Ho Chi Minh Research Paper

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Ho Chi Minh was the most prominent leader of the Vietnamese nationalist movements against French colonialism in the 1940s and 1950s. He epitomized the will of colonized peoples to obtain independence from Western imperialism, but also embodied the paradoxical convergence of two apparently conflicting ideologies: nationalism and Marxism.

Nguyen Sinh Cung, born in the Vietnamese village of Kim Lien, in Nghe An province, assumed multiple aliases during his years as a revolutionary, but was best known as Ho Chi Minh, which means “He Who Enlightens.” Ho Chi Minh grew up in a poor family of Confucian scholars. His father, despite being a scholar-official, preferred to remain in the village to teach rather than serve an imperial court he considered corrupt. At the time, Vietnam had been broken up into three fragments (Tonkin, Annam, and Cochinchina) under the colonial control of France. The Vietnamese royal court, centered at Hue, the imperial capital, and under the nominal rule of the Nguyen dynasty, answered to the French. Ho Chi Minh was thus steeped early on in an atmosphere of fervent nationalism. In 1911, after pursuing an education at the National School in Hue, Ho Chi Minh decided to travel to the West to search for ways to liberate his country, which had been colonized by the French since 1862. Ho Chi Minh’s travels were to last him thirty years, but in 1917 he alighted in Paris, a fertile ground for revolutionaries. He joined the French Socialist Party, frequented Vietnamese nationalist milieus, and published anticolonial articles in his journal, The Pariah, under the alias Nguyen Ai Quoc (“Nguyen Who Loves His Country”). World War I ended in 1918, and in 1919 came the peace conference at Versailles. Ho Chi Minh used the conference as an opportunity to present a list of reforms to the delegations present; when he was turned away, Ho Chi Minh, who had already been involved in French socialist activities, became even more deeply committed to Marxism. In 1920 he became one of the founding members of the French Communist Party, where he advocated for Vietnamese independence.

In 1923 he traveled to Moscow for further Marxist training, and from 1924 he traveled and worked as a Communist revolutionary in various parts of Asia. What drove him foremost was his mission to liberate Vietnam from French rule, at whatever cost. Jailed, tortured, sentenced to death, and surviving years of hardship, Ho Chi Minh emerged the undisputed leader of the Vietnamese Communist movement when he founded the Indochinese Communist Party (ICP) in 1930 in Hong Kong.

The French colonial government was at its weakest during the Japanese wartime occupation of Vietnam, and it was in 1941, during the occupation, that Ho Chi Minh returned to Vietnam and established the Viet Minh Front, or the League for the Independence of Vietnam. The surrender of Japan on 16 August 1945 gave the Viet Minh the opportunity to launch its nationwide August Revolution and to seize power. On 2 September 1945, in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, by then an emaciated, wizened man, read the Declaration of Independence, declaring the formation of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV).

The French were determined to regain their colonial possessions, but the First Indochina War (1946–1954) concluded with the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu in May 1954. The Geneva Accords, signed in July 1954, temporarily separated the warring parties on either side of the seventeenth parallel until elections scheduled for 1956. In the north was the DRV under President Ho; in the south were the French, from which emerged the Republic of Vietnam under Ngo Dinh Diem (1901–1963). In the north was the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) under President Ho; in the south emerged the Republic of Vietnam (RVN), inaugurated on 23 October, 1955, under Ngo Dinh Diem (1901–1963) who refused to hold the 1956 reunification elections as stipulated by the Geneva Accords. With the United States’ intervention, the Second Indochina War (1960–1973) plunged Vietnam deeper into bloody and destructive conflict. The Communist forces continued the combat with the U.S.-sponsored southern regime, which the DRV considered illegitimate. Until his death on 2 September 1969, Ho Chi Minh was able to keep the DRV focused on carrying on the struggle. His stature acquired legendary proportions, and he became known as Bac Ho or “Uncle Ho” among supporters. Ho Chi Minh came to symbolize the Vietnamese determination to resist, and his name was chanted repeatedly in antiwar marches in the 1960s and 1970s in the West and in Third World countries. Ho Chi Minh was deft in steering the DRV through the shoals of Communist rivalry that pitted the Soviet Union against China during the Sino-Soviet crisis while managing to obtain vital economic, financial, and military aid from both. His final wishes were that his ashes be deposited in the three regions of Vietnam, but he was embalmed and remains in state at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi.


  1. Duiker, W. (2000). Ho Chi Minh. New York: Hyperion.
  2. Minh, H. C. (1994). Selected writings. Hanoi, Vietnam: The Gioi Publishers.
  3. Minh, H. C. (2002). Prison diary. New York: Ross & Perry.
  4. Quinn-Judge, S. (2003) Ho Chi Minh: The missing years. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.
  5. Tin, B. (1999). Following Ho Chi Minh. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.

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