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New On-line Primary Source for French Colonial Indochina

From: David Del Testa <ddeltest@bucknell.edu>
Reply-To: Vietnam Studies Group <vsg@u.washington.edu>
To: Vietnam Studies Group <vsg@u.washington.edu>
Subject: [Vsg] new on-line primary source for French colonial Indochina (beta version)

Dear colleagues,

With this e-mail, I am pleased to announce the availability of the rough draft of a new, on-line primary source for the study of French colonial Indochina. The site also serves as a vehicle to promote undergraduate research, particularly in Vietnam. To view French and English-language versions of Claudie Beaucarnot’s 1943 vacation diary and the undergraduate research derived from it, please go to the following address:


Some background…
During the summer of 1943, 19 year-old Claudie Beaucarnot, a Franco-Vietnamese woman who had just completed high school at the Lycee Albert Sarraut in Hanoi and was preparing to study at the School of Fine Arts of Indochina, accompanied her parents and sister from Hanoi to Saigon via Dalat by automobile as part of a two-month vacation and business trip and kept a diary of her experiences and observations. In 1999, following a friend’s tip, I found a transcription of the diary Ms. Beaucarnot had placed at the Archives d’Outre-Mer in Aix-en-Provence, France. In 2001 and again in 2003, with the support of faculty grants from California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, California, my former institution, I met with and interviewed Ms. Beaucarnot, and we agreed to find a way to make her diary available for student use.

During the Summer of 2004, with the support of an AsiaNetwork Freeman Foundation Faculty-Student Research Grant, I took three undergraduates from California Lutheran University to Vietnam in order to retrace Claudie’s steps and complete comparative research projects. And, during the 2004 – 2005 academic year, Bucknell University, my new academic home, agreed to develop a web site presenting the Diary and my former students’ research and to provide space for future research projects.

This site presents the Diary in two ways. First, through an illustrated web site, users can trace Ms. Beaucarnot’s voyage chronologically (that is, in the order she took it in 1943), geographically, or randomly. Second, users can download full-text French, English, and paired French-English PDF versions of the diary for their own use. Alongside the Diary, the site presents some uncritical historical commentary, biographical information, and some discussion of the Summer 2004 student trip. Likewise, in addition to the illustrated and downloadable versions of the Diary, the site makes available other, related documents to users: the student papers, the grant applications, and some copyright-free sources scholars and students might find interesting. Please note that students completed the translations of the diary from French to English, making this as much a student-driven web site as possible. Ms. Beaucarnot has permitted the use of her Diary, so we should thank her for her willingness to make her story to a wide public through the Internet.

Please remember, this site is only a rough draft. The site so far shows only a small fraction of the archival and contemporary images available for it and I have kept the commentary to a minimum. I realize the site is not critical in a scholarly fashion. But I felt that the site was complete enough to make a rough draft of it available to a limited group of scholars in order to illicit comments from them and incorporate their suggestions into the final version of the I hope to make available more widely later this year.

Note as well that on the surface, the diary is not particularly profound. It lacks the kind of deep reflection and self-reflection on historical context scholars often like to have in this kind of source. Claudie was a somewhat sheltered daughter of privilege, for sure. However, if one reads the diary against the history from which it emanates and in the context of an almost complete lack of primary sources in translation about this period, it becomes an exceedingly valuable. For example, Ms. Beaucarnot constantly mentions the presence of highlanders throughout central and southern Vietnam. She observes an abundance of wildlife. Her family, of “mixed” French and Vietnamese background, operates without apparent limitation or prejudice (although interviews with her friends sometimes tell a different story). And so on. Each of these opens the possibility of at least interesting historical comparisons between the past and the present and of a Vietnam more ethnically biologically diverse than today.

I look forward to your comments and suggestions on how to improve this draft to create a final product. Please send all comments to (and not to me directly): TheBeaucarnotDiary@bucknell.edu

I particularly encourage the site’s use in the classroom and look forward to student feedback as well.

Cordially yours,

David Del Testa, PhD, Asst. Prof. of History, Bucknell University


From dduffy@email.unc.edu Tue May 3 09:31:49 2005
Date: Tue, 3 May 2005 12:31:15 -0400
From: Dan Duffy <dduffy@email.unc.edu>
Reply-To: Vietnam Studies Group <vsg@u.washington.edu>
To: Vietnam Studies Group <vsg@u.washington.edu>
Subject: Re: [Vsg] new on-line primary source for French colonialIndochina (beta version)


What a great site.

Two related publications are Marcelino Truong's comic book of an imagined auto journey through Indochine with Andre Malraux, and the colonial girl's memoir in the Yale/Lac Viet volume, Not a War, illustrated with family photos.

I don't notice any absence of critical spirit in this project.
Congratulations on all that teaching -


Dan Duffy
Viet Nam Literature Project
5600 Buck Quarter Road
Hillsborough, NC 27278
tel 919-383-7274, 11 AM - 3 PM Eastern
email dduffy@email.unc.edu

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