeded to expand southwards. 3. Vietnamese history has had an important relationship with Chinese history. when the Tang Dynasty collapsed, the Dai Nam 'seceded'. when the expansionist Ming rulers came to power, Dai Viet had to come under indirect Chinese rule again. additionally, confucianism (which came from China) has played a very important role in Vietnamese politics and society; rulers, from Gia Long to the French colonialists, have used the ideology to assert control over the vast territory of Indochina. 4. Bao Dai was not an invertebrate! for one, he was willing to abdicate to make way for a constitutional monarchy, he refused to play the role of a French puppet, he believed first and foremost in Vietnamese independence and then anti-Communism. 5. Diem's rule was not entirely a failure -- his rule was pretty successful from 1954 to 1957 as he rolled out land reform and garnered the support of religious groups. 6. The third indochina war was an absurd war... a giant blip in history honestly. also a perfect representation of american hypocrisy (esp. considering it happened during Jimmy Carter's presidency!)

  6. 4 out of 5

    Martin Lowery

    I enjoyed the way the author told the history of Vietnam, but he spent the last 50 pages covering Vietnam from 1954, until the modern day, condensing crucial history regarding the war with America. Otherwise, the historical perspective the author provides shows that the differences and animosity between the North and South Vietnam had been going on since the 18th century. America may have played these animosities against each other, but they didnt start the war that was already brewing for 100 y I enjoyed the way the author told the history of Vietnam, but he spent the last 50 pages covering Vietnam from 1954, until the modern day, condensing crucial history regarding the war with America. Otherwise, the historical perspective the author provides shows that the differences and animosity between the North and South Vietnam had been going on since the 18th century. America may have played these animosities against each other, but they didnt start the war that was already brewing for 100 years.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Seongkyul

    Helpful overview of not just Vietnam's history but of Indochina overall. Reminder of the incredibly heterogeneous, cyclical, messy, brutal nature of/paths to nationbuilding; how intertwined all our histories... and how lonnggggg the road to peace. Helpful overview of not just Vietnam's history but of Indochina overall. Reminder of the incredibly heterogeneous, cyclical, messy, brutal nature of/paths to nationbuilding; how intertwined all our histories... and how lonnggggg the road to peace.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Peter A

    Growing up in the United States in the late 1960’s, Vietnam received a lot of coverage. Being a male of a “draftable” age, it also focused me a great deal on Vietnam. After I visited Vietnam for the first time in 2007, I started forming new impressions of the country and its people. Subsequent visits only increased my desire to learn more about Vietnam. When I started looking for books about the country, most of what I uncovered focused on the period of the late 60’s and early 70’s. Finally, I d Growing up in the United States in the late 1960’s, Vietnam received a lot of coverage. Being a male of a “draftable” age, it also focused me a great deal on Vietnam. After I visited Vietnam for the first time in 2007, I started forming new impressions of the country and its people. Subsequent visits only increased my desire to learn more about Vietnam. When I started looking for books about the country, most of what I uncovered focused on the period of the late 60’s and early 70’s. Finally, I discover the book by Christopher Goscha, and read several reviews that were all very positive. Thus, I read it. Overall this book is very insightful and well researched. As the subtitle of the book states, and the author argues in his opening pages, that given recent research it is time to write a new history. “It still takes into account this country’s position in a coveted part of the world where empires collide, but it also emphasizes Vietnam’s own role in shaping its history and highlights the country’s extraordinary diversity and complexity. Most importantly, it emphasizes that there has never been one Vietnam but several remarkably varied ones.” The author presents a very interesting perspective about Vietnam, through focused chapters and how narrates the chapters. In each chapter, he also provides a very nice lead section that help illustrate what we are going to discover in the chapter. After reading the book and the insights therein, my view of Vietnam has deepened. In many ways, Vietnam is a mixture of cultures; not just of the French influence, but more importantly of the multiple groups that populated Vietnam over at least the last two thousand years. Vietnam is a story of how one group, the Viet, ultimately expanded from the north and “colonized” the rest of what we now know as Vietnam (and of course the influence into Laos and Cambodia). The current national boundaries are relatively recent (say 1940’s). It is also the story of nationalism, strong desire to be independent of France, US, and China, of the different approaches (republicanism from the French, communism from the Soviet Union and China) to state building and statecraft. The book also shows the ugly side of politics gone awry, the plunge into the Vietnam war without thinking about the consequences – an important lesson for today - for not wanting to back down; and how global politics can play out and influence local issues. I very much appreciated the final chapter and conclusion. The final chapter, “Vietnam from Beyond the Red River”, talks about the many other ethnic groups that are part of the larger story. The conclusion, “Authoritarianism, Republicanism, and Political Change” points to the ongoing dynamics that continue to influence Vietnam into its future, with a hint of the staying power of republicanism in the Vietnam. A note to the author: I appreciate the maps and the brief summary of abbreviations. I wish there were an annotated list of “key characters”, with an indication of when and where they appear in this story. A note to potential readers: You will learn a great deal from this book. However, there are many details (and names), and you may feel overwhelmed with these details. Other Books: Since 2015 at least three books with a more comprehensive look at Vietnam has been published. Current Book: Vietnam: A New History, Christopher Goscha (published September 2016, 592 pages) Two other books that look interesting and seem to have very good reviews are Viet Nam: A History from Earliest Tim, Ben Kiernan (published March 2017, 656 pages, https://www.amazon.com/Viet-Nam-Histo... and Descending Dragon, Rising Tiger: A History of Vietnam, Vu Hong Lien and Peter Sharrock (published January 2015, 272 pages) https://www.amazon.com/dp/1780233647/... I would be interested to hearing from those who read any of these books, or others.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Keen

    This is a fairly exhaustive and extensive account of modern Vietnam and is clearly the work of a skilled authority, backed up with a whole myriad of research. Goscha has done a fine job of tracking the history from the early settlers through to colonialism, colonial collaboration, colonial expansion, through various warring dynasties and demonstrates how seemingly outside events like the Opium Wars and the Cold War came to impact on Vietnamese shores. He traces the horrendous events of the 20th This is a fairly exhaustive and extensive account of modern Vietnam and is clearly the work of a skilled authority, backed up with a whole myriad of research. Goscha has done a fine job of tracking the history from the early settlers through to colonialism, colonial collaboration, colonial expansion, through various warring dynasties and demonstrates how seemingly outside events like the Opium Wars and the Cold War came to impact on Vietnamese shores. He traces the horrendous events of the 20th century through three Indochinese conflicts and the eventual Modernisation. Goscha illustrates how the legacy and influence of around 1000 years of Chinese rule and around 80 years of French rule have been absorbed to help create the Vietnam of today. He describes the Nguyen state era, with compelling characters like Minh Mang. We see how Confucianism, Catholicism and Buddhism fought for supremacy amidst an ever shifting political, religious and territorial landscape. He also shows us how the country managed to form and shape its own culture, partly through the long standing Sino-Franco influence but how they transformed an identity of their own with the introduction of the Quoc Ngu script. We see that the Vietnam as most of the world knows it has never really existed for long as one, united nation. The US apparently subsidised around 80% of France’s campaign against Vietnam during the first Indochina War before getting involved directly and causing the Second Indochina War (or Vietnam War). I was unaware that an estimated 5000 to 15000 people were murdered by the communists during the 50s before the US intervened. It was a harsh regime which encouraged children to spy on their parents and neighbours to denounce each other. Apparently both North and South Vietnam indulged in human rights abuses, arbitrary arrests, torture, censorship, executions, forced labours and use of concentration camps before the Americans got involved. Goscha produces the horrifying facts and stats about the hugely imbalanced Vietnam War and the appalling consequences, particularly for innocent civilians and minority hill tribes. The legacy of the war continued for years afterwards with hundreds of thousands of boat people fleeing to places like the US, Canada, France and Australia. It took the reforms of 1986 to eventually lead the country into taking some large, though measured and limited steps towards capitalism and the nation seems to have grown steadily since then eventually becoming the 3rd largest exporter of rice in the world and the 2nd biggest producer of coffee. This was an interesting read that should please scholars and the history/Vietnam enthusiast alike. There were times when it was maybe a little too dry and detailed, but that’s sometimes the price you have to pay for such a well-researched and detailed work.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Viet Phuong

    An excellent and comprehensive book on the complicated history of Vietnam. The best thing about this history book might be the fact that the author tried his best to balance the predominant description of Vietnam history through the lens of either Orientalist American scholars or Viet historians (who often narrate the history of the country from the Viet point of view - the view of the majority in modern Vietnamese society) with lesser-known voices from other native communities. In addition, Chr An excellent and comprehensive book on the complicated history of Vietnam. The best thing about this history book might be the fact that the author tried his best to balance the predominant description of Vietnam history through the lens of either Orientalist American scholars or Viet historians (who often narrate the history of the country from the Viet point of view - the view of the majority in modern Vietnamese society) with lesser-known voices from other native communities. In addition, Christopher Goscha's de-glorification of wars (in general, and "patriotic wars" in particular) and military forces, no matter which side, is also a very nice touch (although more thorough portrays of politicians from both sides of the Vietnam War would be better for the audience to grasp the big picture of this period of Vietnam history). In particular, the lesser focus on warfare and tactical descriptions of battles is indeed an excellent choice, as more pages were available for detailed discussion of the social and political context of the war. The book still has its own problems, though. First of all, the fact that the author cannot speak Vietnamese is obvious and frustrating, which is exemplified by multiple misspellings and slight mistranslations. For such an esteemed scholar in Vietnam history, such incapability to speak the native language of that country really is disappointing (even though they are mostly minor errors and do not really affect the overall quality of the book). Secondly, Goscha's description of some events like the 1954 partition and southward migration leaned heavily on personal and emotional perspectives without any in-depth discussion of the underlying reasons for the occurrence of such events and their institutional and socio-economic attributes. Some parts of the book are also either shallow (like the explanation of the coup that led to Diem's assassination - as there had been coups before that "final destination" of the Ngo brothers, Americans were just more complicit in this last attempt to overthrow the Diem regime) or debatable (like whether Dai Viet got military techniques like gunpowder or cannon before the Ming invasion or not), but even if those are factual errors, I believe that they are only unintentional ones. Finally, this book has an awful final chapter, which is a forceful portray of "the rise of the republicans" in the modern society of Vietnam while totally neglecting to discuss the complicated Vietnam-China relationship that heavily affects the current social face of Vietnam. If only Goscha could spend more time to clearly explain the rise (from nowhere) of anti-communism in the early years of the 20th century than the pseudo-existence of republicanism in the 21st century. A great book about Vietnam and one that should be read widely by Vietnamese and foreigners alike, still.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Chris Jaffe

    There is a lot here, but I dunno if I got a lot out of it. This is interesting and has some nice points to make. One nice point is about the role of colonization. Goscha points out at the outset that the French weren't the only colonizers - so were the Viet, as they became more and more important in the period before the arrival of the French, and that there are still plenty of non-Viet people in the country. That's an intriguing point ..... I just wished it had been better developed. With a poin There is a lot here, but I dunno if I got a lot out of it. This is interesting and has some nice points to make. One nice point is about the role of colonization. Goscha points out at the outset that the French weren't the only colonizers - so were the Viet, as they became more and more important in the period before the arrival of the French, and that there are still plenty of non-Viet people in the country. That's an intriguing point ..... I just wished it had been better developed. With a point like that, I'd expect several chapters on Vietnam until the French show up - but, no - they arrive in Chapter 2. I'd expect the diversity of Vietnam to be a factor throughout -but not really. Instead, the next-to-last chapter notes this has been a largely Viet-centric history of the land, so to make up for it, here's a chapter thrown in at the end on the nation's diversity. It's an awkward, weird fit, as all the previous chapters had been largely chronological, and then you get this one that feels like it got lost on its way to a sociology book and wandered into a history book instead. Most of the book is a typical historical overview, and in that regard it's fine. But it's also disappointing.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Howard

    On the positive side, I now know a huge amount more about how Vietnam developed into the unitary state that it became, for the first time, after 1975, and how the regional tensions within the country persisted over several centuries (and probably right up to the present time). And my knowledge of the pretty disastrous French colonial period has gone from practically nothing to a reasonable amount, as has my awareness of how Ho Chi Minh and the DRV interacted with the Chinese and Soviet states fr On the positive side, I now know a huge amount more about how Vietnam developed into the unitary state that it became, for the first time, after 1975, and how the regional tensions within the country persisted over several centuries (and probably right up to the present time). And my knowledge of the pretty disastrous French colonial period has gone from practically nothing to a reasonable amount, as has my awareness of how Ho Chi Minh and the DRV interacted with the Chinese and Soviet states from the 1920s until the end of the twentieth century. But, I have to say it was immensely hard going at times. One of the problems being that keeping track of Vietnamese names was (for me) almost impossible. Another that the author seems to abhor data, so there are very few figures to help get the reader's mind immersed in the practical development of modern Vietnam. Additionally, despite being almost 500 pages long, Goscha's history seemed to me to be rather lacking in detail relating to where the actual power lay at various periods -- particularly the four decades since unification -- and how that power has been wielded, and what the reaction of the Vietnamese people has been to all this. Informative, yes. Big holes in the narrative, however, and not exactly an enjoyable read

  13. 5 out of 5

    Anthony Nelson

    There is lots of good material in this book, but a reader hoping for insight into the less well-trod portions of modern Vietnamese history will be disappointed. After promising to focus on Vietnam's story beyond colonialization, the French arrive in chapter two, and precious little time is spent on Vietnam's economic modernization or indeed anything post 1975. Ethnic minorities are handled in a brief, tacked on section at the end of the book rather than being included with the main narrative. If There is lots of good material in this book, but a reader hoping for insight into the less well-trod portions of modern Vietnamese history will be disappointed. After promising to focus on Vietnam's story beyond colonialization, the French arrive in chapter two, and precious little time is spent on Vietnam's economic modernization or indeed anything post 1975. Ethnic minorities are handled in a brief, tacked on section at the end of the book rather than being included with the main narrative. If you are looking for one book to give you a sweeping overview of Vietnam's transition from colonialism to independence, this is a good pick, but a reader already familiar with the country will be disappointed.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    I learned a lot from this - chock full of information. Kind of strangely organized - sort of thematic, sort of chronological. I think it works, mostly, but it does mean that sometimes stuff gets repeated. There are some areas where there feels like a lack - there's almost nothing about the Japanese occupation, for example, and the Vietnam War/Second Indochina War is sparser than one would believe. That's not entirely a bad thing about the Vietnam War, though - it makes one focus on the very impo I learned a lot from this - chock full of information. Kind of strangely organized - sort of thematic, sort of chronological. I think it works, mostly, but it does mean that sometimes stuff gets repeated. There are some areas where there feels like a lack - there's almost nothing about the Japanese occupation, for example, and the Vietnam War/Second Indochina War is sparser than one would believe. That's not entirely a bad thing about the Vietnam War, though - it makes one focus on the very important things.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lext

    One thing that distinguishes most foreigners' history books about Vietnam is their inability to get the local names, words and phrases right. Keep in mind that Vietnamese is Latinized, so there's no ambiguity about how a word is spelled in English (diacritical marks notwithstanding, since they're understandably and almost universally stripped in English text). It's a big letdown, because that tells us the author only got the information from hearsay (probably another foreigner), and didn't even One thing that distinguishes most foreigners' history books about Vietnam is their inability to get the local names, words and phrases right. Keep in mind that Vietnamese is Latinized, so there's no ambiguity about how a word is spelled in English (diacritical marks notwithstanding, since they're understandably and almost universally stripped in English text). It's a big letdown, because that tells us the author only got the information from hearsay (probably another foreigner), and didn't even bother to cross-reference it with a more knowledgeable source. Either that or someone didn't bother to proof-read the draft print. On that count alone, I have to say I'm impressed by this book. Most of the names and phrases are correct. I found only 3 instances of recognizable misspelling: the Thien Mu pagoda in Hue is written as "Thien Pu"; at one point, Vietnamese citizen is translated as "dan cong Viet Nam" (Vietnamese porter) instead of "cong dan Viet Nam"; and Hon Gai (in Quang Ninh province) is written as Hong Cai. That is tiny, considering the huge amount of details in Vietnamese language and names provided throughout the book. That huge amount of details, is another reason I'm impressed. Granted, the book focus mostly on the period from about 1789 onwards, with previous era only glanced through briefly. But this is a country with a complicated history, with many nuances, factions and people competing for influence. Never mind the number of foreign countries wanting to come and dominate or colonize: China, France, Japan, USA, some more than once. If we're to also count the foreign forces who landed to exert influence, we can add the Siamese (in an invasion crushed by Tay Son in 1785) and the English (who came in 1945 ostensibly to disarm the Japanese, but in fact was just laying the groundwork for French re-colonization). In such setting, 200-300 years is a long time to recall all the intrigues, I have never seen a book that can cover all of that faithfully, completely, impartially, until now. That this book manages to do that is a huge accomplishment in itself, although of course, the need to be complete also means often things are only briefly mentioned or summarized, lest the book becomes a multi-volume tome. I did know most of the details described in the book before. But that didn't stop me from learning a few things I have never learned before. For example how the premier Nguyen Van Thinh and the ex-premier Nguyen Tuong Tam killed themselves. Or how Tran Phu was not happy with HCM because the latter formed the party based on nationalistic basis and not internationalist proletariat principles like the Comintern would have preferred. Or how many times the French let greed and selfishness cloud their judgement, in spite of all the pleading for them from their colonial subjects to their allies to do otherwise. It's not an overstatement to say most of the bloodshed in Vietnam throughout the 20th century could have been avoided, and Vietnam could have become a prosperous nation long ago, if only the French leaders (of ALL generations, from Albert Sarraut to Charles De Gaulle ) had at least a modicum of decency and righteousness in them. Little wonder then, that ALL of French ex-colonies are today third-word countries. Contrast that with Singapore, Hongkong, New Zealand, just to name a few ex-UK-colonies that are doing very well. (If you want one more example of the absolute bottomless greed and evilness of French colonialism, ask the Haitians.) Anyway, I digress. If there's one thing I wish the book could be a bit more clear, that will be about Khmer Krom. Unlike how Champa became Vietnamese land, or how Dai Nam became French protectorate, Khmer Krom became Nguyen Dynasty's land not through direct armed conquest, but more or less "organically". It's a long process, and fascinating by itself, with different pieces of land coming under Vietnamese control via different reasons. Some was given in marriage, some was given as "bribes" or "payment" (in some Khmer court intrigue), and some was voluntarily presented as a vassal (as is the case with Mac Thien Tu's Ha Tien). Still, most of the land was sparsely populated at the time, and many times the Vietnamese (and some Chinese) was the first to come and reclaim and make it productive. It's not quite unlike the situation in the Wild West of the USA 100 years later. So to say the land was "colonized", is like saying the USA colonized California, Arizona, Texas and Hawaii. The distinction between that process, and the colonize-by-conquest process done by the French is slight, of course, but there's indeed a distinction there. Still, overall this book is top-notch, and I highly recommended it.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy

    This is a high-level overview of the entire history of the Viet people and the place we now call Vietnam. Goscha does a good job explaining that Vietnam as we know it today was at least three states for most of its history - Tonkin in the north, Annam in the middle, and Cochinchina in the south. The Viet people were also colonizers, having eventually taken all of those places, particularly the highlands and the Mekong Delta, from lots of other minority groups. The Viet people came from the Red R This is a high-level overview of the entire history of the Viet people and the place we now call Vietnam. Goscha does a good job explaining that Vietnam as we know it today was at least three states for most of its history - Tonkin in the north, Annam in the middle, and Cochinchina in the south. The Viet people were also colonizers, having eventually taken all of those places, particularly the highlands and the Mekong Delta, from lots of other minority groups. The Viet people came from the Red River valley in Tonkin. Cochinchina in particular was always a very diverse place, with lots of Khmer and Cham people, with the Cham empire including much of modern Annam as well. The French colonized what became Indochina (modern Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia) starting around the 1860s. Cochinchina became a colony, while the other states (Annam, Tonkin, Laos & Cambodia) were protectorates. The French often promised Cochinchinese nationalists more democracy, they repeatedly failed to do so. This ultimately led to the French leaving in 1954 after the First Indochina War. At this point you had Ho Chi Minh's communists in the north and Ngo Dinh Diem's republic in the south. The communists decided to try to unite the three states into one Vietnam, leading to the Second Indochina War, or the Vietnam War. Come 1973, the US was tired of the war, made the Paris Peach Accords and left the country. The communists attacked the south anyway, and the US was not interested and getting re-involved. The communists took Saigon in 1975 and have held the country since that time. As the main communist countries had a falling out (Soviets with the Chinese, the Chinese with the Vietnamese) and everyone started distrusting everyone else, events spiraled into the Third Indochina War. Earlier, the Vietnamese communists had to withdraw support for nascent communist groups that they seeded in Laos and Cambodia. This led to the Khmer Rouge gaining power in Cambodia. The Khmer Rouge and the Vietnamese communists started fighting, ultimately ending with the Vietnamese kicking the Khmer Rouge out of Phnom Penh, but not before the Khmer Rouge wreaked genocide on their people. The Vietnamese communists didn't pull out until 1989. Around 1986 Vietnam started allowing market based reforms into their economy, not that different than China. This book was quite frustrating at times for me. He often didn't go into as much detail as I would have liked. The whole book needed to be rethought as to the layout. It lacked continuity. It's like he needed to jumble up all of the paragraphs and put events back together more cohesively. The second to last chapter, which seemed to be a retelling of much of the first chapters, should have been incorporated into those chapters. It would be easier to put together what is happening if part of the story wasn't in a different chapter. He just wasn't a very clear writer, it's like he just couldn't figure out how to put this book together. And he didn't recommend further reading. I combed through his bibliography and picked up maybe a couple books, but a Further Reading section or something would have been nice, as I'd like some good recommendations on the Vietnam War and the Third Indochina War. This is not a book on the Vietnam War or any specific events in particular. Again, it is a high-level introduction to those events. He spent half a chapter on the actual Vietnam War.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jared Peterson

    In the arena of historical non-fiction critics, the golden laurels are - with rare exception - laid upon those books that aim for depth and nuance in a unique corner of history that is neglected. Unquestionably, these books are incredible works of scholarship and deserve all of their accolades. It is also clear why they receive the most attention from critics, as history book critics tend to be voracious readers of the subject and experts in their field. Unless they are seeking a form of penance In the arena of historical non-fiction critics, the golden laurels are - with rare exception - laid upon those books that aim for depth and nuance in a unique corner of history that is neglected. Unquestionably, these books are incredible works of scholarship and deserve all of their accolades. It is also clear why they receive the most attention from critics, as history book critics tend to be voracious readers of the subject and experts in their field. Unless they are seeking a form of penance, another survey history of the American Revolution or Athens is an exercise in wanton tedium. As such, a wonderfully researched, organized and composed survey history of a period is often underappreciated by the critical establishment. It is not to cast blame, but merely to recognize that a true expert, as they grow to treat their field as an old and familiar friend, cannot truly step in the mindset of a novice that is entering the landscape, names and themes of a historical period for the first time. "Vietnam: A New History" is one of those great survey works. In its richness, depth, and idiosyncrasies, history of Vietnam is a highly rewarding - yet very challenging - saga for many Western readers to grasp. It does not hew close to familiar Western themes and archetypes. The peninsula has rarely been a unified land, with multiple coincident narratives for any century. Finally, in the aftermath of the 20th century conflagration that engulfed the country, there are many interested parties in telling various versions of Vietnam's history. Goscha faces bravely the uphill challenge of both explaining a complex history, while also addressing the various preconceived notions of his readers. In this challenge, Goscha largely succeeds. "Vietnam" is a marvelous introduction for the newcomer first seeking a serious understanding of Vietnam and its people. Goscha does an excellent job in creating a map of Vietnamese history, creating the contours and outlines of its course, personalities and themes. As a map, "Vietnam" gives its readers the ability to venture forward into more focused studies of specific landmarks in Vietnamese history and serves as an excellent context for these continued journeys.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Brenden Gallagher

    I plan on visiting Vietnam soonish and as an American I wanted to listen to a history of Vietnam that wasn't solely focused on the Vietnam War. So many books about Vietnam that are in English center Americans and the war they started, and thankfully this book doesn't. If you are interested in getting a historical overview of the country, Christopher Goscha's book is a great place to start. Broad histories of countries are difficult and I don't think this book is as compelling as a great biography I plan on visiting Vietnam soonish and as an American I wanted to listen to a history of Vietnam that wasn't solely focused on the Vietnam War. So many books about Vietnam that are in English center Americans and the war they started, and thankfully this book doesn't. If you are interested in getting a historical overview of the country, Christopher Goscha's book is a great place to start. Broad histories of countries are difficult and I don't think this book is as compelling as a great biography or more targeted history, but Goscha is more than up to the challenging task of telling the story of Vietnam. Goscha uses two primary lenses to view the history of the Asian nation. He views the history of Vietnam as both a history of various colonial projects and a history of various unification efforts. For Goscha, there is not just one colonizer of Vietnamese history and not just western countries are colonizers. Vietnam has been colonized by the Chinese, the French, and the Americans. Various other countries have employed colonial tactics in the country. The majority Vietnamese ethnic group has also colonized various groups in the country's highlands. Vietnam has also only been in its current unified form for less than a century of its history. Goscha pays special attention to how various figures throughout Vietnamese history have created unification myths to help sell their agenda for the country. The past has often been a weapon for would-be Vietnamese leaders. One of the best techniques Goscha uses is employing chapters to reframe the reader's perspective after big historic moments. For example, after he details the events Vietnam War, he zooms out to look at culture and art in Vietnam, and how the war changed creative expression in the nation. When he gets to present day, he presents a counternarrative of the country's highland people to challenge the dominant narratives in Vietnamese histories and reframe the Vietnamese as both victims and perpetrators. I'll admit that the broad scope of the history and the foreignness of the country to a white American made it a little difficult for me to follow, but I learned a great deal about this fascinating nation and its unique culture from this ambitious book.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lee

    A fascinating look at the history of Vietnam, Goscha offers the best recent English-language history of this crucial nation. Goscha does a great job of tracing Vietnamese history from its very earliest stages to the period just after the war with the US. He does a great job of incorporating the intellectual history of Vietnam into his story of the standard history of battles and politicians. There were three things that detracted from this history. The first is Goscha's sometimes cursory treatme A fascinating look at the history of Vietnam, Goscha offers the best recent English-language history of this crucial nation. Goscha does a great job of tracing Vietnamese history from its very earliest stages to the period just after the war with the US. He does a great job of incorporating the intellectual history of Vietnam into his story of the standard history of battles and politicians. There were three things that detracted from this history. The first is Goscha's sometimes cursory treatment of topics. Too often I felt like he was glossing over important events. This makes sense in the earlier portion of his history, when he is dealing with events that have little direct bearing on later events, but it feels jarring in the more recent parts of the history. He rushes through the fall of Diem so quickly that he does not even have time to tell us that Diem is assassinated (he tells us he was overthrown and that he died but not how he and his brother were taken from a church and murdered in a military vehicle). Second, certain parts of the book, particularly the sections on culture, feel very listy. Although his integration of these topics into this history is good, he does not integrate the topics well. Sometimes it feels as if he just has a list of cultural topics to discuss and he plods through them, section by section, not weaving them into the larger narrative. The third and most problematic fault of Goscha is the way that Goscha deals with the non-ethnically Viet actors in Vietnamese history. On page 406, he righteously intones that for too long, histories of Vietnam have left the history of the Cham, the montagnards, the Khymers and others as an afterthought and that he is going to rectify that...but he does so only by shoving all non-Viet actors to the back of the book and stapling this section to the end of a 450 page book. He fails to integrate the non-Vietnamese actors into his history of Vietnam just as he calls for them to be integrated into the country's history. It is only in the last tenth of the book, after he has completely gone through all of Vietnamese history, from its earliest dawn to the 1980's, that he returns back to that earlier history and half-heartedly adds something about non-Viet peoples. Despite these flaws, Goscha's book is worth the read, as it is one of the best recent examples of a history of this most crucial of small countries.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Maggie

    As a history buff and young adult during the Vietnam War, I wanted to know more about the history of this country. Goscha's book gave me what I was looking for, going back in time, covering the details of the period I was familiar with, and bringing me up almost up to the present. I would also recommend "The Sympathizer" by Viet Thanh Nguyen (a novel) and "Ho Chi Minh" by William Duiker. Vietnam and the Vietnam War are such complicated subjects that one or two books aren't enough to understand t As a history buff and young adult during the Vietnam War, I wanted to know more about the history of this country. Goscha's book gave me what I was looking for, going back in time, covering the details of the period I was familiar with, and bringing me up almost up to the present. I would also recommend "The Sympathizer" by Viet Thanh Nguyen (a novel) and "Ho Chi Minh" by William Duiker. Vietnam and the Vietnam War are such complicated subjects that one or two books aren't enough to understand them. The war also included Laos and Cambodia, and Goscha goes into some of their histories as well. Apparently, Vietnam was a colonizer (in Cambodia, for example), as well as colonized, and this helps the reader better understand the tragic emergence of Pol Pot and the Khmers Rouges. One and a half to three million Cambodians were killed in the Cambodian genocide, and three million Vietnamese and hundreds of thousands of Laotians died in the Vietnam War, so these are key events in world history. Also, the Vietnamese fought against the French colonial regime from 1945 to 1954. The United States' assumption of the French colonial mantle made the Vietnamese civil war between north and south much longer and many times more destructive than it would have been otherwise.

  21. 4 out of 5

    KB

    The amount of pleasure I got from reading this was basically zero. Some of it is my own fault. I know I rarely enjoy these general, expansive histories, yet I still buy them or consider buying them. There's just too much information to take in. However, this book seemed particularly detailed and I think the generally chronological structure gets lost in these details. It really weighed the book down when you're already trying to process and remember so much new information. This detail would hav The amount of pleasure I got from reading this was basically zero. Some of it is my own fault. I know I rarely enjoy these general, expansive histories, yet I still buy them or consider buying them. There's just too much information to take in. However, this book seemed particularly detailed and I think the generally chronological structure gets lost in these details. It really weighed the book down when you're already trying to process and remember so much new information. This detail would have been fine for main events, but I felt like it's actually placed elsewhere. I don't know if that was helpful... or interesting. Incredibly well researched and very well organized - for that I'm going to give it three stars, although that doesn't reflect the enjoyment factor, which for me was 2 stars. The book is long, the font is small. Be prepared.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jacob Mardell

    Chose this book to get a grounding in Vietnamese history and believe I got what I was looking for while simulateniously being entertained and excited by several new ideas. It's not just a straight up chronological account - Goscha manages to interweave a few theses/narratives into the factual fabric of the book. Two that stood out were the ideas that Vietnam has been defined by not only French, but Chinese and even Viet colonial projects, also that the utter refusal of the French to entertain ev Chose this book to get a grounding in Vietnamese history and believe I got what I was looking for while simulateniously being entertained and excited by several new ideas. It's not just a straight up chronological account - Goscha manages to interweave a few theses/narratives into the factual fabric of the book. Two that stood out were the ideas that Vietnam has been defined by not only French, but Chinese and even Viet colonial projects, also that the utter refusal of the French to entertain even semi independence led Vietnam down the path of socialism. Nice to find a book that doesn't focus to heavily on the US war, but also would have liked a bit more on post-unification history. The last dozen pages on recent history were fascinating, although there were a few "the interwebs are like the modern printing press" moments.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn Harris

    An excellent book that provides an overview of the political, social and cultural history of Vietnam with an emphasis on the 19th and 20th centuries. Vietnam: A New History is thoroughly researched and scholarly but written a style accessible to readers new to the history of southeast Asia. While most English language histories of Vietnam focus almost exclusively on the Vietnam War, Goscha provides an extensive analysis of Chinese and French influences on Vietnamese culture in addition to the im An excellent book that provides an overview of the political, social and cultural history of Vietnam with an emphasis on the 19th and 20th centuries. Vietnam: A New History is thoroughly researched and scholarly but written a style accessible to readers new to the history of southeast Asia. While most English language histories of Vietnam focus almost exclusively on the Vietnam War, Goscha provides an extensive analysis of Chinese and French influences on Vietnamese culture in addition to the impact of the United States in the region. Goscha also addresses the cultural diversity of the region and Vietnam's relationship with other countries in Southeast Asia. An informative and interesting read.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Leftoutofdark

    Christopher Goscha's modern history of Vietnam felt like a good starting point to learning about the country, both entertaining and informative but I left enjoying the first half more than the second, the lack of extreme detail was more noticeable for me and as someone interested in the topic already I left knowing more than I started, but I would have liked to learn a lot more. Equivocation can be used to great effect to grant the reader better understanding, but at other times it, and Goscha's Christopher Goscha's modern history of Vietnam felt like a good starting point to learning about the country, both entertaining and informative but I left enjoying the first half more than the second, the lack of extreme detail was more noticeable for me and as someone interested in the topic already I left knowing more than I started, but I would have liked to learn a lot more. Equivocation can be used to great effect to grant the reader better understanding, but at other times it, and Goscha's liberalism, can be irritating. Despite this, I would still recommend reading this to anybody interested in the history of Vietnam, the anecdotes can be fascinating and though the author may paint in broad strokes it is an interesting painting nonetheless.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Scotty

    i struggled to follow along, as so much of the material was completely new to me. at about chapter 8 i realized i had forgotten all the names involved in the shift towards modern vietnam and went back to chapter 7 to give it another shot, only for it to zip right over my head again. the author has an idea of how he wants you to understand the history, and sometimes i found myself disagreeing with those assumptions and conclusions, wanting to at least get a chance to chew before i digest. but for i struggled to follow along, as so much of the material was completely new to me. at about chapter 8 i realized i had forgotten all the names involved in the shift towards modern vietnam and went back to chapter 7 to give it another shot, only for it to zip right over my head again. the author has an idea of how he wants you to understand the history, and sometimes i found myself disagreeing with those assumptions and conclusions, wanting to at least get a chance to chew before i digest. but for such a "brief" book on a country's history, i suppose decisions had to be made and implemented for brevity's sake. this was a great book, i'd absolutely recommend it to others. it was eye-opening.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Morag Forbes

    A very through evaluation of the emergence of the Modern Vietnam from 1750. Highlights in particular that Vietnam as we think of it has not existed for long. Draws various historical parallels across the years before asking about the future of the country. Most definitely not a light read and I thought the balance of time given to various events in places was a bit off. Plus the history of the northern highland communities seemed a little oddly stuck on at the end. However it is very well writte A very through evaluation of the emergence of the Modern Vietnam from 1750. Highlights in particular that Vietnam as we think of it has not existed for long. Draws various historical parallels across the years before asking about the future of the country. Most definitely not a light read and I thought the balance of time given to various events in places was a bit off. Plus the history of the northern highland communities seemed a little oddly stuck on at the end. However it is very well written and researched.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mark Walker

    As the blurb says, this is the best English language book about the history of Vietnam. It takes the US involvement as a given and shows the importance of a much broader perspective. Vietnam was a fractured place going back centuries, with multiple strands of ethnicity and religion. It shows the different approaches adopted by Vietnamese nationalists - some of whom thought that supporting the colonial power was the best way to get progress and independence. Vietnam was a pivotal geographic area i As the blurb says, this is the best English language book about the history of Vietnam. It takes the US involvement as a given and shows the importance of a much broader perspective. Vietnam was a fractured place going back centuries, with multiple strands of ethnicity and religion. It shows the different approaches adopted by Vietnamese nationalists - some of whom thought that supporting the colonial power was the best way to get progress and independence. Vietnam was a pivotal geographic area in the Cold War and a place for Soviets and Chinese to exert themselves, as well as western powers concerned with the spread of communism.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Lesley Parker

    If I could give half stars I'd go 3.5 but ultimately I thought this needed a dash more 'story telling' in the mix to help move the reader along. The detail is impressive, no doubt about it, but at points it was detailed to the point of wearying, and I'd lose track of the names (they rarely became memorable people to me). Impressive scholarship but dry. Probably the wrong choice on my part, when I was looking for a readable primer rather than something so encyclopedic. If I could give half stars I'd go 3.5 but ultimately I thought this needed a dash more 'story telling' in the mix to help move the reader along. The detail is impressive, no doubt about it, but at points it was detailed to the point of wearying, and I'd lose track of the names (they rarely became memorable people to me). Impressive scholarship but dry. Probably the wrong choice on my part, when I was looking for a readable primer rather than something so encyclopedic.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    Wow. This was probably one of the more exhaustive and academic books I’ve read since grad school, and, though long and intense, it was fascinating. I read it to prepare for a trip to Vietnam because my knowledge of SE Asian history was modest, at best. Many history books on Vietnam just cover the “American War,” so I appreciate that the book was comprehensive and covered 7000 BC to present day. It was A LOT to take in.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Peri Schacknow

    A comprehensive history that brings the reader/listener from the earliest days in the region almost through to present day, with an exhaustive look at the people and factors that shaped the country's path forward. Dense in spots, and packed with names, it can be a bit unwieldy for a non-scholar, but keeping the big picture in mind, it was an excellent primer and introduction to Vietnam. Kudos to Kirby Heyborne for a strong read with some very complicated pronunciations. A comprehensive history that brings the reader/listener from the earliest days in the region almost through to present day, with an exhaustive look at the people and factors that shaped the country's path forward. Dense in spots, and packed with names, it can be a bit unwieldy for a non-scholar, but keeping the big picture in mind, it was an excellent primer and introduction to Vietnam. Kudos to Kirby Heyborne for a strong read with some very complicated pronunciations.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.