Vietnam Revolution 1945 I

Program Information

Series: A Moment in Time
Duration: 00:04:02
Year Produced: 2010
Description:

In 1945, Vietnam stood at a crossroads. Decisions made then in Washington, Paris, Saigon and Hanoi provoked a war lasting three decades. The roots of the war are found far in the past.

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Transcript

Lead: In 1945, Vietnam stood at a crossroads. Decisions made then in Washington, Paris, Saigon and Hanoi provoked a war lasting three decades. The roots of the war are found far in the past.

Intro: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: At the southeast corner of the Eurasian land mass lies Indochina. It is a region of rugged beauty: thick tropical forests, deep valleys between high mountain peaks, broad rich coastal plains. Over the centuries it has been the immigrant destination of much racial and ethnic diversity. The Khmer peoples probably came from western India before settling in present day Cambodia. The Lao, related ethnically to the Thai, traveled south from China's Yunan province. The Vietnamese moved in a generally southern direction from the Yangtze valley in China.

Beginning in the third century, Vietnam enters the annals as a group of administrative districts ruled by the Chinese. For twelve centuries the native Vietnamese struggled, sometimes successfully, against Chinese domination. In 1426, under the legendary emperor Le Loi, the Vietnamese secured their independence from China. He established his capital at Hanoi and a dynasty which lasted for 400 years. Le Loi and one of his successors, Le Thanh Tong, instituted land reform, vast internal improvements, a relatively liberal legal code, and expanded educational opportunities. They also created a complex administrative structure and formed a huge standing army to prevent the Chinese from coming back to enforce central governmental authority.

Despite these reforms and the absence of any serious external threat, from the early 1500s Vietnam was torn apart by clan conflict between the Trinh family dominant in the north and Nguyen clan whose power base was in the central and southern regions. The war between North and South Vietnam after 1954, to a certain degree, reflected these ancient regional divisions. Meanwhile, European powers were reaching out to discover and exploit the natural resources and trading opportunities of Asia. Taking advantage of internal clan divisions and encouraged by Roman Catholic missionaries, the French in the late 1700s began to move into Vietnam.

Next time: France and the roots of Vietnamese nationalism.

At the University of Richmond, this is Dan Roberts.