French Intervention in Vietnam: A Surprise to Themselves

French intervention, in Vietnam, was unsuccessful. This illustration, by Puck artist Bernhard Gillam (1856-1896), makes the point as early as 1885.

The Library of Congress, where a copy of this work is kept, provides a summary of it:

Illustration shows, at center, a Mahdi soldier and a Chinese soldier gloating over recent victories; on the left the British army is routed by Mahdi forces in the Sudan, and on the right, the French army is routed by Chinese forces in "Tonquin" (i.e., Tonkin or North Vietnam).

The title of the illustration is:

A surprise to themselves

Its caption states:

El Mahdi and John Chinaman "Great Scott! What terrible fellows we are!"

About eighty years later, the U.S. government’s attempt to intervene in Vietnam would also lead to turmoil (and “a surprise to themselves”). It also led to a recycled version of the caption's observation, made by others (if not by themselves, as U.S. leaders).

Click on the image for a better view.

Media Credits

Bernhard Gillam created this 1885 illustration for Puck's April 8, 1885 issue. Published as a centerfold by Keppler & Schwarzmann. Online via the Library of Congress. Public Domain due to expired copyright.


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"French Intervention in Vietnam: A Surprise to Themselves" AwesomeStories.com. Feb 17, 2016. Jul 18, 2019.
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