Interpretations and Perspectives of the Great Conflict
Frederik Rettig - The Politics and Consequences of Mobilising Overseas Service. Vietnamese Workers and Soldiers during and after World War I, 1915–2015
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The Politics and Consequences of Mobilising Overseas Service. Vietnamese Workers and Soldiers during and after World War I, 1915–2015*
Abstract: The French decision to eventually mobilise close to 100,000 Indochinese as soldiers and workers, the majority of them in 1916, for overseas service in France and Europe, came late. The first part of this chapter looks at the political considerations behind the sending of eventually nearly 49,000 workers and close to 43,500 soldiers: for the French, it was mostly driven by metropolitan needs to keep the imperial French nation state’s war effort and closely related war economy going. For Vietnamese elites – be it the ailing monarchy, reform-minded elites or scholars, or patriots seeking the immediate overthrow of the French – a key consideration was whether Vietnamese participation would bring more equal status, autonomy or independence to themselves or Vietnam in the short to long term. The second part of this chapter then follows the post-war political careers of five veterans of the war – although it also covers the re-integration of the bulk of the veterans into Vietnamese society more generally – who left a lasting impact in the metropolitan diaspora, or on regional and even national politics back in French Indochina: four interpreters (all having served as civilians, but militarily organised), and one naturalised French officer. In post-war France, the former interpreters Tran Xuan Ho and Tran Le Luat became social activists and political entrepreneurs who...
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