Le Minh Khai's SEAsian History Blog

Always rethinking the Southeast Asian past


Đào Duy Anh

The Long Shadow of a “Family Crime” in the Field of History in 1950s North Vietnam

The 1950s in North Vietnam witnessed a great deal of debate in the field of historical scholarship about how to produce a postcolonial history for Vietnam. This is a topic that historian Patricia Pelley covered in a book entitled Postcolonial Vietnam: New Histories of the National Past (Duke University Press, 2002).

While that book does a great job of introducing the debates that took place among historians at that time (such as when the nation was formed, how to periodize Vietnamese history, when the period of a slave society existed, etc.), it doesn’t inform us about what was happening “behind the scenes” of those debates.

Continue reading “The Long Shadow of a “Family Crime” in the Field of History in 1950s North Vietnam”

Modern Vietnamese Historians and the “Dân Tộc” Question

In the nineteenth century when reformist Japanese scholars sought to learn about the West, they had to come up with many new terms in order to translate words and concepts from Western languages that did not exist in Japanese. Those terms were then adopted by speakers of other languages, such as Korean, Chinese and Vietnamese.

As such, new terms were created to translate Western words like “economy” (經濟 keizai/jingji/kinh tế) and “society” (社會 shakai/shehui/xã hội) and those new terms came to be employed by people in East Asia without much difficulty.

There were other terms, however, that were more difficult to translate, and none perhaps more so than the two terms “nation” and “nationality.” In Western languages, the meanings of these terms changed over time, and they also overlapped, and that made it difficult to translate these two terms.

Continue reading “Modern Vietnamese Historians and the “Dân Tộc” Question”

Writing History and Denouncing an Historian in 1950s North Vietnam

In 1958, North Vietnamese scholar Văn Tân published an article in the journal Văn Sử Địa entitled “Contributing to the Building of a General History of Vietnam – Some Views Regarding Some Published History Books” (Để góp phần xây dựng quyển thông sử Việt Nam – Mấy ý kiến đối với mấy bộ sách lịch sử đã xuất bản).

At that time there was a government-sponsored effort underway in the North to produce a new, and official, history of Vietnam. The goal was to produce a history that was based on scientific theory (which in this case meant Marxist theory), so as to move beyond the biases of earlier historians who had lived and worked in feudal (meaning “traditional” or “premodern”) and colonial societies.

Continue reading “Writing History and Denouncing an Historian in 1950s North Vietnam”

Đào Duy Anh’s 1946 Book on the Origins of the Vietnamese

After the August Revolution in 1945, Vietnamese historian Đào Duy Anh was invited to teach history at a university that was established later that same year called the Hanoi University of Letters (Đại Học Văn Khoa Hà Nội)

He only taught for about a couple of months because the university soon shut down, but his students were apparently so impressed by his teaching that they urged him to write and publish a book based on his lecture notes.

Continue reading “Đào Duy Anh’s 1946 Book on the Origins of the Vietnamese”

Interrogating Đào Duy Anh: A Tokyo Love Story

Once again Lê Minh Khải was transported in time, this time to Japan where he was asked about historians who had worked for a pro-Japanese government during World War II (Trần Trọng Kim and Hoàng Xuân Hãn).

Interrogating Đào Duy Anh: Everything’s Bigger in Texas

Michelle/Natasha and Lê Minh Khải went to a meeting with an American intelligence official named Hank (a friend of Papa François) where they talked about the Nhân Văn – Giai Phẩm Affair and historians in Saigon.

Interrogating Đào Duy Anh: One Night in Tunis

Having rescued Lê Minh Khải from Dr. Wu, Natasha takes him to meet her Papa in Tunisia where they talk about the declining influence of French scholarship in North Vietnam. . .

Interrogating Đào Duy Anh: Dr. Wu’s Shoes

Lê Minh Khải is again transported back in time and forced to answer questions about Vietnamese historian Đào Duy Anh’s scholarship. This time he ends up in Hong Kong and is asked about Đào Duy Anh’s approach to Marxist historiography.

Interrogating Đào Duy Anh: From Moscow With Love (Part 2)

This video contains some more discussion of some of the conclusions that Đào Duy Anh reaches in his 1938 work, An Historical Outline of Vietnamese Culture (Việt Nam văn hóa sử cương).

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