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The First Vietnam War
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Book description

Shawn McHale explores why the communist-led resistance in Vietnam won the anticolonial war against France (1945–54), except in the south. He shows how broad swaths of Vietnamese people were uneasily united in 1945 under the Viet Minh Resistance banner, all opposing the French attempt to reclaim control of the country. By 1947, resistance unity had shattered and Khmer-Vietnamese ethnic violence had divided the Mekong delta. From this point on, the war in the south turned into an overt civil war wrapped up in a war against France. Based on extensive archival research in four countries and in three languages, this is the first substantive English-language book focused on southern Vietnam's transition from colonialism to independence.

Reviews

‘Finally a book on the First Indochina War that goes beyond the standard account of a simple conflict between Ho Chi Minh’s Vietnam and the French. The war against the colonizer is there, but so is the one that divided Vietnamese until the bitter end. McHale provides a wonderfully researched and impressively argued story of violence and statecraft in southern Vietnam. It is a major contribution to our understanding of Vietnam.’

Christopher Goscha - Université du Québec à Montréal

‘In this pathbreaking book, Shawn F. McHale overturns much of the conventional historical wisdom about the Indochina War of 1945–1954 in the Mekong Delta. He shows that the war in the delta differed in crucial ways from the better-studied campaigns and battles that took place in central and northern Indochina. Instead of a straightforward narrative of anticolonial struggle and national liberation, The First Vietnam War reveals a complex and fragmented conflict shaped by local rivalries, ethnic violence, and civil warfare.’

Edward Miller - Dartmouth College

‘McHale’s innovative study is a welcome departure from the standard scholarship on the First Indochina War. Creatively combining ‘bottom up’ and ‘top down’ approaches, McHale demonstrates that local, ethnic, and religious conflicts shaped the war in the Mekong delta as much as larger imperial and nationalist forces.’

Nu-Anh Tran - University of Connecticut

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