More than forty years after its end the Vietnam War casts a long shadow over our understanding of Vietnam’s modern history. But the acute focus on the war has perhaps distorted our understanding of modern Vietnam. Christopher Goscha
’s award-winning new book, Vietnam: A New History
(Basic Books, 2016), brilliantly paints a picture of an ancient, diverse, and complex country which had already begun to modernize before the arrival of the French (let alone the Americans) and which was itself an imperial power. In Vietnam: a New History
Ho Chi Minh and the communists were not the only anti-colonial nationalists, but rather one of a number of groups fired by the radical new idea of republicanism.Vietnam: a New History
takes us beyond the bitter divide in Vietnamese historiography between the “orthodox” and “revisionist” interpretations of Vietnam’s modern history. Goscha provokes the reader to become aware of the haunting possibility that Vietnam’s modern history could have been different – which in turn stimulates the reader to think of new possibilities for a future Vietnam.
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Patrick Jory teaches Southeast Asian History in the School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry at the University of Queensland. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.