Contested Territory Dien Bien Phu and the Making of Northwest Vietnam Christian C. Lentz

Yale Agrarian Studies Series
Publication date:
11 Jun 2019
Yale University Press
352 pages: 235 x 156 x 22mm
23 b-w illus.
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The definitive account of one of the most important battles of the twentieth century, and the Black River borderlands’ transformation into Northwest Vietnam

This new work of historical and political geography ventures beyond the conventional framing of the Battle of Điện Biên Phủ, the 1954 conflict that toppled the French empire in Indochina. Tracking a longer period of anticolonial revolution and nation-state formation from 1945 to 1960, Christian Lentz argues that a Vietnamese elite constructed territory as a strategic form of rule. Engaging newly available archival sources, Lentz offers a novel conception of territory as a contingent outcome of spatial contests.

Christian C. Lentz is associate professor of geography at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

Listed on Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles List for 2019


"A brilliant, original work that makes a valuable, ground-level contribution to our historical understanding of a major event of the global twentieth century."—Ben Kiernan, Yale University, author of Viêt Nam: A History from Earliest Times to the Present

"Emplotting the history of –iên Biên Phu into the story of Vietnam's multiethnic Northwest, Christian Lentz poses questions about space, power, and territory that will stay with readers long after the final page."—Bradley Camp Davis, author of Imperial Bandits: Outlaws and Rebels in the China-Vietnam Borderlands

"This masterfully-researched book offers an innovative approach to our understanding of how people and places once considered marginal became integrated into Vietnam’s national project and how its state territory was produced."—Oscar Salemink, University of Copenhagen

"An extraordinary achievement of historical and political geography as well as agrarian studies"—Emily T. Yeh, author of Taming Tibet: Landscape Transformation and the Gift of Chinese Development

"In this definitive study of Ðiên Biên Phu, Christian Lentz brilliantly illuminates issues of territory and territoriality, processes of nation-building, contests over land and labor, and relations between local peoples and the state."—Hue-Tam Ho Tai, Harvard University