The Tây Sơn uprising: society and rebellion in late eighteenth-century Việt Nam, 1771-1802
Dutton, George Edson
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This project is an examination of the Tây So,n movement and regime of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries in Viẹt Nam. I argue that the nature of this movement and its transformation into a series of political regimes is best understood through analysis that considers dynamic interactions between various segments of Vietnamese society during this period. The analysis challenges prevailing Vietnamese scholarly traditions by questioning the assumption of a convergence of interests between the Tây So,n and the peasantry, arguing instead that what might have begun as a movement for peasants was transformed into a regime that exploited them.The study first looks at the connection between the movement's leadership and various conceptions of legitimacy that coexisted in Viet Nam in the eighteenth century, arguing that the movement's leaders were opportunists not visionaries, and were far from the revolutionaries some scholars have depicted. Next, it considers the relationship between the Tây So,n leadership and peasant populations, showing that early peasant support gave way to active resistance to forced military service and onerous corvee labor. The study then looks at the dynamic between the Tây So,n leadership and various segments of Vietnamese society, those living at the social margins---bandits, pirates, and ethnic and religious minorities---and intellectual elites. It reveals the critical role that each of these groups played in shaping the course and nature of the movement, and the ways in which their roles have frequently been misstated.The study finally argues against the idea of Tây So,n exceptionalism. Instead, it shows that the Tây So,n regime was not unlike its predecessors or eventual successors in many respects, including its policies, its treatment of the peasantry, and its political institutions. The peasants in particular noticed relatively little difference between the Tây So,n and the other regimes they had seen. By challenging the existing Vietnamese interpretations of the Tây So,n , this study lays the groundwork for further examinations of the movement.
- History