The colonisation of Vietnam by the French brought the people of the country into conflict with the colonisers in all areas of life. The most visible form of French control was military and economic domination but the French also built a system that tried to reshape the culture of the Vietnamese. Nationalism in Vietnam emerged through the efforts of different sections of society to fight against the French and all they represented.
French troops landed in Vietnam in 1858 and by the mid-1880s they had established a firm grip over the northern region. After the Franco-Chinese war the French assumed control of Tonkin and Anaam and, in 1887, French Indo-China was formed. In the following decades the French sought to consolidate their position, and people in Vietnam began reflecting on the nature of the loss that Vietnam was suffering. Nationalist resistance developed out of this reflection.
The famous blind poet Ngyuyen Dinh Chieu (1822-88) bemoaned what was happening to his country:
I would rather face eternal darkness
Than see the faces of traitors.
I would rather see no man
Than encounter one man’s suffering.
I would rather see nothing
Than witness the dismembering of the country in decline.