Rice Wars in Colonial Vietnam: The Great Famine and the Viet Minh Road to Power

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Rowman & Littlefield, Feb 21, 2014 - History - 344 pages
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This book offers the first detailed English-language examination of the Great Vietnamese Famine of 1945, which left at least a million dead, and links it persuasively to the largely unexpected Viet Minh seizure of power only months later. Drawing on extensive research in French archives, Geoffrey C. Gunn offers an important new interpretation of Japanese–Vichy French wartime economic exploitation of Vietnam’s agricultural potential. He analyzes successes and failures of French colonial rice programs and policies from the early 1900s to 1945, drawing clear connections between colonialism and agrarian unrest in the 1930s and the rise of the Viet Minh in the 1940s. Gunn asks whether the famine signaled a loss of the French administration’s “mandate of heaven,” or whether the overall dire human condition was the determining factor in facilitating communist victory in August 1945.

In the broader sweep of Vietnamese history, including the rise of the communist party, the picture that emerges is not only one of local victimhood at the hands of outsiders—French and, in turn, Japanese— but the enormous agency on the part of the Vietnamese themselves to achieve moral victory over injustice against all odds, no matter how controversial, tragic, and contested the outcome. As the author clearly demonstrates, colonial-era development strategies and contests also had their postwar sequels in the “American war,” just as land, land reform, and subsistence-sustainable development issues persist into the present.
 

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Contents

Introduction
1
The Agrarian Setting
11
1 Land Ownership in Vietnam 1930
35
Anticolonial Resistance
43
The Rice Rebellions 193031
75
1 Price of Rice in Piasters at Vinh
86
The Popular Front Years 193639
107
Vichy and the Japanese Occupation 194045
135
The August Revolution of 1945 and Its Defense
193
1 Ethnic Minorities of the Viet Bac Region 193839
195
The Great Vietnamese Famine 194445
229
5
240
1 Resident Superior Chauvets Timetable for Famine
248
Epilogue
261
Glossary
281
Index
297

1 Monthly Payments in Piasters fromVichy
145
3 Japanese Industrial Crop Production in Tonkin 194345
155
Allied Power Plays over Indochina
165

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About the author (2014)

Geoffrey C. Gunnis professor emeritus of economics at Nagasaki University and visiting professor at the University of Macau.

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