An excellent piece of news for non-French-speaking students, scholars, and general readers interested in the region, in the Vietnam War, and in French imperialism, among other topics. Combining new approaches with a groundbreaking historical synthesis, this accessible work is the most thorough and up-to-date general history of French Indochina. Thus the work skillfully avoids nationalist, colonialist, and anticolonialist historiographies. With this approach, the authors are able to move beyond descriptive history into a nuanced exploration of the complexities of the French colonial period in Indochina
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Once the war had ended, the repatriation of these workers was an obligation for the new French government and an earnest desire for the majority of workers. When France made clear its confrontational stance towards the Viet Minh government, many workers revolted against the French policy that hindered the independence of their home country.
The financial burden was also a problem, and the French government, anxious about workers expanding their anticolonial movements, sought for their swift repatriation. However, following the onset and escalation of the Indochina War, smooth execution of such plans proved difficult to achieve.
The repatriation of workers from Viet Minh—controlled zones posed significant problems in particular. France feared that once returned, these people would assist the Viet Minh and join the resistance against France. Friction arose between the two sides: the Vietnamese frequently opposed the French, who would make many demands, especially to control workers from Viet Minh zones, but refuse to take any further financial responsibility.
During the war, mobilisation of local citizens in a colony was a policy employed by the metropole to strengthen the unity of the empire. After the war however, France was required to spend a great amount of effort in order to settle the debt created by this policy.
It has been argued that colonialism did not deviate from republicanism but was necessary to establish and reinforce the identity of the republican nation-state. Here, universality and disparity as well as liberalism and racialism joined hands to support colonial rule.
This notion that imperial expansion and nation-state development are complementary has produced rich research achievements revealing the complex, multi-layered character of colonisation. Most research, however, has focused on the process of colonial extension, paying little attention to the coexistence of two contradictory ideologies, which was gradually revealed toward the end of colonisation.
Thus, the present study focuses on the circumstances surrounding colonial subjects who crossed boundaries for the sake of war—namely, Vietnamese workers who travelled between colony and metropole, experiencing both the republican and colonial spheres.
For rulers, such people threaten colonial stability Dornel 6 , even though the structures of empires necessarily create them. Moreover, the two world wars produced huge numbers of colonised people who crossed such boundaries. Their presence would have various effects on both French society and their home countries after returning.
Vu-Hill and Le Van Ho have both shown that some soldiers and workers who returned to Indochina from France participated in the political and economic modernisation of the s. Those returnees also became dissatisfied with colonial authority and got involved in the labour and anti-France movements that intensified in the s Vu-Hill ; Le Van Ho In this sense, WWI presaged the beginning of decolonisation.
In short, while in some colonies mobilising migrant workers for the war effort engendered local resistance, the French empire controlled such opposition using both carrot and stick. Nonetheless, despite efforts by the government and the parti colonial to raise the colonial spirit during the interwar period, the empire was not received as a convincingly realistic concept for most of the French public Ageron a: For de Gaulle, colonies secured people and land in place of the occupied metropole, and resistance from the outside and continuation of the French Republic became possible through its empire.
Five hundred thousand colonised people joined the liberation effort, enabling France to secure victory. The French government, which had successfully mobilised colonial subjects during WWI, planned to quickly mobilise a labour force of , workers. However, hostilities ended with the German victory shortly after the war started, which resulted in people being mobilised on a small-scale, thus attracting little interest from historians. However, the process by which maintaining French colonial rule became increasingly difficult can be illuminated through the experiences of colonial subjects who, after a period of confusion in France, were returned to their native countries as anti-colonial movements emerged across the world.
These studies have clarified French mobilisation policies for Vietnamese workers, their working and living conditions and their political activities in France Angeli ; Stora ; Le Huu Khoa ; Le Huu Tho ; Daum ; Nguyen ; Luguern , , Of particular importance is the doctoral dissertation of Luguern , with its comprehensive investigation of archives and collection of historical evidence from elderly workers living in France and Vietnam.
My paper, on the other hand, focuses on the process of their return to Indochina, in order to consider their significance for the metropole and the colony during the Indochina War, and also to contextualise the chaotic situation France faced in the process of re-establishing control in Indochina.
How did the French authorities in the metropole and in the colony resolve their remaining wartime issues? After nearly a decade in France, how did the workers act when they had returned home, again facing colonial rule in a significantly changed situation? These include reports and letters written by organisations that held jurisdiction over the workers, such as the domestic French Ministry of Labour, the Ministry of the Colonies, the Ministry of Overseas France, and the province administrations in which many Vietnamese workers stayed.
Carefully parsing these texts will clarify differences in perceptions of the repatriation of Vietnamese workers between different organisations, as well as the choices and actions of the workers themselves. In , close to 4, Vietnamese were stationed there. Bougerol and Mohamed-Gaillard revealed the actual situation of Vietnamese workers in this French colony; their fates strongly influenced by the respective conditions in their homeland and their place of residence.
Their existence, which involved being moved from one colony to another colony, makes it possible to understand, over a broader range of time and space, the ways in which colonised people were put to use in the empire, as well as the attendant consequences. However, the complicated situation in Indochina problematised their return. Tensions arose between France and the Ho Chi Minh government, resulting in the outbreak of the Indochina War at the end of In early , France seized principal cities in Indochina and by late had suppressed many important agricultural regions.
However, many farming villages and interior areas remained under Viet Minh control. Thus, territories were divided into zones controlled by France and by the Viet Minh, though the boundaries were vague and constantly changing Dalloz Thus, a provisional interim government gouvernement central provisoire du Vietnam was created in June with Nguyen Van Xuan as president. Governors were appointed for the northern, central, and southern regions, and administration systems were established with Vietnamese staff.
Nevertheless, power in these areas was actually held by the French federal institutions. This experience raises questions about how workers responded to this period of confusion, which saw the easy collapse of the republicanism that had justified colonial rule during the French Third Republic, the repressive Vichy regime, four years of German occupation, the ensuing revival of republicanism, and finally the French invasion of Indochina.
They were divided into 73 companies and deployed to gunpowder manufacturing factories and other war industries. There, they engaged in various jobs, including agriculture, rice farming, salt manufacturing, and factory labour. For some, their employer was the occupying German army Angeli Their distrust of authority likely increased as they witnessed rapid changes in the regime and the purge of Vichy supporters.
To avoid friction with workers, the DTI would refrain from intervention. In one camp, the French commander started to pay visits only at night. Vietnamese residents, especially politicised intellectuals, tried to mobilise the newly arrived in the struggle for national independence.
Vietnamese students, intellectuals, soldiers, and workers showed solidarity for Vietnamese independence during this period despite class differences, which had not always been the case in the past. Anti-French behaviour was facilitated in part by the presence of cohorts. The official role of the delegates, who could speak French, was to facilitate communication between Vietnamese workers and DTI officials. Unofficially, they raised funds to support worker activities, gave lists of demands to the DTI, and identified workers too sympathetic to France.
Many delegates were hired as interpreters or supervisors, and they had better salaries than workers. The post-war financial situation was serious for both the French government, working on politics and economic rebuilding after liberation from four years of German occupation, and for the colonial authorities in Indochina, battling the Viet Minh after four and a half years of Japanese military presence and the loss of suzerainty through the Japanese coup de force.
In , military expenses had increased 13 times over the previous year Tertrais As such, costs related to maintaining and repatriating Vietnamese workers were deemed unnecessary and burdensome. France, therefore, tried to get rid of these workers, causing friction even with Vietnamese administrators cooperative with France. During WWI, 47, workers had been mobilised from Indochina to France, and employers had praised their adaptability and assiduity Vu-Hill The authorities believed work would improve their attitudes—with less free time on their hands, they would be less likely to participate in political activities.
Moreover, the delegates had specified that workers should not help produce goods that France might use for military operations in Indochina. By late , approximately workers had been deployed to various worksites in this division, including the cannery, packaging materials factory, and paper mill.
However, these measures did not provide stable employment. Workers were subsequently divided into seven categories: workers unsuitable for training 4, , regular agricultural workers , upper-level agricultural workers , industrial and manual workers suitable for demanding manual labour , industrial or manual workers suitable for somewhat active labour 1, , workers suitable for sedentary industries or manual work , and workers suitable for professional training However, after conducting tests, the number of workers sent to training was less than half the initial target: only 1, workers had completed their training as of August Despite taking the time to categorise workers, attempts to provide job training had already failed at this point.
With the war over, there was no reason for mobilised Vietnamese workers to remain in France. While repatriation was the natural option for both the workers and the French, this was not obvious to both parties. This section discusses how, as the France—Viet Minh conflict intensified and the Indochina War erupted at the end of , the intricate situations surrounding the French authorities, colonial authorities, and workers themselves served to complicate repatriation. Timing was also an issue Luguern , The first large-scale repatriation was planned for July , but some workers resisted this plan.
Negotiations over Vietnamese independence were scheduled to take place in France in July between Ho Chi Minh delegates and the French government. Workers protested that repatriation was convenient for the French side, considering the influence a large-scale Vietnamese presence in France would have on the negotiations and public opinion. As a result, the planned repatriation of 1, workers was cancelled.
In September , officials planned to repatriate workers from the Sorgues camp, but only 66 were willing to return home. Most were dubious about returning during the Indochina War, demanding that upon repatriation, French authorities would not intern them but allow them to return to their homes immediately.
This is because while you resist the invaders, we are unable to arm ourselves to exterminate the enemy, just crossing our arms instead. Meanwhile, some workers who had adapted to French society wanted to stay Luguern , France wanted to prioritise profits and get rid of the workers.
Colonial authorities, meanwhile, were concerned about the impact of repatriating a large number of workers in an already unstable situation. The conseiller aux Affaires sociales of the HCI stated:. Workers from the Viet Minh controlled zones must remain in France. There is absolutely nothing to be gained from sending them to Indochina.
As discussed earlier, a major reason for this decision was that maintaining workers placed financial stress on France. To this end, France mobilised as many ships as possible, whether military, merchant, or private Bodin Because of the shortage of vessels and the escalation of conflict, repatriation could not progress smoothly.
France regained these areas within three months, deploying more than , soldiers by September Dalloz With the intensification of conflict in Tonkin and Annam, where most workers were from, practically no workers were repatriated during this period, though repatriation efforts resumed in early A mission was sent to France from Indochina to facilitate repatriation.
This involved several French people fluent in Vietnamese as well as Vietnamese staff who had helped mobilise workers before the war. This involved repressive controls and patriarchal protection, which had assumed a different character during the war and frequently caused tension.
By April , the CSJ base had been constructed around the military barracks. Here, workers were temporarily interned before returning to their homes to complete various clerical procedures. Two internment camps with a combined capacity of 2, internees were established inside the base to keep certain groups from coming into contact.
To prevent illegal meetings, rooms were partitioned into private spaces for approximately 10 people.
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