Vietnam's French Colonization through Western Colonization of South-East Asia


The first steps in the Archipelago

1511 - 1786

South-East Asia map

Portuguese Colonization

Implantation at Malacca (Malaysia)

1511 - 1641

See also The Word Economy's website about Portugal:

Albuquerque captured the strategic port of Malacca on the west cosat of Malaya facing Sumatra in 1511. It dominated the narrow straits which linked the trading worlds of the Indian Ocean and the China seas ans was the main emporium fo trade between them.

Fortified base in Ternate (Moluccas)

1522 - 1575

For commerce of spices: cloves, nutmeg and mace.
Portuguese were forced out of Ternate in 1575 by native revolt.

Spanish Colonization

Magellan's stop at Saint-Lazare archipelago + 1rst world circumnavigation


Exploration of Saint-Lazare archipelago (rebaptized The Philippines)


1rst implantation at Cebu Island


Foundation of Manila, capital of the Philippines


Dutch Colonization

Dutch expeditions ahead of the foundation of the VOC

1595 - 1602

The Dutch were extremely well informed about Asian trading prospects, for many had worked on Portuguese ships. One of them, Jan Huygen van Linschoten, produced two travel journals in 1595 and 1596 with detailed maps, information on markets, winds and potential routes.

See the 1rst part of YouTube video: "Dutch East Indies 1602-1949 Part I"

Some private expeditions with relative successes and failures to East India between 1595 and 1602

Foundation of the VOC or United East India Company

1602 - 1800

In 1602, under official pressure, all Dutch merchants in this trade were compelled to join the United East India Company (VOC or Vereenigde Ooste Indische Compagnie) which was given monopoly trading rights and authority to establish military outposts and negotiate with foreign rulers. The Company owned and built all its own ships. The VOC took charge of the consolidation of the financial interests and the coordination of all the tradings in the region, including Ceylan and the India's coast.

See the YouTube video: "Dutch East Indies 1602-1949 Part I"

See also The Word Economy's Website about the Netherlands:

VOC Headquarter establishment at Batavia


British Colonization

Foundation of the East India Company


French Colonization

Implementation of the Portuguese Jesuit Mission at Hà Nội (1615)


%{color:red}The beginning of the proselytization in Christianity and the first contact with the Western world which led to the French colonization of Vietnam two centuries and half later.%

Cochinchina's journey of French Jesuit missionnary A. de Rhodes (1620-1646)

1620 - 1646

Description of Alexandre de Rhodes:

Alexandre de Rhodes' DictionariumAnnnamiticumLusitanum et Latinum (1651) :

Part 1 of 2 :

Part 2 of 2 :

Rhodes' missions report (with exagerated account on Vietnam's natural resources)


Alexandre de Rhodes' missions report "Divers voyages et Missions du Père Alexandre de Rhodes en la Chine, et autres royaumes de l'Orient, avec son retour en Europe par la Perse et l'Arménie: le tout divisé en trois parties. Paris, 1653. 1666. 1685" ("Rhodes of Viet Nam: The Travels and Missions of Father Alexandre de Rhodes in China and Other Kingdoms of the Orient" -English translation published in 1966).

Foundation at Paris (France) of the Society of Foreign Missions of Paris (1659)


Description of the Society of Foreign Missions of Paris:

Cochinchina's journey of French missionnary Pigneaux de Béhaine (1767-1799)

1767 - 1799

"In 1787, Monsignor Pierre Joseph Georges Pigneaux de Béhaine, bishop of Adran, returned to France after two decades of extraordinary adventures in a remote Asian land, Vietnam, then known to Europe as Cochinchina. A handsome priest in his forties, a large pectoral cross adorning his black silk cassock, he dazzled the courtiers at Versailles, the baroque palace of Louis XVI. His pious demeanor, flavored by a touch of oriental mystery, intrigued the ladies, and his infallible politeness even disarmed potential rivals for royal favors. But he was upstaged by a child whom he had brought with him, Nguyen Canh, the seven-year-old son of a pretender to the throne of Vietnam.

Dressed in red and gold brocade, an incongruous Hindu turban atop his head, the little prince exuded exotic charm. Queen Marie Antoinette bestowed her patronage on the boy by permitting him to play with the Dauphin—the heir apparent—and a court musician composed a hymn to honor the "illustrious infant." Her personal hairdresser celebrated the visitors with a chic new coiffure, le chignon à la cochinchinoise, and a court poet acclaimed Pigneau as successor to the legendary missionary Saint Francis Xavier.

Though he welcomed the lavish indulgence, Pigneaux had a deeper purpose. He had come to France to lobby for an ambitious scheme— the creation, under French auspices, of a Christian empire in Asia. He died before the dream reached fulfillment, but, through the sheer drive of his personality, he propelled France toward the conquest of Vietnam a hundred years later." (Excerpt from Chapter 2 - Piety and Power of Stanley Karnow's book "Vietnam a History", Penguin Books, 1983)

Ref. The Journal of Hoang Tu Canh (Dông Cung Nhut Trinh) at

Portrait of Monsignor Pigneau de Béhaine, Bishop of Adran

Portrait of Prince Cảnh (Nguyễn Ánh's son) in 1787 realized by Maupérin under Queen Marie-Antoinette's order

Dictionnary Annamite-Latin of Pigneaux de Béhaine as published in 1838 by Jean Louis Taberd, the missionary of Society of Foreign Missions of Paris and Bishop of Isauropolis :

Part 1 of 4

Part 2 of 4:

Part 3 of 4

Part 4 of 4:

Description of Jean-Louis Taberd:

Vietnam unified under Emperor Gia Long (1802)


Portrait of Emperor Gia Long

Description of Emperor Gia Long

Link to

In 1802, Nguyễn Ánh crowned himself emperor at Huế, adopted the title of Gia Long and changed the country's name of Đại Việt for Việt Nam.

Huế - The Palace of Supreme Harmony (Điện Thái Hòa)

Huế - The South Gate or The Noon Gate (Cửa Ngọ Môn)

Persecution of Christian (1825)


Siege of Tourane (1858)


Capture of Saigon by French and Spanish forces (1859)


Joint French and Spanish forces were composed of 70 ships and 3500 men.

Ref: "Campagnes glorieuses du règne de Napoléon III - Cochinchine", Muraour E.,1863

Storming of Saigon by French ships on 1859 February 17th

(Ref: Plate no 60, "Icononographie de l'Indochine Française", Paul Boudet & André Masson, 1931 )

Storming of Saigon's Chí Hòa (Ki Hoa) fortress by joint French and Spanish troups on 1861 February 24th

(Ref: Plate no 61, "Icononographie de l'Indochine Française", Paul Boudet & André Masson, 1931)

Treaty of Saigon granting France the 3 southeastern provinces (1862)


Integral text of the 1862 June 5th humiliating treaty between France & Spain invaders and Annam Emperor Tu Duc granting France the 3 Cochinchina southeastern provinces of Biên Hòa, Gia Định and Định Tường and the Poulo condore Island as well as opening three ports for trade, free passage of French warships up to the Mekong to Cambodia, freedom of action for the missionaires and payment of a large indemnity to France for its losses in attacking Vietnam.

Ref. Recueil des traités conclus par la France en Extrême-Orient - 1684-1902, L. De Reinach, 1902

Description of Emperor Tu Duc
Ref. Richmond Univerity

Portrait of the Annam's Viceroy Phan Thanh Giản who signed the treaty on behalf of Emperor Tự Đức

"Having given France Saigon and its three adjoining provinces, Tự Đức soon sensed that the French would ultimately push on to conquer all of Vietnam and doom his tottering monarchy. He therefore contrived a bargain. In exchange for the return of the three provinces he had ceded to France directly, he would accept a French protectorate over the six provinces of Cochinchina. He offered France full control over Saigon and commercial advantages in Vietnam as well as annual tribute. He sent the prominent mandarin Phan Thanh Gian to Paris to promote the package. Napoléon III endorsed it immediately as a cheaper alternative to continued French operations, agreeing to revise the treaty that France had concluded with Tự Đức in 1862.

But Napoléon III had not anticipated the cries of outrage that would come from the champions of French intervention. Naval officers foremost among them, they denounced his decision with such vigor that he quickly scrapped the amended pact and gave free rein to the French forces in Indochina." (Ref.: Stanley Karnow, "Vietnam, a history", Chapter 2)

Ref. Others photos of the Phan Thanh Gian's delegation to Paris in 1863 at's Manh Hai Webpage photos

Extension of French control to Cambodia with one Protectorate regime (1863)


Treaty of 1863 August 11th granting France the Protectorate over Cambodia

Ref. Recueil des traités conclus par la France en Extrême-Orient - 1684-1902, L. De Reinach, 1902

De Lagrée & Garnier exploration of Mekong River for trade route to China (1866)


Ref: "Francis Garnier - Voyage d'exploration en Indochine - Commission présidée par Doudart de Lagrée-", 1885

Annexation of the 3 Cochinchina southwestern provinces (1867)


Proclamation of 1867 June 25th by French Amiral De la Grandière on the annexation of the 3 southwestern provinces Vinh Long, Châu Đốc and Hà Tiên

Ref: Recueil des traités conclus par la France en Extrême-Orient - 1684-1902, L. De Reinach, 1902

Shocked and shamed, the venerable mandarin Phan Thanh Gian committed suicide - after pledging his sons never to collaborate with the French.

Conquest of Tonkin by Francis Garnier (1873)


Huê Treaty on French Protectorate of Annam (August 1874)


The Tonkin war (1883-1885)

1883 - 1885