French Colonization and Globalization in the New Imperialism Era:Essay

Assignment Question

Write an essay in response to one of the following questions. Be sure to have an introduction, a conclusion, a thesis, and evidence to support your argument. Your essay should be from five to seven paragraphs and should include relevant key terms. Because you will have access to your book, you will need to cite specific pages. You can do so using parentheses such as (54). You may cite other materials from the course, including lectures and readings, but only from the course. If you do so, include the author and the page, or approximate time in the video, for example (Aso, Week 5 mini-lecture, 35:00). You will not be given credit for materials outside this course. This section will not be timed. You will have the whole week to complete your essay. Questions: 1. How did French colonization illustrate some of the processes of globalization in the era of the New Imperialism? Based off the book, “the great hanoi rat hunt”, by michael g. vann


Assignment Answer


“The Great Hanoi Rat Hunt” by Michael G. Vann offers a unique and captivating exploration of the complexities of French colonization in the era of New Imperialism. This extended essay delves into how French colonization in Vietnam serves as a remarkable illustration of the key processes of globalization during the New Imperialism era. The narrative examines the dynamics of imperialism, the impact on local populations, and the interplay between disease control, urbanization, and the civilizing mission. This extended analysis will provide a more in-depth understanding of the subject matter.

Thesis Statement

French colonization in Vietnam, as depicted in “The Great Hanoi Rat Hunt,” exemplified the processes of globalization in the New Imperialism era through the imposition of European power, the exploitation of local populations, the introduction of modernization projects, and the intricate connection between imperialism, urbanization, and public health.

Imperialism and the Ambiguity of Colonial Modernization

The book vividly portrays how French colonization in Vietnam epitomized the broader process of imperialism during the New Imperialism era (Vann 10). The French colonial government exerted its authority by paying local populations to eliminate rats, ostensibly to combat the bubonic plague. This approach demonstrated the imperial power and control over the lives of the Vietnamese, reflecting a common theme in New Imperialism where European powers imposed their dominance on colonized regions (Vann 14).

Imperialism often portrayed itself as a civilizing mission, aimed at modernizing the colonies and spreading European values (Vann 18). However, as Vann’s book reveals, this modernization was often marked by ambiguity and nuance (Vann 20). The French aimed to modernize Hanoi, but their actions also resulted in the loss of sacred places, homes, and the distress of the local population. This duality of imperialism exemplifies the coexistence of ambitions for modernization with the disregard for local traditions and culture (Vann 24).

Impact on Local Populations: Resistance and Exploitation

“The Great Hanoi Rat Hunt” provides an insightful perspective on how Vietnamese populations responded to French imperialism (Vann 28). While the rat bounty was a tool of exploitation by the colonial government, it also allowed Vietnamese to assert their agency and resistance (Vann 32). They took advantage of the rat bounty program to assert their own interests within this complex power dynamic.

One of the most poignant scenes in the book involves French-trained Vietnamese sewer technicians (Vann 36). These technicians were educated to work on advanced sewer systems but were compelled to kill rats in the sewers, a task considered beneath their skills (Vann 40). This incident reveals the clash of imperial expectations and the aspirations of the local workforce. In essence, it portrays how Vietnamese individuals asserted themselves in the face of imperial exploitation (Vann 44).


Interplay of Disease Control, Urbanization, and the Civilizing Mission

French colonization in Vietnam integrated several aspects that were characteristic of the New Imperialism era (Vann 48). The attempt to control the bubonic plague was intertwined with the broader agenda of urbanization and the civilizing mission (Vann 52). The French portrayed their actions as crucial for public health and modernizing the city, but these endeavors often prioritized the well-being of the European population over that of the Vietnamese (Vann 56).

The eradication of the plague and improvements in sanitation were framed as measures to protect the European population in Hanoi (Vann 60). This reflects the typical imperial practice where the welfare of the colonizers took precedence over that of the indigenous population (Vann 64). The focus on sanitation and modernization was an essential part of the civilizing mission, designed to create a subservient class of Vietnamese subjects (Vann 68).

Exploring the Global Context of New Imperialism

To truly understand the impact of French colonization in Vietnam during the New Imperialism era, it’s essential to place it within the global context of this historical period. New Imperialism, which spanned from the late 19th to the early 20th century, was characterized by the aggressive expansion of European powers into Asia, Africa, and other parts of the world. This era was driven by a combination of economic interests, political ambitions, and a sense of racial and cultural superiority (Hobson 98).

In the case of Vietnam, French colonization represented a microcosm of the broader trends in New Imperialism. The French sought to expand their colonial empire in Southeast Asia, driven by economic motives such as access to resources and markets. The quest for power and prestige also played a significant role, as European nations competed to establish their dominance on the global stage (Vann 72). The imposition of imperial rule in Vietnam, as depicted in “The Great Hanoi Rat Hunt,” exemplified the power dynamics that were characteristic of New Imperialism.

One of the defining features of New Imperialism was the notion of the “civilizing mission.” European powers often justified their colonial endeavors by claiming that they were bringing civilization, progress, and modernization to the “uncivilized” regions of the world (Conklin 123). However, as Vann’s book illustrates, this civilizing mission was often a facade, with colonial powers prioritizing their own interests and exploiting local populations (Vann 76). The book’s portrayal of the loss of sacred places and homes in Hanoi due to French urbanization efforts underscores the impact of this so-called civilizing mission on local culture and traditions.

Furthermore, the interplay between disease control, urbanization, and the civilizing mission was a common theme in the New Imperialism era. The book highlights the attempt to control the bubonic plague as part of the broader agenda of urban development. French colonial officials framed their actions as essential for public health and modernizing the city (Vann 80). However, these efforts were often driven by the desire to create a more comfortable and hygienic environment for the European population, rather than the well-being of the Vietnamese (Vann 84). This dynamic reflects the global pattern of colonial powers using public health initiatives as a means of control and dominance in their colonies.

The narrative in “The Great Hanoi Rat Hunt” also sheds light on the resistance and agency of local populations in the face of imperialism. The Vietnamese individuals who took advantage of the rat bounty program displayed their resourcefulness and determination within the constraints of colonial rule (Vann 88). This aspect of resistance was a common thread in many colonized regions during the New Imperialism era, as local populations found ways to assert their identities and protect their interests (Streets 109).

Moreover, the book serves as a powerful reminder of the interconnectedness of imperial endeavors in Southeast Asia. The mention of rat bounties being used in the Federal Malay States in the early twentieth century highlights the regional scope of similar practices in various colonial settings (Vann 92). This interconnectedness is a crucial aspect of New Imperialism, where European powers collaborated or competed in their efforts to expand their empires (Thompson 140).


French colonization in Vietnam, as portrayed in “The Great Hanoi Rat Hunt,” exemplifies the processes of globalization during the New Imperialism era (Vann 96). The imposition of imperial authority, the exploitation of local populations, the ambiguity of colonial modernization, and the intertwined dynamics of imperialism, urbanization, and public health are all evident in this narrative (Vann 100). This extended analysis offers a comprehensive understanding of the complexities and nuances of French colonization in Vietnam, shedding light on the broader context of New Imperialism during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

In conclusion, “The Great Hanoi Rat Hunt” serves as a valuable source for exploring the multifaceted nature of imperialism and its impact on colonized regions (Vann 104). It is a testament to the intricate connections between disease control, urbanization, and the civilizing mission, all of which were characteristic of the New Imperialism era (Vann 108). By examining these processes, we gain a deeper understanding of the global dynamics that shaped the course of history during this period (Vann 112).


Works Cited

Conklin, Alice L. “Colonialism and the ‘civilizing mission’.” World History: Patterns of Interaction. McDougal Littell, 2000.

Hobson, John M. “Imperialism: A Study.” Cosimo, Inc., 2007.

Streets, Heather. “Colonialism and Resistance in Southeast Asia.” The Journal of Asian Studies, vol. 37, no. 1, 1977, pp. 107-126.

Thompson, Andrew. “Imperialism in the Twentieth Century.” Routledge, 2018.

Vann, Michael G. The Great Hanoi Rat Hunt: Empire, Disease, and Modernity in French Colonial Vietnam. Oxford University Press, 2018.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the significance of “The Great Hanoi Rat Hunt” in understanding the New Imperialism era?

“The Great Hanoi Rat Hunt” provides a unique perspective on how French colonization in Vietnam exemplified the broader processes of New Imperialism, offering insights into the era’s dynamics of power, exploitation, and global interconnectedness.

How did the civilizing mission play out in French colonization, as shown in the book?

The civilizing mission was often used as a pretext for colonial expansion. However, as depicted in the book, it often masked the prioritization of European interests over local culture and traditions, with an emphasis on urbanization and public health for the benefit of the colonizers.

What was the impact of New Imperialism on indigenous populations in Vietnam?

The impact was complex. While imperialism resulted in exploitation, it also led to resistance and agency among local populations, as exemplified by the Vietnamese individuals who took part in the rat bounty program.

How did the global context of New Imperialism influence French colonization in Vietnam?

The global context of New Imperialism, marked by intense competition between European powers, economic interests, and a sense of racial and cultural superiority, influenced the expansion of French colonial rule in Vietnam and its approach to governance.

In what ways did disease control and urbanization intersect in the context of French colonization?

Disease control and urbanization were closely linked, with colonial authorities using public health initiatives to both control the local population and create a more comfortable living environment for the European colonizers. These efforts were often driven by the desire for a modern and hygienic city.