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The Great Hanoi Rat Hunt

Empire, Disease, and Modernity in French Colonial Vietnam

Michael G. Vann and Liz Clarke

Publication Date - 01 June 2018

ISBN: 9780190602697

288 pages
7 x 10 inches

In Stock

A graphic history set in the height of the New Imperialism that examines issues of empire, disease, and modernity in French colonial Hanoi


The Great Hanoi Rat Hunt: Empire, Disease, and Modernity in French Colonial Vietnam tells the darkly humorous story of the French colonial state's failed efforts to impose its vision of modernity upon the colonial city of Hanoi, Vietnam.

Part of the Graphic Histories series, this book offers a case study in the history of imperialism, highlighting the racialized economic inequalities of empire, colonization as a form of modernization, and industrial capitalism's creation of a radical power differential between "the West and the rest." On a deeper level, The Great Hanoi Rat Hunt examines the contradictions unique to the French Third Republic's colonial "civilizing mission," the development of Vietnamese resistance to French rule, and the history of disease. Featuring forty-nine primary sources--many available in English for the first time--and three full-color maps, The Great Hanoi Rat Hunt illustrates the ironic and tragic ways in which modernization projects can have unintended consequences.

About the Author(s)

Michael G. Vann is Professor of History at Sacramento State University.

Liz Clarke is a professional illustrator based in Cape Town, South Africa.


"Vann and Clarke have provided a helpful addition to the large selection of textbooks on Vietnam. Clear writing, helpful footnotes, and historical context help Vann and Clarke deliver a readable history of a complex topic. The Great Hanoi Rat Hunt offers a model of how to translate a history that is equal parts global, transnational, and local history into a new medium." -- Zachary M. Matusheski, Journal of American-East Asian Relations

"The Great Hanoi Rat Hunt effectively engages its readers in the intertwined stories of French colonialism, the New Imperialism, and a Vietnam in transition during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in a thought-provoking and memorable blend of critical textual discussion and high-quality illustration."--David W. Del Testa, Bucknell University

"This is a beautifully written and illustrated history based on solid research. The Great Hanoi Rat Hunt does a phenomenal job of contextualizing the far reaches of the French empire in world history. Students will enjoy the graphics and the intellectual stimulation of the story. I strongly recommend it for classes in world history, historical methodology, and Southeast Asian history."--Christina Firpo, California Polytechnic State University

"The Great Hanoi Rat Hunt very usefully integrates a discussion of the civilizing mission with the history of colonial urbanism, public health, and scientific experimentation. There's very little accessible material on this in English for undergraduate students, and the text does an excellent job of translating complex historiography in a readable way."--Rebecca Scales, Rochester Institute of Technology

"Students will be delighted by The Great Hanoi Rat Hunt. The superb graphics and the story itself will enthrall general readers as well."--J. R. McNeill, Georgetown University

"The Great Hanoi Rat Hunt is a captivating story! If offers an 'all in one' package that makes it a practical text for world history courses."--Margaret B. Bodemer, California Polytechnic State University

Table of Contents

    List of Maps

    Part I: The Graphic History

    Chapter One: A Tail of Two Cities
    Chapter Two: Why was Hanoi French?
    Chapter Three: Who Built Hanoi?
    Chapter Four: The Illusion or What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
    Chapter Five: Black Death in the White City!
    Chapter Six: The Great Rat Hunt
    Chapter Seven: The Best Laid Schemes of Rats and Men

    Part II: Primary Sources

    Urban Life
    1. Joseph Chailley-Bert, Paul Bert au Tonkin
    2. "Hanoï: Statue de Paul Bert," Pierre Dieulfils postcard
    3. L'Avenir du Tonkin
    4. Marius Borel, Souvenirs d'un vieux colonialist
    5. Victor Le Lan, "The Old Quarters," February 5, 1898
    6. Victor Le Lan, "Opium," January 16, 1897
    7. "Rapport périodique sur la situation intérieure de l'Indo-Chine (1901)"
    8. "Hanoï-Tonkin-Musée," Pierre Dieulefils postcard
    9. Alfred Cunningham, The French in Tonkin and South China
    10. "Hanoï-Tonkin-Pagodon du petit Lac," Pierre Dieulefils postcard
    11. "Chinatown is a Menace to Health," The San Francisco Call, November 23, 1901
    12. Gouvernement-Général de l'Indo-Chine, Ville de Hanoi (Tonkin): Historique, Développement financier,
    Règlementation administrative et Fonctionnement des divers services municipaux de la Ville de
    , 1905
    13. Alfred Meynard, "Tonkin" in Joseph Ferrière, Georges Garros, Alfred Meynard, and Alfred Raquez,
    L'Indo-Chine, 1906
    14. Hanoi Town Hall, Dossier: 38: "Note on the development of the City of Hanoi from 1 January 1902 to 30
    June 1907"
    15. Brieux, Voyage aux Indes et en Indo-Chine: Simples Notes d'un Touriste
    16. Michael My, Le Tonkin pittoresque: Souvenirs et impressions de voyage 1921-1922
    17. Hanoi's Municipal Theater
    18. M. Georges Maspero, Un empire colonial français: L'Indochine
    19. Claude Farrère, Les Civilisés
    20. Charles Baudelaire, "The Eyes of the Poor"
    21. Phan Van Hy, "The ricksha man"
    22. Laurent Joseph Gaide & Pierre Marie Durolle, La tuberculose et sa prophlylaxie en Indochine

    The Third Plague Pandemic
    1. "Black Plague in Hawaii. Breaks Out in Two Islands - Situation in Honolulu Improves." Portsmouth
    , February 24, 1900
    2. "The Scourge of the Century," Lincoln County Leader, May 11, 1900
    3. "Memorial of the Exclusion Convention Addressed to the President and Congress," The San Francisco
    , November 23, 1901
    4. Claude Bourrin, Choses et gens en Indochine: Souvenris de bonne humeur, 1898-1908
    5. Commissaire Central, "Destruction des animaux, Hanoi-Ville"
    6. Dr. Le Roy Des Barres, Rapport sur la mortalité à Hanoi en 1903
    7. Wood and thatch homes
    8. Gouvernement-Général de l'Indo-Chine, Ville de Hanoi (Tonkin): Historique, Développement financier,
    Règlementation administrative et Fonctionnement des divers services municipaux de la Ville de Hanoi
    1905 (pg. 53)
    9. Dr. Ortholan, "Peste en Indo-Chine. (Historique)"
    10. Soup Vendor, Pierre Dieulefils postcard
    11. "Battling the Plague," Los Angeles Herald, November 15, 1908
    12. Laurent Joseph Gaide & Henri Desire Marie Bodet, La Peste en Indochine
    13. Jacques May, Un Médecin français en Extrême-Orient

    Voices of Resistance
    1. Phan Trong Quang, "A ricksha man's impromptu"
    2. Anonymous, "Poem on True Heroism"
    3. "Tonkin-Hanoï - Les bords du Fleuve Rouge et le Pont Doumer," Pierre Dieulefils postcard
    4. Anonymous, "The Asian Ballad (Chant to Raise the Consciousness of the People)"
    5. Inhabitants of Hanoi to Governor General
    6. Citizens of Hanoi to Governor General
    7. Superior Resident of Tonkin to Governor of Indochina
    8. "Tonkin - Pousse-Pousse," Pierre Dieulefils postcard
    9. Phan Boi Chau, "The New Vietnam," 1907
    10. Phan Chu Trinh, "Letter to Paul Beau," 1907
    11. "Tonkin: Rapport Politique Générale pour l'année 1908"
    12. Louis Bonnafort, Trente ans de Tonkin
    13. "Rapport de GGI Sarraut au Ministre des Colonies"
    14. "Paul Bert's Statues Toppled at 9:10 AM Yesterday Morning," August 2, 1945

    Part III: Historical Contexts

    The New Imperialism
    The Imperialist Powers
    Colonial Political Economies
    Imperial Ideologies
    The Realities of Colonial Rule
    Western Industrial Capitalism
    The Third Republic
    Vietnamese Resistance: Nationalist, Communist, and Everyday
    The Third Bubonic Plague Pandemic, 1855-1959

    Part IV: Making of The Rat Hunt

    Adventures and Boredom in the Archives
    History in the Funniest of Places
    History Outside of the Ivory Tower
    Why a graphic history?
    Finally, Vietnam

    Part V: Rat Hunt in the Classroom

    Discussion Questions
    The Great Rat Hunt
    Colonial History
    Urban History
    Vietnamese History
    History of Medicine and Disease
    China in World History
    Method and Historiography
    Essay Topics
    Timeline of Events in Vietnam, France, and the World
    Further Resources
    Suggested Histories of Vietnam
    French History

    End Notes

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