The Coal Mines of Vietnam: Mining, Landscape and Society, 1858-1954


LAC Burkhardt


Social Sciences


For residence at the Council on Southeast Asian Studies and the Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale University during academic year 2019-2020


The rise of the coal mining industry in colonial Vietnam often has been associated with the French economic presence and their drastic methods of exploitation. Beyond the confines of these French mining enterprises, coal mining gave rise to transnational economic links, fueled clandestine economic activities, and bound communities across the Chinese-Vietnamese borderland. This project offers the first full-length study of the coal industry with a focus on the role of non-state actors such as Chinese syndicates, migrant workers, local ethnic minorities, rebels, and other itinerant populations. Despite intense French surveillance, local Chinese, Vietnamese, and other ethnic groups carved out discreet spaces and self-sustaining systems that rivaled those of the formal mining economy. The history of coal mining therefore provides a new lens through which to explore the dynamics of colonial rule and the interplay of the local and the global, as well as the creation of important inter-Asian networks.