An episodic history of Vietnam's relations with China before and during the French takeover, which began in 1858 as part of an Anglo-French war against China herself. Jovially sorting out the errors and gaps in Western and Chinese Communist scholarship, McAleavy discusses the millenium of Vietnamese vassalage to China, local power struggles and cultural influence, European merchants, missionaries and adventurers, and the Black Flags, a band of Chinese brigands who tried to carve out a Vietnamese base during the time of French military expansion in the area. There are all sorts of pretty historical parallels and contrasts to be found here, but McAleavy confines himself to ebullient presentation of the complex events of the period, which also include the Opium Wars and the Manchu restoration. The book, he says, is not for academic specialists, and accordingly keeps footnotes and Chinese proper names to a minimum. It is scholarly nonetheless, notable for its wealth of narrative detail. And McAleavy's unusual understanding of nineteenth-century Orientals is utterly devoid of condescension; he turns the wit and skepticism which animate his early-Victorian prose impartially on French, Chinese and Vietnamese. A delightful contribution.