The Vietnamese are in the unusual situation of being both colonizers themselves and the victims of colonization by others. Their country expanded, shrunk, split and sometimes disappeared, often under circumstances way beyond their control. Despite these often overwhelming pressures Vietnam has survived and is universally recognized as forming one of Asia's most striking and complex cultures.
As more and more visitors come to this extraordinary country, there has been for some years a need for a major history - a book which allows the outsider to understand the many complex layers left by earlier emperors, rebels, priests and colonizers. Vietnam's role in one of the Cold War's longest conflicts has meant that its past has been endlessly abused for propaganda purposes and it is perhaps only now that the events which created the modern state can be seen through a truly historical perspective.
Christopher Goscha is a leading expert on Vietnam, and this book draws on the latest research and discoveries in Vietnamese, French and English. It is a major achievement, describing both the grand narrative of Vietnam's story but also many of the remarkable byways and what ifs, and is particularly strong on the countless minority groups who have done so much over the centuries to define the many versions of Vietnam.