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Vietnam 1946

How the War Began

Stein Tonnesson (Author), Philippe Devillers (Foreword)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 388 pages
ISBN: 9780520269934
June 2011
$34.95, £28.00
Other Formats Available:
Based on multiarchival research conducted over almost three decades, this landmark account tells how a few men set off a war that would lead to tragedy 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 brings this research to bear to disentangle the complex web of events, actions, and mentalities 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. Taking us from the antechambers of policymakers in Paris to the docksides of Haiphong and the streets of Hanoi, Vietnam 1946 provides the most vivid account to date of the series of events that would make Vietnam the most embattled area in the world during the Cold War period.
List of illustrations
Foreword by the series editors
Foreword by Philippe Devillers
List of abbreviations

1. A Clash of Republics
2. The Chinese Trap
3. Modus Vivendi
4. Massacre
5. The French Trap
6. Who Turned Out the Lights?
7. If Only . . .

Stein Tønnesson was Director of the International Peace Research Institute in Oslo, Norway, from 2001 to 2009. He is author of The Vietnamese Revolution of 1945: Roosevelt, Ho Chi Minh and de Gaulle in a World at War among other books.
“A marvelous read. Tønnesson writes deftly and lucidly. His analysis sparkles with gems of detail and insight.”—New Mandala ; Tailand-Laos-Cambodia Group
“This rewarding and intelligent piece of international history succeeds in debunking myths that are as alive and well today as they were when an earlier version of this book appeared in 1987. The result is a finely layered and textured book at the intersections of international, French and Vietnamese history.”—H-Net Reviews
“An authoritative account.”—Qiang Zhai Contemporary Southeast Asia
“This book is microscopically researched . . . . At times gripping.”—Stewart Dalby Asian Affairs
"Vietnam 1946 is a masterful narrative of the immediate origins of the first Vietnam War. It is, by turns, vivid and shocking; it is always immensely revealing. Tønnesson brings forensic clarity to crucial events about which, even now, some sixty years later, fundamental misapprehensions exist. An outstanding work of scholarship of major international importance."—Martin Thomas, author of Empires of Intelligence

"Tønnesson captures brilliantly the 1946 confrontation between two republics: France determined to redeem itself from Axis humiliation by regaining Indochina; Vietnam equally determined to retake independence after eighty years of colonial servitude. Tønnesson also demonstrates, however, that some leaders on each side really wanted a peaceful, mutually beneficial outcome. Descent into full-scale war was not inevitable. This is a carefully researched, clearly written analysis of a vital moment in the 20th century history of both countries. It is also a meditation on the elusive boundary between free will and determinism in human affairs."—David Marr, author of Vietnamese Tradition on Trial, 1920-1945

“Stein Tønnesson's Vietnam 1946 answers the fundamental question about the first of Vietnam's 20th century wars, the one fought against the French: how did it happen? He has written a meticulously researched account which 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

ICAS Book Prizes, International Convention of Asia Scholars

ICAS Book Prize in the Humanities,, International Convention of Asia Scholars

Outstanding Academic Title, Choice, a publication of the American Library Association

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