V-1. “A Study on the Large Land-Ownership in the Mekong Delta during the French Colonial Period” (H25 FY2013)

  • Project Leader : Takada Youko (Keiai University, Faculty of International Studies)

Outline of Research

This work is a monograph, extensively discussing the large-scale land holdings for the export rice production in the Mekong Delta, now in Vietnam, during the French colonial period. Based on a survey of historical materials in the archives in Aix-en-Provence and Ho Chi Minh City, and field research in the Mekong Delta, the author discusses (1) the important role of the rice exports from Saigon within Indochinese foreign trade, (2) land concessions and the expansion of ricemonoculture, (3) social change and class relations in villages, (4) land accumulation and ethnic relations among Viet, Khmer and Hoa. This work aims to make academic contributions by locating historical change in the western Mekong Delta during the period of French imperial rule.


(1) This study will conduct a survey of the primary sources including materials in the French National Archives in Aix en Provence (CAOM), the National Archives in Ho Chi Minh City (Trung Tam Luu Tru Quoc Gia II), making many findings about large-scale land holdings in the Mekong Delta. The analysis of the rice-export market is much more extensive than any other previous studies. It succeeded in discovering the international surroundings of the spread of large-scale land holdings. The publication will be a great contribution to the study of modern Vietnamese socio-economic history and French colonialism.

(2) The uniqueness of the study exists in a synthesis of multiple approaches, that is, international studies, a landscape study from the view point of human geography, and interviews of elder people living in villages on the basis of socio-economic historical study. A combination of field research in the villages and the multiple approaches of social science will clarify the real entities of large landownership in the Mekong Delta. This method is innovative and suggestive of the methodology of area studies.

(3) One special contribution of this study will be an analysis of the origin and basic structure of large landownership by looking at government documents approving licenses to obtain public lands. Colonial governments sought to develop rice-production in the Mekong Delta through concessions, leadning to the dominance of the Viet people over the Khmer. This analytical approach to ethnicity is also a strong feature of thiswork.

(4) The establishment and collapse of large landownership in the Mekong Delta formed an important background to international conflict in postwar Indochina. This study will be a significant contribution in clarifying the causes and effects of the conflict. It will be of great help to scholars and persons who are interested in understanding the historical issues of the region where international cooperation can promote the economic developments.

The author on the Cho Gao Canal dug in 1877-8 during the French colonial period (the east Mekong delta)

An old landlord’s house in Bac Lieu (the west Mekong delta)