Published online by Cambridge University Press: 17 August 2021
In the standard arguments about the First Indochina War, 1945–54, known in Vietnam today as the Resistance War against the French, a resolute, initially outmatched, and broad-based Vietnamese revolutionary nationalist Resistance fights against a powerful French military, ultimately triumphing against great odds. This is usually presented as a very ‘northern’ story. In contrast, this book centers on the South, with its own particular history, where the communist-led Resistance failed to win. Why? One reason: this was both a civil war involving Vietnamese (and Khmer) and a war pitting Vietnamese against the French. It was not, in other words, a simple two-sided conflict. To understand this complexity and its dynamics, this chapter examines in depth the issues of sovereignty, institutions (and their collapse), and violence, as this discussion helps to frame the book as a whole.