Vietnam: British Government Records. Vietnam under French Rule 1919-1946: the nationalist challenge and the Japanese threat

ISBN:  (13) 978-1-84097-390-7 Published: 2018
Extent:  4 volumes, 3,500 pages Editor:  Robert L. Jarman and K.E. Evans
Paper: Printed on acid free paper
Binding:  Sewn-Cased Library Binding
See sample pages: not available


Vietnam under French Rule 1919-1946 is the first release in a new series of British Government documents concerning the territories that now constitute Vietnam. There are almost 3500 pages of political reports, diplomatic despatches and memoranda selected from British Government records illustrating the pursuit of nationhood by the regions which make up Vietnam today. The years 1919–1946 follow the struggle for freedom from French Colonial rule and the occupation by the Japanese during the Second World War.


This 4 volume set contains 3500 pages of political reports, diplomatic despatches, and memoranda selected from British Government records illustrating the pursuit of nationhood by the regions which make up Vietnam today. Tonkin, Annam, and Cochinchina from which Vietnam was constituted, governed by the French as part of French Indochina since 1887, were territories over which Britain had never held sway; yet at various stages throughout the turbulent twentieth century, events conspired in surprising ways to provide the British government with a significant role in shaping and determining their future for many years to come.
The documents have been selected from across all major departments of the British government - the Foreign, Colonial, Dominions and War Offices, the Prime Minister’s Office, as well as the Cabinet Office, and occasionally from other departments.
First in a new series: the years 1919–1946 follow the struggle for freedom from French Colonial rule and the occupation by the Japanese during the Second World War.


Volume 1: 1919–1939

Volume 2: 1939–1944

Volume 3: 1944–1945

Volume4: September 1945–March 1946


Example of a section from volume 1:

3.  Communism and nascent nationalism:growing resentment of France’s role in Indochina leads to increasingly violent disturbances, unrest, and the attempted assassination of Governor-General Merlin. In Paris, concerns are expressed about communist agitation, 1924–1925 


Extract from Malaya Command Intelligence Notes,31 May 1924, No. 17, Section “C”, “Indo-China” [communicated by War Office to Foreign Office, 2 July 1924] [FO...

Local press review of Indochina’s relationship to France; circular issued by Governor-General Merlin defining functions of central and local government in Indochina 


“Report [on Indochina] for the month of June 1924”, by F.G. Gorton, British Consul-General, Saigon, 3 July 1924 [for British Ambassador, Paris] [FO...

Attempted Annamite assassination of Governor-General Merlin at Canton seen as protest against French domination and indicative of existence of nascent nationalist party


Extract from “Report [on Indochina] for October 1924”, by F.G. Gorton, British Consul-General, Saigon, 31 October 1924 [FO...

Annamite dissidents now obtaining weapons from illegal Saigon arms trade and using current Saigon student strike as recruiting ground; predicts that unless French make concessions soon they will face a distinct native party with definite aims 


Letter, No. 396/1/1925, H.M. Knatchbull-Hugessen,British Embassy, Paris, to British Consul-General, Saigon, 19 February 1925 [FO...

Requests report on serious communist agitation in Indochina


Extract from K.E. Evans' introduction

Though forming part of a cohesive whole, each volume in the set has certain unique characteristics, largely determined by events and the nature of the material contained therein. Volume 1 therefore offers some valuable general introductory material – for example, the handbook on French Indochina, compiled in 1919, just as the old-established world order attempted to come to terms with the upheaval created by First World War and its aftermath. As the 1920s progressed, the British kept a watchful eye on all aspects of the internal conditions in French Indochina, paying attention in particular to the battle being waged by the French against both the rise of a nationalist movement and the emergence of communism. Consequently, the volume is saturated with a constant flow of detailed monthly reports and diplomatic despatches to the Foreign Office in London from officials on the spot who attempted to evaluate the political, social,economic and military situation as it appeared to them; these reports contain a surprisingly diverse range of information and are often supplemented by examples of political tracts, circulars or pamphlets, copies of speeches and extracts from the local press, many of which have been reproduced in this volume, and which provide valuable insights into aspects of the early development of nationalism and the communist movement in Indochina. 

Another of the highlights of Volume 1 is the correspondence selected relating to the imprisonment of Ho Chi Minh by the British in Hong Kong in the early 1930s, and the dilemma created as the French persisted in their efforts to try and bring him to justice for his revolutionary activities. Instead, the British authorities resisted French demands and, upon his release, even assisted Ho Chi Minh to evade re-arrest, whereupon he eventually made his way to Russia and relative safety. Had Britain succumbed to French pressures during this episode,the fate of Ho Chi Minh and the entire history of Vietnam might indeed have been very different. 

Aspects of the early development of Annamite nationalism and communism in Indochina,the implications of the return of Emperor Bao Dai from France, and by 1937 an increasing awareness of the early signs of Japanese aggression and encroachment, are all also prominent themes of the reports contained within Volume 1.