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The Tây Son Uprising

The Tây Son Uprising: Society and Rebellion in Eighteenth-Century Vietnam

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  • Book Info
    The Tây Son Uprising
    Book Description:

    The Tây So’n uprising (1771–1802) was a cataclysmic event that profoundly altered the eighteenth-century Vietnamese political and social landscape. This groundbreaking book offers a new look at an important and controversial era. George Dutton follows three brothers from the hamlet of Tây So’n as they led a heterogeneous military force that ousted ruling families in both halves of the divided Vietnamese territories and eventually toppled the 350-year-old Lè dynasty. Supplementing Vietnamese primary sources with extensive use of archival European missionary accounts, he explores the dynamics of an event that affected every region of the country and every level of society. Tracing the manner in which the Tây So’n leaders transformed an inchoate uprising into a new political regime, Dutton challenges common depictions of the Tây So’n brothers as visionaries or revolutionaries. Instead, he reveals them as political opportunists whose worldview remained constrained by their provincial origins and the exigencies of ongoing warfare and political struggles.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6507-8
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-17)

    In the spring of 1773, a small army of upland tribesmen and lowland peasants made its way down from the An Khê highlands of what is today south-central Việt Nam to attack the walled provincial capital of Qui Nhơn. At their head was a part-time betel-nut trader and minor tax collector named Nguyễn Nhạc. Lacking the resources for a direct attack on the citadel, the rebel forces employed a ruse. They feigned their leader’s capture and turned him over to the provincial governor, who brought the caged Nhạc into the citadel as a prisoner. That night Nhạc released himself and...

  5. 1 The Tây Sơn Era and the Long Eighteenth Century in Ðại Việt
    (pp. 18-56)

    The best way to begin to understand the “hissing armies” whose origins lay in the hamlet of Tây Sơn is to place them into the temporal and geographical structures of what might be called the long eighteenth century in Ðại Việt. The time frame that defines this period stretches from 1672, when a de facto cease-fire halted half a century of warfare between the Nguyễn and Trịnh seigneurial lords, to 1802, when the Tây Sơn conflicts came to an end. This era was one of tremendous importance for the Vietnamese people, featuring southward demographic expansion as well as shifting economic...

  6. 2 The Leaders: Laying Claim to Power
    (pp. 57-118)

    The uprising that originated in the hamlet of Tây Sơn was precipitated by a growing economic crisis in Ðàng Trong (the southern Vietnamese realm) and ongoing struggles between the Nguyễn rulers and upland groups resisting greater integration into the lowland state. At the same time, the movement’s likelihood of success was enhanced by the weakness of an internally divided regime whose power had been spread thin over the course of the eighteenth century. It was up to the Tây Sơn leaders to combine economic and political discontent with manifest opportunity to transform a small and geographically marginalized group of followers...

  7. 3 The Peasants: Life under Tây Sơn Authority
    (pp. 119-171)

    As the Tây Sơn leaders worked to legitimize their political authority, they also began to exercise that authority over the populations being brought under their control. The Tây Sơn regimes’ ability to control these populations was essential for dealing with the very immediate threats they confronted, from continuing warfare on several fronts to displaced populations to widespread disruptions of agricultural production. Tây Sơn authorities made frequent and heavy demands of the people living in the territories they controlled, demands necessitated by virtually ceaseless warfare and the destruction and costs that entailed. Foremost among the regimes’ needs was manpower to support...

  8. 4 The Social Margins: Christians, Pirates, and Others
    (pp. 172-228)

    Vietnamese lowland peasants were not the only group profoundly affected by events of the Tây Sơn era. The uprising and the regimes it eventually produced also had an important impact on groups living at the margins of eighteenth-century Vietnamese society. Among others, these groups included Vietnamese Christians; various ethnic and immigrant groups, most prominently migrants from China, but also members of groups living in the highlands, and sometimes across the borders in Siam, Cambodia, and the Lao principalities; bandits in their various guises, who emerged and disappeared in response to changing circumstances; and finally pirates, distinct from bandits not merely...

  9. Conclusion: Looking Back and Looking Ahead
    (pp. 229-234)

    The dynamics of the Tây Sơn era were immensely complex, reflecting the geography, historical experience, and particularist interests of contending political and social forces. The interactions between rebel leaders and the various and frequently contending segments of eighteenth-century Vietnamese society do not lend themselves to easy explanations or to the simplified interpretations often applied to the Tây Sơn. This movement profoundly affected the lives of all people living in the Vietnamese territories and indeed well beyond their boundaries. It revealed many of the schisms that had been developing over several centuries between both various socioeconomic groups and the separate geopolitical...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 235-270)
    (pp. 271-284)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 285-294)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 295-296)