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Ho Chi Minh: A Life Paperback – Unabridged, November 28, 2001

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 752 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion; New edition edition (November 28, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 078688701X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786887019
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #98,123 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Ho Chi Minh (1890-1969) fought for half a century to free Vietnam from foreign domination, and the story of his life illuminates the ongoing struggle between colonialism and nationalism that still shapes world history. William J. Duiker, who served in Saigon's U.S. embassy during the Vietnam War, spent 30 years delving into Vietnamese and European archives, as well as interviewing Minh's surviving colleagues, in order to write this definitive biography. The son of a civil servant from a traditionally rebellious province, the future president of North Vietnam was known for more than 20 years as Nguyen That Thanh. It was under this name that he founded the Vietnamese Communist Party, having concluded after reading Lenin's analysis of imperialism that revolutionary Marxism was the most effective tool to achieve Vietnam's independence. He spent 30 years in exile, cementing his communist ties in Moscow and working with Vietnamese rebels from a base in China, before assuming the name Ho Chi Minh in 1942, when the forces unleashed by World War II seemed to be clearing the way for Vietnamese liberation. French intransigence and American anti-communism would delay the emergence of an independent, united Vietnam for another 30 years, but Ho became an icon who inspired the communist North and the Southern Vietcong to keep fighting. Focusing almost exclusively on political events and ideological debates, Duiker depicts Ho as a nationalist first and foremost, but also as a convinced (though pragmatic) Marxist who believed socialism would help his country modernize and correct ancient inequities. This long, very detailed biography is not for the casual reader, but anyone with a serious interest in modern history will relish a dense narrative that fully conveys the complexities of the man and the issues with which he grappled. --Wendy Smith --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

It's difficult to think of someone more qualified to write this biography than Duiker (The Communist Road to Power in Vietnam), the retired Penn State University historian who has specialized in the Vietnam War for more than three decades. In his massive, thoroughly researched andDin the mainDquite accessible new biography, Duiker succeeds extremely well in illuminating the life and times of Ho Chi MinhDlong North Vietnam's leader, a man Duiker calls a "master motivator and strategist" and "one of the most influential political figures of the twentieth century." Covering both the personal and political life of the revolutionary leader, Duiker fascinatingly traces Ho's early travels to New York, Boston and Paris, as well as his many years in exile in France, China, Thailand and (during WWII and the war against the French of 1945 to 1954) in the rugged mountains of northern VietnamDeras in Ho's life for which documentation has only recently become available. Duiker's detailed recounting of the momentous and extremely complicated events that took place in 1945 following the Japanese surrender, when Ho Chi Minh's Vietminh revolutionary party seized power in northern Vietnam, is riveting. And his account of the not-always-harmonious relations between Ho and the Communist leaders of China and the Soviet Union probes a subject that has long been overlooked by Western scholars. In the end, Duiker portrays Ho Chi Minh as a fervently anticolonial nationalist who, though a committed Marxist, honestly thought he could count on the United States, which had promised to oppose French colonization after WWII. Referring to a long-raging debate about Ho, he says, "The issue is not whether he was a nationalist or a CommunistDin his own way he was both." 32 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW. (Sept.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

The book is a fascinating biography and well worth a read.
Tom Munro
Duiker's style is very readable and engaging with numerous references for readers to separate facts from myths.
T. Doan
After all of that reading and bucks spent on books I was looking forward to reading some fun stuff.
Crossfit Len

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

78 of 82 people found the following review helpful By Mani Tadayon on December 7, 2003
Format: Paperback
First, one should be very clear that there are really no other serious scholarly works on Ho. There are accounts by journalists and Vietnamese who knew Ho, but these are usually very shallow and involve little or no research.
This book is a good general introduction to Ho Chi Minh and Vietnamese history, but lacks crucial insight into Ho's life after World War 2, which is very disappointing. Ho Chi Minh was a remarkable person if only for the number of languages he spoke (French, English, Russian, Chinese, Vietnamese) and the breadth of his knowledge and experience. He is very unlike the grim, close-minded communist stereotype. Ho's globe-trotting life, however, makes the biographer's job tremendously difficult, as he frequently went from one corner of the world to another, often living in secrecy or in remote jungles with a small group of colleagues.
Conducting interviews with people who knew Ho and his colleagues is probably not possible today. Those still living who knew Ho would be very reluctant to speak candidly about him, especially with a stranger from overseas, now that he is such a politicized figure in Vietnam. And those willing to speak about him (usually derogatorily) are usually members of the Vietnamese diaspora who have an axe to grind.
Reading this book, you can really sense the difficulty of finding records of Ho's life in Russia, China and Vietnam. His life in France and Hong Kong is well researched, but there are gaping holes in the biography at the most critical junctures, especially after his return to Vietnam.
Ho's decision to return to Vietnam after over 30 years abroad is not explained. Nor is his relationship to important figures such as Stalin, Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai.
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53 of 59 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 9, 2000
Format: Hardcover
695 pages of valuable and well written research on Ho Chi Minh. For westerners this is a much needed book, dispelling many myths and providing great detail on this otherwise secretive leader of Vietnam. Although some publicity indicated it is the only biography on Ho Chi Minh and that isn't true, it far surpasses those of Charles Fenn and Jean lLcouture both written before the war in Vietnam ended in 1975. Of course a lot more information became available over time. It's just amazing how much of it the author found, some coming from France and Russian archives. Having just returned from a trip to Ha Noi where Ho is even more a symbol of the country then Washington is to us, it was good to find this newly published book to put a human face on the man still called Uncle Ho and revered by his people. For those interested in the facts of Ho Chi Minh's life rather then the propaganda put out by those who revere him and those who hate him, this is the book to read. Then draw your own conclusions.
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44 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Crossfit Len on February 21, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This has been a good year of biographies for us social studies teachers. Short's excellent look at Mao, Bix's bio of Hirohito, and a tough but neccessary read on Ataturk. After all of that reading and bucks spent on books I was looking forward to reading some fun stuff. But how could any good global studies teacher pass a new biography of Ho Chi Minh. He, like Ataturk, has only been on every New York State Global Regents for the last 6 years! And I certainly could not resist after seeing Duiker on c-span discussing the book.
First and foremost...is it a good book? YES! It was very informative and highly readable once you made it past the opening chapters and got used to reading the endless Vietnamese names. Also, please note that while the book is readable, it is not a fast read. This book took me over three months to read, and I am a pretty avid reader with a decent background in Vietnamese history. So be warned, great book but time consuming.
The book is well researched and documented. To me the highlights of the book dealt with Ho Chi Minh's political views, his history as a communist in not just Vietnam, but France, and the USSR. I enjoyed learning about all his various identities and all the places he travelled. But the best parts of the book I felt dealth with Ho Chi Minh at the end of WWII and his attempts to gain independence for Vietnam, his attempts to win over US support, and to negotiate with the French. Duiker did a great job with this time period. Also, Duiker points out which I did not know, how much more radical other members of the Vietnamese revolutionary movement were by the 1960's. I had always thought he was in complete charge like a Stalin or Mao and had no idea about the various leaders and views to surface towards the end of his life.
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Format: Hardcover
During the time when American involvement in Vietnam was at its' peak, my high school social studies class conducted a debate about Ho Chi Minh. One side argued that he was a nationalist who chose communism because it was the only way he could get the assistance he needed. The other side countered with the point that he was an international communist agent first and a nationalist second. Now, over three decades later and after having read this well-researched book, I still don't know. In reading the book and sifting through the details of his life, no definitive answer can be reached. It also seems clear that we will never know, which is unfortunate, because the difference was substantial.
On the side of his being a communist first there is the fact that he was a Comintern agent who spent many years of training in the Soviet Union, surviving the Stalinist purges. Only those whose loyalty was considered absolute tended to survive those years. However, he apparently was once arrested and in danger of being liquidated. On the side of being a nationalist first are the countless times when he pragmatically dealt with his enemies over the objections of his comrades. However, he always justified it as the first step in retrenchment a la Lenin and his New Economic Policy.
The primary reason for the involvement of the United States in Vietnam was the perception that he was an agent of the international communist conspiracy, hoping to expand their influence to include all of southeast Asia. However, if he had been perceived as a communist more in the mold of Tito of Yugoslavia, the successive U. S. administrations may have accepted his leadership. Certainly he gave them enough opportunities, having good relationships with some American OSS agents during the second world war.
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