Cover of Mandarins and Martyrs by Jacob Ramsay
Mandarins and Martyrs
The Church and the Nguyen Dynasty in Early Nineteenth-Century Vietnam
Jacob Ramsay


224 pages.

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Hardcover ISBN: 9780804756518
Ebook ISBN: 9780804779548


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This book examines the rise of anti-Catholic hostility in early nineteenth-century Vietnam under the Nguyen dynasty. French missionaries have long been blamed for the destabilization of dynastic Vietnam and the anti-Catholic violence that preceded the French invasion in 1858. But the focus on the political conflict leading to the Nguyen court's antipathy to the church overlooks the significance of Catholicism as a popular religion. Focusing on, but not limited to, the Cochinchina region, this study explores grassroots experiences of the religion and the conflict between the Nguyen court and missionaries of the Missions Étrangères de Paris (MEP). To do so, it draws on the correspondence of French missionaries and Vietnamese priests from the MEP archive, and on vernacular Vietnamese translations of the Nguyen dynastic record, to provide a new perspective on Nguyen Vietnam from the 1820s to the 1860s.

About the author

Jacob Ramsay is a postdoctoral fellow at the Asia Research Institute at the University of Singapore. He has published articles in the Journal of Southeast Asian Studies and the Asian Studies Review.

"Mandarins and Martyrs deftly weaves a rich history of the interactions between the Nguyen emperors [. . .] on one hand and the Vietnamese Catholic Church and French missionaries on the other . . . Ramsay's book is a magnificent contribution to Vietnamese studies. The fact that it is lucidly and elegantly written, and reasonably short is an excellent model for all doctoral dissertations."

—Peter C. Phan, Georgetown University, Catholic Books Review

"Jacob Ramsay presents us here with a well-researched volume making convincing use of Vietnamese and French missionary archives alike to discuss a period that has not yet been throughly investigated in relation to the impact of the French missionary push in Vietnam before the military conquest formally started in 1858 .... Jacob Ramsay's carefully crafted book constitutes a most welcome addition to a growing body of scholarly studies of the influence the Société des Missions Étrangéres de Paris has had on the history of Vietnam."

—Jean Michaud, Church History

"Lucid and well-balanced, Mandarins and Martyrs offers a new perspective on Vietnamese Christian communities in the first half of the nineteenth century. This book is a thoughtful and significant contribution to the field of Vietnamese Studies."

—George E. Dutton, University of California, Los Angeles

"The most persuasive and well-documented picture currently available of the relationship between Vietnamese Catholics, the Vietnamese state, and the non-Catholic majority at the cusp of the colonial era, Ramsay's original and ambitious new work revises significantly how this controversial topic has been conventionally understood."

—Peter Zinoman, University of California, Berkeley