History of Vietnam - Vietnam and French Indochina

French missionaries came to Vietnam during the 1600s and by the mid-1700s, Alexandre de Rhodes developed a version of the Vietnamese language which used the Roman alphabet and is still in use today. France was interested in Southeast Asia because of its proximity to China and, by the end of the nineteenth century, had gained control of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, thus creating French Indochina.

Map 1. Tonkin
2. Annam
3. Cochin-chine
4. Cambodia
5. Laos
June 1954
French Indochina

Indochina was the collective name given to the French territories. After eight years of war, France withdrew from Vietnam following the signing of the Geneva Accords in 1954.

Ho Chi Minh, who later became leader of Vietnam's Communist Party, had long dreamed of an independent Vietnam. As early as the 1920s, he affiliated himself with Communist groups and studied in the Soviet Union, and he went on to establish the Communist Party in Vietnam during the 1940s. With the Second World War, French authority crumbled, and in 1946 full-scale war broke out between the Viet Minh, led by Ho Chi Minh, and French colonial forces.

French Architecture,
Nha Trang
Photo: Karl Roeder

The First Indochina War (1946-1954) ended on July 20, 1954 with the signing of the Geneva Agreement, which declared that Vietnam was to be divided into North and South at the seventeenth parallel until elections could be held in 1956. These elections were never held.

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