History and Government
The land now known as Vietnam has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Archaeological finds suggest that structured societies were in existence from as early as the 1st millennium BC. Early society was mostly feudal and agriculture-based, with various dynasties overseeing different parts of Vietnam until the Chinese invasion of 111 BC, which saw the societies of Vietnam and China become intertwined. Various Chinese dynasties dominated the area for hundreds of years, although revolts finally led to Vietnam gaining self-autonomy in 905. By 938, this period of Chinese imperial domination came to a close and Vietnam entered into an age of independence.
During the 19th century, Vietnam came under the influence of French colonisers, who assumed control of Vietnam after the Sino-French War of 1884 and 1885. French Indochina was formed in 1887, and included parts of Vietnam, Cambodia and, later on, Laos. Although the French managed to suppress internal movements towards independence for many years, their control was finally relinquished in 1954 when Vietnamese forces overcame the French during the first Indochina War. Following this war, Vietnam was divided, with separate forces ruling the north (led by Ho Chi Minh) and the south (led by Ngo Dinh Diem, with support from the United States).
The second Indochina War created wide-scale devastation and turmoil for the people of Vietnam, leading to mass migration to other parts of the world as asylum seekers tried to escape the conflict that ravaged their homeland. By the 1980s Vietnam’s economy had all but collapsed, leading to further waves of migration out of Vietnam. More recently, Vietnam has benefited from the free market economy that was set up in 1986. Vietnam’s economy continues to expand, with agriculture and industry providing the backbone, and the tourism sector also contributing. Although many Vietnamese people live below the poverty line, there have been widespread improvements in literacy and health which hopefully will continue to improve in the years to come.