This book offers the first detailed English-language examination of the Great Vietnamese Famine of 1945, which left at least a million dead, and links it persuasively to the largely unexpected Viet Minh seizure of power only months later.
Drawing on extensive research in French archives, Geoffrey C.
Gunn offers an important new interpretation of Japanese-Vichy French wartime economic exploitation of Vietnam's agricultural potential.
Gunn asks whether the famine signaled a loss of the French administration's "mandate of heaven," or whether the overall dire human condition was the determining factor in facilitating communist victory in August 1945.
In the broader sweep of Vietnamese history, including the rise of the communist party, the picture that emerges is not only one of local victimhood at the hands of outsiders but the enormous agency on the part of the Vietnamese themselves to achieve moral victory, no matter how controversial, tragic, and contested the outcome.
As the author clearly demonstrates, colonial-era development strategies and contests also had their postwar sequels in the "American war," just as land, land reform, and subsistence-sustainable development issues persist into the present.