The Return of N'Guyen Van Binh

Exile and Injustice in the French Empire, 1866–1876

in Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques
Geoff Read Huron University College, London, Ontario, Canada

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This article explores the case of N'Guyen Van Binh, a South Vietnamese political prisoner exiled for his alleged role in “Poukhombo's Rebellion” in Cambodia in 1866. Although Van Binh's original sentence of exile was reduced to one year in prison he was nonetheless deported and disappeared into the maw of the colonial systems of indentured servitude and forced labor; he likely did not survive the experience. He was thus the victim of injustice and his case reveals the at best haphazard workings of the French colonial bureaucracy during the period of transition from the Second Empire to the Third Republic. While the documentary record is entirely from the perspective of the colonizers, reading between the lines we can also learn something about Van Binh himself including his fierce will to resist his colonial oppressors.

Contributor Notes

Geoff Read is Provost, Dean of Arts and Social Science, and Associate Professor of History at Huron University College in London, Ontario, Canada. He has published in the past on gender, race, and politics in interwar France as well as on the transatlantic press in the late nineteenth century. His current project is a study of single men in the French Empire during the Third Republic. Email:

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