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Vietnam traces its history back some 4,000 years when the Viet, settled south of the Yellow River in China, migrated southwards under the pressure of the more numerous Han.
The country was for centuries under continuous Chinese pressures, including extended periods of Chinese rule, but has been broadly independent since the 10th Century. It was known by various names and only acquired its present name, Vietnam, at the beginning of the 19th Century.
The Red River Delta in the North is the cradle of Vietnamese civilisation. From there the Viet pressed south, at a rate averaging about 3 km each year, reaching Hue in the Centre by the 14th Century and the Mekong Delta by the middle of the 18th Century, conquering and absorbing populations as they progressed.
Portuguese and French Missionaries visited and settled in Vietnam in the 17th and 18th Centuries and by the early part of the 19th century France was taking a keen colonial interest in the country, which by 1868 had come largely under French domination.
France governed Vietnam as part of the Indochina Federation, which treated Cochin China as a French colony and Annam and Tonkin, like Laos and Cambodia, as protectorates.
From the 1930s Vietnamese nationalists, led by Ho Chi Minh, campaigned and fought for independence, which was declared on September 2, 1945, in Hanoi by President Ho Chi Minh.
After the French departure from Vietnam in 1954, hostilities broke out between the communist north and the non-communist south which continued until the capture of Saigon by North Vietnamese forces in April 1975.