Annam (French protectorate)

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Annam (Vietnamese: An Nam) was a French protectorate encompassing the central region of Vietnam. Vietnamese were subsequently referred to as "Annamites." Nationalist writers adopted the word "Vietnam" in the late 1920s. The general public embraced the word "Vietnam" during the revolution of August 1945. Since that time, the word "Annam" has been regarded as demeaning.

The region was seized by the French by 1874 and became part of French Indochina in 1887. Two other Vietnamese regions, Cochinchina (Nam Kỳ) in the South and Tonkin (Bắc Kỳ) in the North, were also units of French Indochina. The region had a dual system of French and Vietnamese administration. The Nguyễn Dynasty still nominally ruled Annam, with a puppet emperor residing in Huế. In 1949, the protectorate was merged in the newly-established State of Vietnam. The region was divided between communist North Vietnam and anti-communist South Vietnam under the terms of the Geneva Accord of 1954.


Etymology and pre-colonial usage

Annam means "Pacified South" in Sino-Vietnamese, the toponym being derived from the Chinese An Nan (; pinyin: Ānnán). In the history of Vietnam, the designation is one of several given by the Chinese to the core territory of modern-day Vietnam. This territory surrounds the city of Hanoi and runs from the Gulf of Tonkin to the mountains which surround the plains of the Red River.


Annam comprised a sinuous strip of territory measuring between 750 and 800 miles (1,300 km) in length, with an approximate area of 52,000 square miles (130,000 km2). It had a rich, well-watered soil which yields tropical crops, and was rich in naturally-occurring minerals.

The country consisted chiefly of a range of plateaus and wooded mountains, running north and south and declining on the coast to a narrow band of plains varying between 12 and 50 miles (80 km) in breadth. The mountains are cut transversely by short narrow valleys, through which run rivers, most of which are dry in summer and torrential in winter. The Song Ma and the Song Ca in the north, and the Song Ba, Don Nai and Se Bang Khan in the south, are the only rivers of any size in the region. The chief harbour is that afforded by the bay of Tourane (also known as Đà Nẵng) at the centre of the coastline. South of this point, the coast curves outwards and is broken by peninsulas and indentations; to the north it is concave and bordered in many places by dunes and lagoons.

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