Brief Overview: French Colonial Administration

Like or not, from 1887 the French were officially in Vietnam, visionaries who had their sights on bigger things other than their own small country initially under the guise of protecting the Catholic missionaries.

Institvt dv Radivm de L'Indochine, now the National Cancer Hospital.
Institvt dv Radivm de L’Indochine, now the National Cancer Hospital.

Some not-so-nice stuff went on, which unfortunately was part and parcel of the colonization plan and the way things were done back then (and maybe even now if we were honest).

As I researched this book I felt so sad for the Vietnamese as their important historic sites and relics were blatantly destroyed.  To add insult to injury they were then replaced with structures that had no meaning to the Vietnamese.  These acts made the Vietnamese stronger even though they were controlled on their outer world, their inner mind and spirit shone brighter, knowing one day their day would come.

Hoa Phong Tower (Favorable Winds Tower), Dinh Tien Hoang Street, Hanoi, is the only remaining structure from the Bao An Pagoda which is where the Post Office stands today.
Hoa Phong Tower (Favorable Winds Tower) is the only remaining structure from the Bao An Pagoda which is where the Post Office stands today.

Only a few Vietnamese greatly benefited from the French occupation, with educational opportunities, some become the elite ones, allowing them to become highly educated in specialized fields.  Travelling to and studying in France or being exposed to the French residents in Hanoi opened their eyes to different ways of life, food, culture and styles of dress.

After World War I was considered the good times for the French, then in the 1920’s the great depression hit, having an effect on their economy.


Even in the good times, the French still faced ongoing difficulties as living in a country far from all the comforts of home and Europe.  The climate was taxing with very hot summers and the cold wet grey winter months, add the high humidity factor which people were just not used to, so sickness was common especially amongst their children.  The concern of ongoing resistance from the Vietnamese added another dimension to the other factors.

Wide tree lined streets are a blessing in the summer heat.
Wide tree lined streets are a blessing in the summer heat.

And it was in World War II, when things turned to custard for the French in Vietnam.  Ironically Germany was occupying France, so the French in Vietnam were left to fend for themselves from the ever growing Vietnamese opposition knocking on the front door while at the back were the Japanese.   This was exactly the right climate the Vietnamese Resistance had been waiting for.

1947 to 1954 saw the first Indochina War as the Vietnamese were actively struggling to regain their country from the French Colonial rule.  At that time Ho Chi Minh’s army controlled most of the countryside while the French still had a hold on Hanoi City.

Things changed for the French, all building projects came to an end and the living standards drastically declined, so many French left and returned back to their homeland.

The battle Dien Bien Phu in 1954 was the end of the almost 80 years of French rule.  The French people physically left at that time, but their legacy still lives on.