Books: reading before you go, or for the armchair traveler

Ho Chi Minh

Duicker, William J.

This major and scholarly biography of the near-mythical Vietnamese leader is based on substantial research and material only recently made available. It details the events, ideas and relationships which made Ho Chi Minh (1890-1969) such a major figure in 20th century history and the English-speaking have here for the first time a rounded portrayal of this charismatic and still-influential figure. Referenced, with maps and photographs.

Understanding Vietnam

Jamieson, Neil L.

Jamieson paints a portrait of twentieth-century Vietnam. Against the background of traditional Vietnamese culture, he takes us through the saga of modern Vietnamese history and Western involvement in the country, from the coming of the French in 1858 through the Vietnam War and its aftermath. Throughout his analysis, he allows the Vietnamese to speak for themselves through poetry, fiction, essays, newspaper editorials and reports of interviews and personal experiences.

“Quite simply the most insightful interpretation of Vietnam ever to appear anywhere. No other book touches such vital issues; no other book explains so much; no other book is as important.”—Leonard Bushkoff, Asian Wall Street Journal Weekly

Vietnam Today: A Guide to a Nation at a Crossroads

Ashwill, Mark. with Thai Ngoc Diep.

In Vietnam Today: A Guide to a Nation at a Crossroads, Dr. Mark Ashwill and Thai Ngoc Diep paint a broad picture of Vietnam, past and present, and explore today’s defining issues. Readers come to understand how a two-thousand-year history of foreign invasion, occupation and war has influenced the Vietnamese character. The Chinese, French and Americans have all left their imprint, and the struggle against opposition has infused the Vietnamese with a fierce spirit of nationalism and caution in their dealings with foreigners. Building relationships and trust as a prelude to doing business are critical to the Vietnamese, whether at home or abroad.

Vietnam 1945: The Quest for Power

Marr, David G.

1945: the most significant year in the modern history of Vietnam. One thousand years of dynastic politics and monarchist ideology came to an end. Eight decades of French rule lay shattered. Five years of Japanese military occupation ceased. Allied leaders determined that Chinese troops in the north of Indochina and British troops in the South would receive the Japanese surrender. Ho Chi Minh proclaimed the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, with himself as president. Drawing on extensive archival research, interviews, and an examination of published memoirs and documents, David Marr has written a richly detailed and descriptive analysis of this crucial moment in Vietnamese history. He shows how Vietnam became a vortex of intense international and domestic competition for power, and how actions in Washington and Paris, as well as Saigon, Hanoi, and Ho Chi Minh’s mountain headquarters, interacted and clashed, often with surprising results. Marr’s book probes the ways in which war and revolution sustain each other, tracing a process that will interest political scientists and sociologists as well as historians and Southeast Asia specialists.

“Drawing on an impressive array of materials in several languages, presents a detailed account of that complex phenomenon known to the Vietnamese people as the August Revolution. . . . magnificent book. . . . Marr does what he does best—to weave together a rich and complex tapestry of one of the key periods in the history of modern Vietnam.” Association for Asian Studies Journal

Saigon: Mistress of the Mekong

Edwards, Anastasia (Editor)

Saigon has a long and unique history, having been a Cambodian city, a French city, and an American city, as well as a Vietnamese city. Many foreigners have resided or travelled there since as early as the seventeenth century, drawn by its strategic position in the fertile Mekong Delta, its economic possibilities, and, in the case of missionaries, its potential converts.

This anthology brings together some seventy extracts about the city, by characters as diverse as 17th century missionaries, 19th century businessmen, famous novelists, and Vietnamese martyrs. Several of these extracts have never previously been published, and many appear in English for the first time. Among the authors represented are Graham Greene, John Pilger, Colin Thubron, Somerset Maugham, and Osbert Sitwell. Among the pieces included are a description of a lion fight held by a legendary eunuch who ruled Saigon in the 19th century, an anecdote about one of Saigon’s most famous courtesans, and extracts from the private diaries of the wife of an American ambassador to Saigon during the Vietnam war. This anthology tells the story of Saigon’s evolution from a small village in a forest, via its long colonisation by the French and briefer colonisation by the Americans, to the fiercely Vietnamese city it is today. The perfect companion on a trip to Ho Chi Minh City, … or for the armchair traveller at home.

Other Mekong Musings

Well, since you have come this far, maybe we can share some more interesting reading, not necessarily related to Vietnam. We live in a world where we are all instantly connected via the internet. Here are some interesting items that that we have found. They suggest that you should be sure to have your computer with you when you come to Vietnam, to keep in touch with the “outside world,” and also to share with others your experiences here in Vietnam, while they are fresh.

Click here for more …

Other online reference sources

Country Background Note: Vietnam (U.S. Department of State

World Bank: Vietnam Data and Statistics

CIA World Factbook

U.S. Library of Congress: Vietnam Country Study, 1989

U.S. Library of Congress: Vietnam Country Study, Updated Country Profile, Dec 2005

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