Annam (French protectorate)

Last updated

Protectorate of Annam

Protectorat d'Annam  (French)
Trung Kỳ (中圻)
First flag of the Nguyen Dynasty.svg
Flag of Colonial Annam.svg
Indochine francaise.svg
Location of Annam (violet) in French Indochina
StatusProtectorate of France; constituent territory of French Indochina
Capital Huế
Common languages Cham, Bahnar, Rade, Jarai, Stieng, Mnong, Koho, Chinese, French, Vietnamese
Mahayana Buddhism
Folk religion
Government Absolute monarchy under colonial administration
Hàm Nghi
Thành Thái
Khải Định
 1925–March 1945
Bảo Đại
Currency Vietnamese cash,
French Indochinese piastre
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Royal Flag of Vietnam (1802-1885).svg 1883:
Empire of Đại Nam
Flag of France (1794-1815).svg 1945:
French Indochina
Flag of the Empire of Vietnam (1945).svg 1945:
Empire of Vietnam
French Indochina
Flag of France (1794-1815).svg
Empire of Vietnam
Flag of the Empire of Vietnam (1945).svg
Provisional Central Government of Vietnam
Flag of South Vietnam.svg
Today part of Vietnam

Annam (alternate spelling: Anam), or Trung Kỳ (中圻), was a French protectorate encompassing Central Vietnam. Before the protectorate's establishment, the name Annam was used in the West to refer to Vietnam as a whole; Vietnamese people were referred to as Annamites. The protectorate of Annam became in 1887 a part of French Indochina. Two other Vietnamese regions, Cochinchina (Nam Kỳ) in the South and Tonkin (Bắc Kỳ) in the North, were also units of French Indochina. The region had a dual system of French and Vietnamese administration. The Nguyễn Dynasty still nominally ruled Annam, with a puppet emperor residing in Huế. In 1948, the protectorate was merged in the Provisional Central Government of Vietnam, which was replaced the next year by the newly established State of Vietnam. The region was divided between communist North Vietnam and anti-communist South Vietnam under the terms of the Geneva Accord of 1954.


Etymology and pre-colonial usage

Annam means "Pacified South" in Sino-Vietnamese, the toponym being derived from the Chinese An Nan (Chinese :安南; pinyin :Ānnán). In the history of Vietnam, the designation is one of several given by the Chinese to the Tonkin, the core territory of modern-day Vietnam surrounding the city of Hanoi, which included land from the Gulf of Tonkin to the mountains which surround the plains of the Red River.

The name has also been applied to the Annamite Range (French : la Chaîne Annamitique), a 1,100 km (680 mi) mountain range with a height ranging up to 2,958 metres (9,705 ft) that divides Vietnam and Laos. The Vietnamese language or its central dialects were called "Annamese", as in the seminal dictionary Dictionarium Annamiticum Lusitanum et Latinum .

An Nam is usually considered offensively demeaning to Vietnamese people, and mostly used in sarcastic manners. Trung Kỳ (also spelled Trung Kì) is used instead in formal contexts. At least one dictionary has translated Annamiticum as Việt.


Map showing the Southward conquest by Vietnamese over 900 years Nam Tien.PNG
Map showing the Southward conquest by Vietnamese over 900 years

Towards the end of the 18th century a rebellion overthrew the Nguyễn lords, but one of its members, Gia Long, by the aid of a French force, in 1801 acquired sway over the whole of present-day Vietnam (Annam, Tongking and Cochinchina). This force was procured for him by Pigneau de Béhaine, titular bishop of Adran, who saw in the political condition of Annam a means of establishing French influence in Indochina and counterbalancing the English power in India. Before this, in 1787, Gia Long had concluded a treaty with Louis XVI, whereby in return for a promise of aid he ceded Tourane and Pulo-Condore to the French. That treaty marks the beginning of French influence in Indochina. [1]

After conquering Cochinchina in 1858–1862, the French resumed in 1883 their expansion in Southern Asia. The first protectorate treaty was signed in 1883, although it was replaced the next year by a slightly milder treaty. With the treaty of Tientsin, China recognised the French protectorate over Annam and Tonkin and implicitly abandoned her own claims to suzerainty over Vietnam. Annam and Tonkin became part of French Indochina in 1887. On 9 May 1889, they were split in two Résidences supérieures, each subordinated to the Governor-General of French Indochina. The Nguyễn dynasty still nominally ruled over both protectorates. Tonkin was de facto ruled directly by the French, while the imperial government maintained some degree of authority over Annam. On 27 September 1897, the Vietnamese imperial council in Annam was replaced by a council of ministers, presided de jure by the French representative. [2]


Map of the An Nam Empire by Jean-Louis Taberd An Nam Dai Quoc Hoa Do by Jean Louis Taberd 1838.jpg
Map of the An Nam Empire by Jean-Louis Taberd

Annam comprised a sinuous strip of territory measuring between 750 and 800 miles (1,300 km) in length, with an approximate area of 52,000 square miles (130,000 km2). [3] It had a rich, well-watered soil which yields tropical crops, and was rich in naturally occurring minerals.

The country consisted chiefly of a range of plateaus and wooded mountains, running north and south and declining on the coast to a narrow band of plains varying between 12 and 50 miles (80 km) in breadth. The mountains are cut transversely by short narrow valleys, through which run rivers, most of which are dry in summer and torrential in winter. The Song Ma and the Song Ca in the north, and the Song Ba, Don Nai and Se Bang Khan in the south, are the only rivers of any size in the region. The chief harbour is that afforded by the bay of Tourane (also known as Đà Nẵng) at the centre of the coastline. South of this point, the coast curves outwards and is broken by peninsulas and indentations; to the north it is concave and bordered in many places by dunes and lagoons. [3]


In Annam, the rainy season begins during September and lasts for three or four months, corresponding with the northeastern monsoon and also with a period of typhoons. During the rains the temperature varies from 59 degrees Fahrenheit (or even lower) to 75 °F (from 15 degrees Celsius to 24 °C). June, July and August are the hottest months, the thermometer often reaching 85 °F (29 °C) or 90 °F (30 °C or more), though the heat of the day is to some extent compensated by the freshness of the nights. The southwest monsoon which brings rain in Cochin China coincides with the dry season in Annam, the reason probably being that the mountains and lofty plateaus separating the two countries retain the precipitation. [3]


During the French period there was little industry. The economy was an agricultural one based on:

Silk spinning and weaving were carried on in what the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition called "antiquated lines ...silkworms [are] reared in a desultory fashion". Other crops were tea, tobacco, cotton, cinnamon, precious woods and rubber. Coffee, pepper, sugarcane and jute were also cultivated to a minor extent. The exports comprised tea, raw silk and small quantities of cotton, rice and sugarcane. The imports included rice, iron goods, flour, wine, opium and cotton goods. There were coal mines at Nong Son, near Da Nang, and as well as mining of gold, silver, lead, iron and other metals which occur in the mountains. [4] Human trafficking in Annamite women and children to China occurred from the 1870s to the 1940s. [5] Trade, which was controlled by the Chinese, was mostly carried out on the sea, with the chief ports being Da Nang and Qui Nhơn, open to European commerce.


Postcard of the Annam Tower, built in Marseilles for the 1906 Colonial Exhibition Expo coloniale 1906.jpg
Postcard of the Annam Tower, built in Marseilles for the 1906 Colonial Exhibition

Annam was ruled in theory by its emperor, assisted by the "comat" or secret council, composed of the heads of the six ministerial departments of the interior, finance, war, ritual, justice and public works, who were nominated by the emperor. The Resident Superior, stationed at Huế, was the representative of France and the virtual ruler of the country. He presided over a council (Conseil de Protectorat) composed of the chiefs of the French services in Annam, together with two members of the "comat"; this body deliberated on questions of taxation affecting the budget of Annam and on local public works. A native governor (Tong Doc or Tuan Phu), assisted by a native staff, administered each of the provinces into which the country was divided, and native officials of lower rank governed the areas into which these provinces were subdivided. The governors took their orders from the imperial government, but they were under the eye of French residents. [4]

Native officials were appointed by the court, but the Resident Superior had power to annul an appointment. The mandarinate or official class was recruited from all ranks of the people by competitive examination. In the province of Tourane (Da Nang), a French tribunal alone exercised jurisdiction, but it administered native law where natives were concerned. Outside this territory the native tribunals survived. [4]

See also

Related Research Articles

French Indochina Former federal state in Southeast Asia

French Indochina, officially known as the Indochinese Union from 1887 and the Indochinese Federation after 1947, was a grouping of French colonial territories in Southeast Asia until its demise in 1954. It comprised three Vietnamese regions of Tonkin in the north, Annam in the centre, and Cochinchina in the south, Cambodia, Laos and the Chinese territory of Guangzhouwan. The capital for most of its history (1902–45) was Hanoi; Saigon was the capital from 1887 to 1902 and again from 1945 to 54.

South Vietnam Former country in southeast Asia

South Vietnam, officially the Republic of Vietnam, was a country that existed from 1955 to 1975, the period when the southern portion of Vietnam was a member of the Western Bloc during part of the Cold War. It received international recognition in 1949 as the "State of Vietnam", which was a constitutional monarchy (1949–1955). The country was renamed the "Republic of Vietnam" in 1955. Its capital was Saigon. South Vietnam was bordered by North Vietnam to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, Thailand across the Gulf of Thailand to the southwest, and the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, and Indonesia across the South China Sea to the east and southeast.


Tonkin, also spelled Tongkin, Tonquin or Tongking, is an exonym referring to the northern region of Vietnam. During the 17th and 18th centuries, this term referred to the domain Đàng Ngoài under Trịnh lords' control, including both the Northern and Thanh-Nghệ regions, north of the Gianh River. From 1884 to early 1945, this term was used for the French protectorate of Tonkin, composed of only the Northern region.

Nguyễn dynasty Imperial dynasty in Vietnam

The Nguyễn dynasty was the last Vietnamese dynasty, which ruled Vietnam largely independently from 1802 to 1883. During its existence, the empire expanded into modern-day southern Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos through a continuation of the centuries-long Nam tiến and Siamese–Vietnamese wars. After 1883, the Nguyễn emperors ruled nominally as heads of state of the French protectorates of Annam and Tonkin until the final months of WWII; they later nominally ruled over the Empire of Vietnam until the Japanese surrender.


Cochinchina is a historical exonym for part of Vietnam, depending on the contexts. Sometimes it referred to the whole of Vietnam, but it was commonly used to refer to the region south of the Gianh River.

Articles related to Vietnam and Vietnamese culture include:

Postage stamps and postal history of Annam and Tongking

A concise postal history of French Annam protectorate and Tongking protectorate, former territories of colonial French Indochina, that were located in present-day Vietnam.Dates 1888 - 1892

French Cochinchina Colony of French Indochina

French Cochinchina was a colony of French Indochina, encompassing the whole region of Lower Cochinchina or Southern Vietnam from 1867 to early 1945. In 1946, it was established as the Autonomous Republic of Cochinchina, a controversial decision that helped trigger the First Indochina War. In 1948, the autonomous republic, whose legal status had never been formalized, was renamed as the Provisional Government of Southern Vietnam, not to be confused with the 1969–76 Viet Cong government. It was reunited with the rest of Vietnam in 1949.

Empire of Vietnam Puppet state of Imperial Japan, c. 1945

The Empire of Vietnam was a short-lived puppet state of Imperial Japan governing the former French protectorates of Annam and Tonkin between March 11 and August 23, 1945.

The Treaty of Huế, concluded on 25 August 1883 between France and Vietnam, recognised a French protectorate over Annam and Tonkin. Dictated to the Vietnamese by the French administrator François-Jules Harmand in the wake of the French military seizure of the Thuận An forts, the treaty is often known as the 'Harmand Treaty'. Considered overly harsh in French diplomatic circles, the treaty was never ratified in France, and was replaced on 6 June 1884 with the slightly milder 'Patenôtre Treaty' or 'Treaty of Protectorate', which formed the basis for French rule in Vietnam for the next seven decades.

The Treaty of Huế or Protectorate Treaty was concluded on 6 June 1884 between France and Annam (Vietnam). It restated the main tenets of the punitive Harmand Treaty of 25 August 1883, but softened some of the harsher provisions of this treaty. The treaty, which formed the basis for the protectorates of Annam and Tonkin, and for French colonial rule in Vietnam during the next seven decades, was negotiated by Jules Patenôtre, France's minister to China, and is often known as the Patenôtre Treaty. The treaty was signed on the Vietnamese side by Phạm Thận Duật and Tôn Thất Phan, representatives of the emperor Tự Đức’s court. It is known in Vietnamese as Hòa ước Giáp Thân 1884, or Hòa ước Patenotre.

Provisional Central Government of Vietnam

The Provisional Central Government of Vietnam was an entity proclaimed in Vietnam during the First Indochina War. It was created as a transitional government replacing the protectorates of Tonkin and Annam, until Cochinchina could be reunited with the rest of the country.

The Bombardment of Tourane was a naval incident that took place during the short reign of the Vietnamese emperor Thiệu Trị (1841–47), which saw a considerable worsening of relations between France and Vietnam. The French warships Gloire and Victorieuse, which had been sent to Tourane to negotiate for the release of two French Catholic missionaries, were attacked without warning by several Vietnamese vessels. The two French ships fought back, sinking four Vietnamese corvettes, badly damaging a fifth, and inflicting just under 1,200 casualties. In response to this and other provocations, the French eventually decided to intervene actively in Vietnam, and a decade later launched the Cochinchina Campaign (1858–62), which inaugurated the period of French colonial rule in Vietnam.

French administration in Indochina began June 5, 1862, when the Treaty of Saigon ceded three provinces. By 1887 the French administered all of Indochina.

France–Vietnam relations Diplomatic relations between the French Republic and the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam

French–Vietnamese relations started as early as the 17th century with the mission of the Jesuit father Alexandre de Rhodes. Various traders would visit Vietnam during the 18th century, until the major involvement of French forces under Pigneau de Béhaine from 1787 to 1789 helped establish the Nguyễn Dynasty. France was heavily involved in Vietnam in the 19th century under the pretext of protecting the work of Catholic missionaries in the country.

Battle of Thuận An

The Battle of Thuận An was a clash between the French and the Vietnamese during the period of early hostilities of the Tonkin Campaign. During the battle a French landing force under the command of Admiral Amédée Courbet stormed the coastal forts that guarded the river approaches to the Vietnamese capital Huế, enabling the French to dictate a treaty to the Vietnamese that recognised a French protectorate over Tonkin. The French strike against the Vietnamese in August 1883, sanctioned by Jules Ferry's administration in Paris, did more than anything else to make a war between France and China inevitable, and sowed the seeds of the Vietnamese Cần Vương national uprising in July 1885.

Cochinchina campaign 19th-century French/Spanish naval expedition into Vietnam

The Cochinchina Campaign ; is the common designation for a series of military operations between 1858 and 1862, launched by a joint naval expedition force on behalf of the French Empire and the Kingdom of Spain against the Nguyễn dynasty of Đại Nam.

Political organizations and Armed forces in Vietnam

Political organizations and Armed forces in Vietnam, since 1912 :

Tonkin (French protectorate)

Tonkin, or Bắc Kỳ (北圻), was a French protectorate encompassing modern Northern Vietnam.

The Treaty of Saigon was signed on 15 March 1874 by the Third French Republic and the Nguyễn dynasty of Vietnam.


  1. Chisholm 1911, p. 63.
  2. Pierre Brocheux and Daniel Hémery, Indochine : la colonisation ambiguë 1858–1954, La Découverte, 2004, p. 78-89
  3. 1 2 3 Chisholm 1911, p. 61.
  4. 1 2 3 4 Chisholm 1911, p. 62.
  5. Lessard, Micheline (2015). Human Trafficking in Colonial Vietnam. Abingdon, UK: Routledge. ISBN   9781138848184.
For modern histories of Vietnam in English, see History of Vietnam#Sources.