Vietnam 1946: How the War Began


Tønnesson, Stein (2009) Vietnam 1946: How the War Began. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. From Indochina to Vietnam: Revolution and War in a Global Perspective.

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A study of the outbreak of a war, based on multiarchival research

"Stein Tønnesson's Vietnam 1946 answers the fundamental question about the first of Vietnam's twentieth-century wars, the one fought against the French: how did it happen? He has written a meticulously researched account that restores their contingency to the events. The first Indochina war, like those that succeeded it, was not inevitable, and Tønnesson explains why and how it happened anyway." Marilyn Young, author of The Vietnam Wars: 1945-1990 Multiarchival research conducted over almost three decades has resulted in this landmark account that describes how a few men set off a war that was catastrophic for millions. Stein Tønnesson was one of the first historians to delve into scores of secret French, British, and American political, military, and intelligence documents. In this fascinating account of an unfolding tragedy, he disentangles the complex web of personalities, actions, and events that led to thirty years of war in Indochina. As the story unfolds, Tønnesson challenges some widespread misconceptions, arguing that French General Leclerc fell into a Chinese trap in March 1946, and Vietnamese General Giap into a French trap in December. Vietnam 1946 takes us from the antechambers of policymakers in Paris to the docksides of Haiphong and the streets of Hanoi. It provides the most vivid account to date of the events that made Vietnam the ultimate embattled area in the world during the Cold War period.

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