2nd September

1666 the Great Fire of London breaks out; try these teaching resources.

Vietnam National Day (independence from Japan/France, 1945)

Fossilised remains of Homo erectus have been found in Vietnamese caves from 500,000 years ago. By 1,000 B.C. the Đông Sơn culture was farming rice and making bronze drums.

In 111 B.C. Vietnam became part of the Chinese empire for 1,000 years. When it finally got independence, it then had to fight off Mongol invasions. Buddhism became the state religion.

In 1862 the southern half of Vietnam became French Cochinchina, and by 1887 the whole thing was part of French Indochina. France brought Western education and Catholicism. There were a lot of rebellions but the French kept squashing them.

In WWII Japan invaded. Vichy France kind of let them, and they completely took over in 1945. The disruption caused a famine that killed 2 million Vietnamese.

From 1941 Ho Chi Minh had led a Marxist nationalist movement called the Viet Minh, who tried to get independence from France and Japan. When the Allies defeated Japan the Viet Minh declared independence. France disagreed and Vietnam was then at war with France until 1954, when France finally agreed to their independence.

Vietnam was then split into a Communist North Vietnam and the French loyalists in the south. Everyone had 300 days to pick a side and move there. It was meant to be temporary until after the elections, but then the prime minister of the south, Ngô Đình Diệm, toppled the emperor of the south and declared himself president of the Republic.

So then the Viet Cong (army) began a guerrilla campaign against Diệm’s rule. Diệm tried to keep control by executing all the naysayers he could find. Meanwhile the north was executing wealthy landowners.

In 1963 Diệm was assassinated and a bunch of military governments followed.

America got involved in 1965 and in Operation Rolling Thunder America napalm-bombed all over South Vietnam without ever attacking the North, as that would get Russia involved and then the Cold War would get hot very fast. China and Russia were supporting North Vietnam militarily, which was then filtering through to the communist fighters via the Ho Chi Minh trail through Laos. So America bombed Laos a lot too.

In 1973 America agreed to pull out. By 1976 North Vietnam had totally taken over South Vietnam and it became a united Socialist Republic.

In the ’70s and ’80s, collectivisation of farms and factories caused huge inflation, while hundreds of thousands died in re-education camps, labour camps or just regular ol’ executions. Hundreds of thousands tried to escape in homemade boats; hundreds of thousands died at sea.

In 1978 Vietnam attacked the Khmer Rouge, communist Cambodia, as they kept attacking Vietnam. This annoyed China and after that Vietnam could only rely on Russian support.

From 1986 Vietnam has been a socialist-oriented market economy, which led to economic growth and income inequality.

Tibet Democracy Day – see 10th March.


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