This introductory chapter explains the coverage of this book, which is about the history of colonial Bastille or the colonial prison system in French Indochina or Vietnam from 1862 to 1940. This book examines the subversive transmutation of the Indochinese prison system from a colonial institution, traces the history of the idiosyncratic institutional features of the colonial prison and discusses the peculiarly racist and tightfisted character of the colonial state and the continuing influence of the precolonial Sino-Vietnamese penal tradition on colonial punishment. It highlights the high frequency of episodes of collective resistance among prisoners during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
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