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Notes on the Geography of Vietnam: Colonial Hanoi: Photo 6

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Here's the bridge from an island in the river. The original piers were masonry, and some of the steel work had to be replaced after repeated American bombings. Still, the bridge has proven remarkably sturdy. Perhaps it's the kind of project that Paul Bert, the French governor-general in 1885, had in mind when he defended French rule. "Our peoples are not made to fight each other," he said, "but to work together and each provides what the other is lacking. If the French have come to settle in your territory, you should understand that it is not at all with the thought of taking your lands or your harvests from you; on the contrary, the intention is to increase the general wealth by raising the value of your lands, by facilitating your agricultural production.... The French have the means for doing this, which the Annamites do not yet possess--the capital, the machinery, the engineers and a long experience in business; the French will be your elder brothers."

What Bert did not say, of course, was that the Vietnamese did not have the option of saying "no thanks." Nor did he add that the French paid for their public works in Vietnam with revenue raised from tobacco, alcohol, and opium.

(Quoted in William S. Logan, Hanoi: Biography of a City(2000), p. 78.)

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