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Imperial Archives of the Nguyen Dynasty: in Retrospect

The Imperial Archives of the Nguyen Dynasty is composed of original administrative documents about the social and economic activities during the said regime. They are officially labelled as a Documentary Heritage of the UNESCO Memory of the World Register for the Asia Pacific Region this year.

The Imperial Archives of the Nguyen Dynasty consist of 800 volumes; 85,000 documents; and 200,000 pages of official administrative documents of the Nguyen Dynasty containing reports, proclamations, royal decrees, guidelines, viewpoints, policies, administrative systems and petitions to the king which addressed issues such as political, military, economic, social, diplomatic, and cultural. The Imperial Archives consised of 11 out of the 13 Kings of the Nguyen Dynasty which ruled from 1802-1945. The papers were approved and annonated with red ink by the ruler himself.

One of the facts that the royal documents revealed is that there were a number of epidemics which occurred during the Nguyen Dynasty, one which happened in 1840 during the 21st regime of Minh Mang. The epidemic affected Thanh Hoa Province and killed over 1,000 people. The Imperial Archives also recorded trade and agriculture in the region, the former between other countries and the latter which is considered the main source of livelihood under the regime. Vietnam has always been rich in agriculture and the past rulers have made sure to take care of this precious natural resource. Thus, monthly reports were required to be submitted to the royal court updating on weather conditions and rice prices. Floods were a frequent occurrence, too so that such reports were important in order for the administration to plan and provide aid in the form of food, seedlings or tax relief to the local residents.

The Imperial Archives also stated Vietnam being sovereign in its sea and island as proven by the Nguyen Dynasty itself including Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagoes under a state managament system. Documents were available showing trips to the following archipelagoes to survey and map sea areas as well as royal letters praising contributors to both islands.

The Imperial Archives of the Nguyen Dynasty is similar to the Vietnamese monarchy in terms of its standard administrative management documents which are very strict and private. According to the Director of the National Archives Center Ha Van Hue, the said historical records provide a principal source of both historical study and perhaps more importantly, proof of Vietnam’s political struggle and victory to achieve its sovereignty. The Imperial Archives of the Nguyen Dynasty also stands as Vietnam’s solid ground in the international world of politics, culture and history.


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