Master of Arts (MA)



Document Type



This thesis concerns colonial French Indochina, specifically the area known today as Vietnam. Located south of China and east of India on the southeastern-most peninsula of the Asian continent, Indochina comprises the modern-day countries of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. After European contact, the future country of Vietnam was divided into three main provinces: Tonkin in the north, Annam in the center, and Cochinchina in the south. After their establishment in the Southeast Asian country in the mid-nineteenth century, the French sought to improve existing, and to build new infrastructure to increase the productive capacity of the colony. The more efficient the colonial economy was, the more profit there was for the mother country. Unfortunately, what was good for France was not always good for Indochina. While most scholars focus on other causes of the Vietnam War, they rarely discuss how direct French influence was a prime factor. The purpose of this thesis is to explore how the French attempted to improve the status of their colony and how these improvements affected the lives of the local population, both negatively and positively. Chapter 1 addresses the foundation of the colony from its missionary roots to its final conquest in the latter part of the 1800s. Chapter 2 discusses two important loans granted by the French government in Paris, first in 1898 and then in 1912. The focus is on the second loan of 90 million francs, for colonial officials squandered much of the first loan of 200 million francs. With this new sum, the French planned to establish better irrigation methods, education systems, transportation, and communication. While their intent was to improve the colony for profitable gain, the French emphasized both to the indigenous population and to the population at home that the new infrastructure could greatly benefit the lives of the Indochinese. Chapter 3 discusses how French influence and technology affected the Annamites and why this influence forced them to seek independence. After years of oppression and promises of a better future, the Annamites ultimately lost many of their traditions and customs in trying to become French and moved towards rebellion.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Benjamin F. Martin



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