The term “historiography” has a couple of meanings. One refers to the study of the various methodologies used to examine the past, such as empiricism, the approaches of the Annales School, Marxist historiography, Ethnographic history, postmodern history, etc. The other meaning refers to the history of scholarship on a given topic.

So, for instance, there is an historiography of the 1911 Revolution in China. As such, if someone today wants to thoroughly understand that event, s/he needs to not only read what has been written about it, but to also know “how” it has been written about over time. People at different times approach a topic from different perspectives, and an historian needs to take this into account when examining writings about an issue from different scholars in different periods. That is one aspect of the historiography of a topic.

Beyond the fact that people in different times write from different perspectives, it is also the case that later scholars build on the scholarship of earlier scholars. This is done at times by disproving the findings of earlier scholars, and at others by making new discoveries. Therefore, over time scholarship progresses, and the history of the development of knowledge about a particular topic is important for scholars to know. This is another aspect of the historiography of a topic.

In Vietnam today, historiography (in any of its forms) is virtually absent from the world of scholarship. An easy way to see this is by asking the following questions:

1) Who proved that the earliest rulers in Vietnam were called Hùng rather than Lạc? In what article or book was this proven?

2) Who proved that the name of the earliest kingdom in Vietnam was Văn Lang? In what article or book was this proven?

3) Who proved that we can use information from the Lĩnh Nam chích quái about the 15 regions of Văn Lang to talk about the geographic extent and political organization of the earliest Vietnamese kingdom? In what article or book was this proven?

These are three (of many other) issues concerning the early history of Vietnam which are historically problematic. However, no one questions these issues today. These issues were debated in the 1950s and 1960s. For no one to question these issues today, there must have been scholars who provided evidence in an article or book to settle the controversy over these issues. This is something which scholars today should know. Every historian in Vietnam should know who proved that the earliest rulers in Vietnam were called Hùng rather than Lạc, in what article/book s/he did this, and what evidence was provided to make this point.

I can guarantee you, however, that no one in Vietnam can do this. This is because these issues were never “proven,” and because Vietnamese do not study the historiography of issues, they do not realize that these issues were never proven, and that their current knowledge of these issues is not based on “scientific” (khoa học) fact.

I challenge anyone to prove me wrong. Show me who “resolved” (giải quyết) any of the 3 issues above, in what article/book s/he did this, and how s/he did this.