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Anglo–Vietnamese diplomatic relationship in the seventeenth century: the case of the English East India Company

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 June 2021

Ngoc Dung Tran*
Hanoi National University of Education, Hanoi, Viet Nam
Author for correspondence: Dung Ngoc Tran, E-mail:


Drawing on primary materials from the English East India Company (EIC) archives in the British Library (London, UK), this article investigates the early diplomatic encounters between England and Vietnam (Tonkin and Cochinchina) in the seventeenth century. Previous studies have mostly focused on the English trade in Vietnam in that period and their diplomatic missions from the late eighteenth century to 1858 but partly neglected their diplomacy in their first connections with Vietnam (1614–1705). This article thus investigates how the EIC adapted its gift-giving diplomacy to the diverse and shifting political landscape of the Tonkin and Cochinchina kingdoms. While the Trịnh Lords in Tonkin severely limited diplomatic and trade exchanges with EIC agents and other European traders, the Nguyễn Lords in Cochinchina welcomed relations with EIC representatives as it served their ambition to facilitate trade and establish military alliances with other powerful actors in the region.

Research Article
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press

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An earlier version of this article was published in Vietnamese. See Trần Ngọc Dũng “Tiếp xúc ngoại giao Anh – Việt Nam thế kỷ XVII dưới góc nhìn của người Anh” [Anglo–Vietnamese diplomatic connections in the seventeenth century from British perspective], Nghiên cứu Lịch sử [Historical Studies], vol. 4/516, 2019, pp. 11–22. This article refines the arguments made in the Vietnamese article and also includes new research by putting the Anglo-Vietnamese relations in the concept of English gift-giving diplomacy. More materials were investigated to provide viewpoints of Tonkin and Cochinchina in the relations with the English.


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