Read Vietnam: A New History by Christopher E. Goscha Online


A 2017 Cundill History Prize Finalist"Groundbreaking...Goscha has provided quite simply the finest, most readable single-volume history of Vietnam in English."--GuardianIn Vietnam, Christopher Goscha tells the full history of Vietnam, from antiquity to the present day. Generations of emperors, rebels, priests, and colonizers left complicated legacies in this remarkable couA 2017 Cundill History Prize Finalist"Groundbreaking...Goscha has provided quite simply the finest, most readable single-volume history of Vietnam in English."--GuardianIn Vietnam, Christopher Goscha tells the full history of Vietnam, from antiquity to the present day. Generations of emperors, rebels, priests, and colonizers left complicated legacies in this remarkable country. Periods of Chinese, French, and Japanese rule reshaped and modernized Vietnam, but so too did the colonial enterprises of the Vietnamese themselves as they extended their influence southward from the Red River Delta. Over the centuries, numerous kingdoms, dynasties, and states have ruled over--and fought for--what is now Vietnam. The bloody Cold War-era conflict between Ho Chi Minh's communist-backed Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the American-backed Republic of Vietnam was only the most recent instance when war divided and transformed Vietnam.A major achievement, Vietnam offers the grand narrative of the country's complex past and the creation of the modern state of Vietnam. It is the definitive single-volume history for anyone seeking to understand Vietnam today....

Title : Vietnam: A New History
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780465094363
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 592 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Vietnam: A New History Reviews

  • Hadrian
    2019-06-09 20:13

    Thoughtful single-volume history of Vietnam which presents a complex picture, more than a blank history page before the arrival of the French and the Americans.Begins with the Han Dynasty's invasion of the Red River valley in the 1st century BCE and the emergence of what Goscha calls a 'Sino-Viet' elite. Vietnam has been influenced much by its larger neighbor - the Vietnamese language was written with Chinese characters until the 19th century, Buddhism is still popular, and an imperial examination system based on Confucian texts was in place for centuries. It was not until the 10th century CE that the Chinese were routed by the general Ngô Quyền, who formed an independent Viet state.His successors were not content with that; they expanded their state further south with a combination of military campaigns and rural administration to reach to the Mekong, and 'civilize' Lao, Cham, and other minorities along the way. By the time the French arrived in the mid-19th century, there was already a colonial bureaucracy - the new one just had a French veneer. Goscha moves through the 20th century at a brisk pace (spending only one chapter on the American intervention), and then Vietnam invaded Cambodia to dislodge the Khmer Rouge, then the Chinese invaded the north, then years of economic scarcity and hundreds of thousands of refugees. After a series of economic reforms and a diplomatic reversal, Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, is now a wealthy city, and they much prefer Americans to the Chinese. The book closes with a few sharp observations on the political future of the CPV, where no one knows what comes after.

  • Mike Flores
    2019-06-08 19:17

    VIETNAM A New History lives up to its title. For the first time we discover all sides of the conflict, that's right, we get Vietnam's side,too. Both the North and the South and the groups at play in both.The book takes us on a journey through Vietnam's history ands it turns out we were only one of many who had problems in the region. The book even shows us how disaster could happen again. As China and the U.S. tries to understand how to deal with each other this book becomes urgent. Best history of Vietnam I have ever read and author Christopher Goscha is now the top Vietnam historian. For the first time, all sides of Vietnam. Including Vietnam's.

  • J.M. Hushour
    2019-06-14 14:59

    I'm no SE Asia specialist, but this is easily one of the best histories of a state/region I've read over the last few years reading a history of every country in the world.I'm sure there are those who will find something to gripe about, no matter what their political stripe. After all, that's what that stripe is for (much like a skunk). For the layfolk, this is a grand book, balancing enough ancient past for precedent's sake with enough modern stuff, thankfully giving the Second Indochinese War (here in the States, we call it 'Nam or, "the shit") a decent, respectable section without going overboard. As for political balance, I think Goscha does his best with what will prove to be an area of study possessed of an interminable sense of controversy. The war was fucking terrible and he makes that clear, and all sides share in the blame.What I liked best was his approach to Vietnam itself, as a state, finding the whole idea of "European colonialism" sufficient in one sense but one-sided in another, for Vietnam itself was very much a colonial state. The S-shape came from Nguyen conquests all the way done to the Mekong and back. Folks in the highlands were colonized and Vietnized just as the Viet were Frenchified and colonized. (The French come out the worse in all this.)Nothing is as clear cut. Diem was just as rank and guilty of despicable acts against his own people as much as Ho Chi Minh was. America's SE Asia policy was horrible, but so was China's, and Goscha spends some time discussing the third wave of conflict in the area involving Cambodia and Vietnam.Overall, a great book. The highland peoples and Viet culture only get one chapter each, near the end, but as it is largely a political narrative, I found that acceptable.

  • Peter A
    2019-06-08 14:18

    Growing up in the United States in the late 1960’s, Vietnam received a lot of coverage. Being a male of a “draftable” age, it also focused me a great deal on Vietnam. After I visited Vietnam for the first time in 2007, I started forming new impressions of the country and its people. Subsequent visits only increased my desire to learn more about Vietnam. When I started looking for books about the country, most of what I uncovered focused on the period of the late 60’s and early 70’s. Finally, I discover the book by Christopher Goscha, and read several reviews that were all very positive. Thus, I read it.Overall this book is very insightful and well researched. As the subtitle of the book states, and the author argues in his opening pages, that given recent research it is time to write a new history. “It still takes into account this country’s position in a coveted part of the world where empires collide, but it also emphasizes Vietnam’s own role in shaping its history and highlights the country’s extraordinary diversity and complexity. Most importantly, it emphasizes that there has never been one Vietnam but several remarkably varied ones.”The author presents a very interesting perspective about Vietnam, through focused chapters and how narrates the chapters. In each chapter, he also provides a very nice lead section that help illustrate what we are going to discover in the chapter.After reading the book and the insights therein, my view of Vietnam has deepened. In many ways, Vietnam is a mixture of cultures; not just of the French influence, but more importantly of the multiple groups that populated Vietnam over at least the last two thousand years. Vietnam is a story of how one group, the Viet, ultimately expanded from the north and “colonized” the rest of what we now know as Vietnam (and of course the influence into Laos and Cambodia). The current national boundaries are relatively recent (say 1940’s). It is also the story of nationalism, strong desire to be independent of France, US, and China, of the different approaches (republicanism from the French, communism from the Soviet Union and China) to state building and statecraft. The book also shows the ugly side of politics gone awry, the plunge into the Vietnam war without thinking about the consequences – an important lesson for today - for not wanting to back down; and how global politics can play out and influence local issues. I very much appreciated the final chapter and conclusion. The final chapter, “Vietnam from Beyond the Red River”, talks about the many other ethnic groups that are part of the larger story. The conclusion, “Authoritarianism, Republicanism, and Political Change” points to the ongoing dynamics that continue to influence Vietnam into its future, with a hint of the staying power of republicanism in the Vietnam.A note to the author: I appreciate the maps and the brief summary of abbreviations. I wish there were an annotated list of “key characters”, with an indication of when and where they appear in this story. A note to potential readers: You will learn a great deal from this book. However, there are many details (and names), and you may feel overwhelmed with these details. Other Books: Since 2015 at least three books with a more comprehensive look at Vietnam has been published. Current Book: Vietnam: A New History, Christopher Goscha (published September 2016, 592 pages)Two other books that look interesting and seem to have very good reviews areViet Nam: A History from Earliest Tim, Ben Kiernan (published March 2017, 656 pages, Dragon, Rising Tiger: A History of Vietnam, Vu Hong Lien and Peter Sharrock (published January 2015, 272 pages) would be interested to hearing from those who read any of these books, or others.

  • Keen
    2019-05-29 14:10

    This is a fairly exhaustive and extensive account of modern Vietnam and is clearly the work of a skilled authority, backed up with a whole myriad of research. Goscha has done a fine job of tracking the history from the early settlers through to colonialism, colonial collaboration, colonial expansion, through various warring dynasties and demonstrates how seemingly outside events like the Opium Wars and the Cold War came to impact on Vietnamese shores. He traces the horrendous events of the 20th century through three Indochinese conflicts and the eventual Modernisation.Goscha illustrates how the legacy and influence of around 1000 years of Chinese rule and around 80 years of French rule have been absorbed to help create the Vietnam of today. He describes the Nguyen state era, with compelling characters like Minh Mang. We see how Confucianism, Catholicism and Buddhism fought for supremacy amidst an ever shifting political, religious and territorial landscape. He also shows us how the country managed to form and shape its own culture, partly through the long standing Sino-Franco influence but how they transformed an identity of their own with the introduction of the Quoc Ngu script. We see that the Vietnam as most of the world knows it has never really existed for long as one, united nation.The US apparently subsidised around 80% of France’s campaign against Vietnam during the first Indochina War before getting involved directly and causing the Second Indochina War (or Vietnam War). I was unaware that an estimated 5000 to 15000 people were murdered by the communists during the 50s before the US intervened. It was a harsh regime which encouraged children to spy on their parents and neighbours to denounce each other. Apparently both North and South Vietnam indulged in human rights abuses, arbitrary arrests, torture, censorship, executions, forced labours and use of concentration camps before the Americans got involved.Goscha produces the horrifying facts and stats about the hugely imbalanced Vietnam War and the appalling consequences, particularly for innocent civilians and minority hill tribes. The legacy of the war continued for years afterwards with hundreds of thousands of boat people fleeing to places like the US, Canada, France and Australia. It took the reforms of 1986 to eventually lead the country into taking some large, though measured and limited steps towards capitalism and the nation seems to have grown steadily since then eventually becoming the 3rd largest exporter of rice in the world and the 2nd biggest producer of coffee.This was an interesting read that should please scholars and the history/Vietnam enthusiast alike. There were times when it was maybe a little too dry and detailed, but that’s sometimes the price you have to pay for such a well-researched and detailed work.

  • Chris Jaffe
    2019-05-20 17:00

    There is a lot here, but I dunno if I got a lot out of it.This is interesting and has some nice points to make. One nice point is about the role of colonization. Goscha points out at the outset that the French weren't the only colonizers - so were the Viet, as they became more and more important in the period before the arrival of the French, and that there are still plenty of non-Viet people in the country. That's an intriguing point ..... I just wished it had been better developed. With a point like that, I'd expect several chapters on Vietnam until the French show up - but, no - they arrive in Chapter 2. I'd expect the diversity of Vietnam to be a factor throughout -but not really. Instead, the next-to-last chapter notes this has been a largely Viet-centric history of the land, so to make up for it, here's a chapter thrown in at the end on the nation's diversity. It's an awkward, weird fit, as all the previous chapters had been largely chronological, and then you get this one that feels like it got lost on its way to a sociology book and wandered into a history book instead.Most of the book is a typical historical overview, and in that regard it's fine. But it's also disappointing.

  • Howard
    2019-06-02 16:10

    On the positive side, I now know a huge amount more about how Vietnam developed into the unitary state that it became, for the first time, after 1975, and how the regional tensions within the country persisted over several centuries (and probably right up to the present time). And my knowledge of the pretty disastrous French colonial period has gone from practically nothing to a reasonable amount, as has my awareness of how Ho Chi Minh and the DRV interacted with the Chinese and Soviet states from the 1920s until the end of the twentieth century. But, I have to say it was immensely hard going at times. One of the problems being that keeping track of Vietnamese names was (for me) almost impossible. Another that the author seems to abhor data, so there are very few figures to help get the reader's mind immersed in the practical development of modern Vietnam. Additionally, despite being almost 500 pages long, Goscha's history seemed to me to be rather lacking in detail relating to where the actual power lay at various periods -- particularly the four decades since unification -- and how that power has been wielded, and what the reaction of the Vietnamese people has been to all this.Informative, yes. Big holes in the narrative, however, and not exactly an enjoyable read

  • Anthony Nelson
    2019-06-16 21:58

    There is lots of good material in this book, but a reader hoping for insight into the less well-trod portions of modern Vietnamese history will be disappointed. After promising to focus on Vietnam's story beyond colonialization, the French arrive in chapter two, and precious little time is spent on Vietnam's economic modernization or indeed anything post 1975. Ethnic minorities are handled in a brief, tacked on section at the end of the book rather than being included with the main narrative. If you are looking for one book to give you a sweeping overview of Vietnam's transition from colonialism to independence, this is a good pick, but a reader already familiar with the country will be disappointed.

  • Viet Phuong
    2019-05-22 21:25

    An excellent and comprehensive book on the complicated history of Vietnam. The best thing about this history book might be the fact that the author tried his best to balance the predominant description of Vietnam history through the lens of either Orientalist American scholars or Viet historians (who often narrate the history of the country from the Viet point of view - the view of the majority in modern Vietnamese society) with lesser-known voices from other native communities. In addition, Christopher Goscha's de-glorification of wars (in general, and "patriotic wars" in particular) and military forces, no matter which side, is also a very nice touch (although more thorough portrays of politicians from both sides of the Vietnam War would be better for the audience to grasp the big picture of this period of Vietnam history). In particular, the lesser focus on warfare and tactical descriptions of battles is indeed an excellent choice, as more pages were available for detailed discussion of the social and political context of the war. The book still has its own problems, though. First of all, the fact that the author cannot speak Vietnamese is obvious and frustrating, which is exemplified by multiple misspellings and slight mistranslations. For such an esteemed scholar in Vietnam history, such incapability to speak the native language of that country really is disappointing (even though they are mostly minor errors and do not really affect the overall quality of the book). Secondly, Goscha's description of some events like the 1954 partition and southward migration leaned heavily on personal and emotional perspectives without any in-depth discussion of the underlying reasons for the occurrence of such events and their institutional and socio-economic attributes. Some parts of the book are also either shallow (like the explanation of the coup that led to Diem's assassination - as there had been coups before that "final destination" of the Ngo brothers, Americans were just more complicit in this last attempt to overthrow the Diem regime) or debatable (like whether Dai Viet got military techniques like gunpowder or cannon before the Ming invasion or not), but even if those are factual errors, I believe that they are only unintentional ones. Finally, this book has an awful final chapter, which is a forceful portray of "the rise of the republicans" in the modern society of Vietnam while totally neglecting to discuss the complicated Vietnam-China relationship that heavily affects the current social face of Vietnam. If only Goscha could spend more time to clearly explain the rise (from nowhere) of anti-communism in the early years of the 20th century than the pseudo-existence of republicanism in the 21st century. A great book about Vietnam and one that should be read widely by Vietnamese and foreigners alike, still.

  • Jared Peterson
    2019-05-29 14:11

    In the arena of historical non-fiction critics, the golden laurels are - with rare exception - laid upon those books that aim for depth and nuance in a unique corner of history that is neglected. Unquestionably, these books are incredible works of scholarship and deserve all of their accolades. It is also clear why they receive the most attention from critics, as history book critics tend to be voracious readers of the subject and experts in their field. Unless they are seeking a form of penance, another survey history of the American Revolution or Athens is an exercise in wanton tedium.As such, a wonderfully researched, organized and composed survey history of a period is often underappreciated by the critical establishment. It is not to cast blame, but merely to recognize that a true expert, as they grow to treat their field as an old and familiar friend, cannot truly step in the mindset of a novice that is entering the landscape, names and themes of a historical period for the first time."Vietnam: A New History" is one of those great survey works. In its richness, depth, and idiosyncrasies, history of Vietnam is a highly rewarding - yet very challenging - saga for many Western readers to grasp. It does not hew close to familiar Western themes and archetypes. The peninsula has rarely been a unified land, with multiple coincident narratives for any century. Finally, in the aftermath of the 20th century conflagration that engulfed the country, there are many interested parties in telling various versions of Vietnam's history. Goscha faces bravely the uphill challenge of both explaining a complex history, while also addressing the various preconceived notions of his readers.In this challenge, Goscha largely succeeds. "Vietnam" is a marvelous introduction for the newcomer first seeking a serious understanding of Vietnam and its people. Goscha does an excellent job in creating a map of Vietnamese history, creating the contours and outlines of its course, personalities and themes. As a map, "Vietnam" gives its readers the ability to venture forward into more focused studies of specific landmarks in Vietnamese history and serves as an excellent context for these continued journeys.

  • Maggie
    2019-06-15 22:19

    As a history buff and young adult during the Vietnam War, I wanted to know more about the history of this country. Goscha's book gave me what I was looking for, going back in time, covering the details of the period I was familiar with, and bringing me up almost up to the present. I would also recommend "The Sympathizer" by Viet Thanh Nguyen (a novel) and "Ho Chi Minh" by William Duiker. Vietnam and the Vietnam War are such complicated subjects that one or two books aren't enough to understand them. The war also included Laos and Cambodia, and Goscha goes into some of their histories as well. Apparently, Vietnam was a colonizer (in Cambodia, for example), as well as colonized, and this helps the reader better understand the tragic emergence of Pol Pot and the Khmers Rouges. One and a half to three million Cambodians were killed in the Cambodian genocide, and three million Vietnamese and hundreds of thousands of Laotians died in the Vietnam War, so these are key events in world history. Also, the Vietnamese fought against the French colonial regime from 1945 to 1954. The United States' assumption of the French colonial mantle made the Vietnamese civil war between north and south much longer and many times more destructive than it would have been otherwise.

  • Nam Pham
    2019-05-25 17:13

    The book shifted from a singular narrative to a more contextualised and interactive one, showing how all sides adapted their ideologies, strategies and diplomacies as wars after wars progressed. Definitely one of the fairer ones I have read so far.

  • Trang
    2019-06-04 17:21

    As a Vietnamese reader, this was hard to read without the Vietnamese accent marks. This was a little dense and wouldn't appeal to the average reader but towards a more studious one.

  • Ted
    2019-05-22 16:08

    Excellent history of Vietnam. Complicated...

  • Patrick
    2019-05-25 21:24

    I could see myself assigning portions of this book as a textbook for a survey course some day. Well written and a great overview of the period.

  • Tom G
    2019-06-05 17:26


  • Rob Keenan
    2019-05-22 18:22

    Never meet your heroes. A great addition to Rob's National Histories series. Next up China.

  • Michael
    2019-05-31 14:23

    This is an engaging history of Vietnam but it unfortunately has some significant weakness in my opinion.First the good: it covers a lot of depth in certain areas: French colonial phases, republican and reformist Vietnamese, the emergence of communism. It feels like very well-balanced and fair description of the victories and defeats of various factions. It seems quite well sourced. The writing is good.But there are some weaknesses that detract from an otherwise extensive history:For one, it emphasizes the need to look beyond the Vietnam that started with French colonialism but there is relatively little on the people and culture that existed before the French. There is discussion of the spread of Confucianism and various Vietnamese empires, but for a book of this scale, it would have been nice to learn a lot more about pre-French culture.Second, it feels like it could have used a more diligent editor. There is a feeling of repetition that makes it feel more like a collection of period essays than a cohesive history.The author gives a seemingly well-referenced and fair history of Vietnam. I just wish it had more depth pre-colonization and some better cohesion.

  • Riet
    2019-05-19 20:00

    Een interessant boek over Vietnam. Nu eens niet alleen de oorlog met de Fransen en de Amerikanen, maar de hele geschiedenis van dit land vanaf het begin van de jaartelling tot nu. Het is geen makkelijk boek, al was het alleen maar vanwege de ingewikkelde namen. De schrijver laat goed zien, dat ook de Vietnamezen zelf kolonisators waren, naast dat zij zelf zijn gekoloniseerd door China, Frankrijk en de VS. Het is een gecompliceerde geschiedenis en laat goed zien hoe kortzichtig allerlei landen en bevolkingsgroepen waren en nog zijn in de loop der eeuwen.

  • !Tæmbuŝu
    2019-05-30 14:20

    Reviewed by Asian Review of Books