Vietnam was once part of Imperial China for over 1,000 years between 11BC-938 AD, when it became an independent kingdom. The royal dynasties of Vietnamese rule continued until the French colonised the area in the 19th Century, who it turn in power until 1954. Following the French expulsion, Vietnam was divided into two states, North and South Vietnam, only to be reunified as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam after the so-called ‘Vietnam War’ ended in 1975.
Vietnam was well positioned along one of the main trading routes of the Asian maritime systems during the 16th-17th centuries. The ports at Thang Long and Pho Hien developed into major city-ports during this time, becoming thriving hubs of activity. Merchants came from China, Japan, Siam as well as from Europe with the Dutch East India Company (VOC), English East India Company (EIC), French East India Company (CIO), all looking to trade at Vietnam's ports.
During the 17th Century, the VOC and the EIC in particular were very active in this area, trading especially in and around the northern Vietnamese Kingdom of Tonkin. The European traders were mostly drawn to Vietnam to trade in silk, ceramics, ivory, cinnamon, eaglewood, sugar, gold, sandalwood, pepper, areca nuts, timber, tortoise shells and fish.
The Dutch set up a trading post in Hoi An in 1636, and maintained a presence there until 1741. With the VOC came weapons, Dutch glassware and Japanese copper which was also used to manufacture weapons.
Thus far tere has been relatively little research done on this period of history in Vietnam nor archaeological investigations. Such work could tell us a great dal about this period of Vietnamese history, as well as expand our knowledge about the maritime shipping systems in Asia during the 17th and 18th centuries.
CIE have been involved in archaeological activities in Vietnam relating to its maritime history and relationship with the Netherlands. These co-creative efforts fall under the CIE core theme of: