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Coolies into Rebels

Impact of World War I on French Indochina


This is a stu­dy of the expe­riences of Vietnamese sol­diers and wor­kers who ral­lied behind the French flag during World War I and of the impact of the war on the French colo­nial enter­prise in Indochina. In tel­ling their sto­ries, the author wants to present a balan­ced view of the rela­tion­ship bet­ween the French and the Vietnamese sub­jects of this stu­dy. Without World War I, the path to revo­lu­tion and to natio­nal inde­pen­dence would have taken a dif­ferent direc­tion. During the war tens of thou­sands of Vietnamese joi­ned mil­lions of French people, mem­bers of other colo­nies in the French Empire, and the sol­diers of the Allied Forces in a “sacred union” against the Germans. Their expe­riences in Europe, howe­ver, chan­ged their lives and their atti­tudes toward France and its people, alte­red the course of the colo­nial enter­prise, and gave rise to a new Vietnamese social class in France and in Indochina, which ulti­ma­te­ly chal­len­ged French autho­ri­ty and brought changes to the esta­bli­shed order in Indochina.

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