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Health and Hygiene - Colony Versus Empire

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Health and Hygiene - Colony Versus Empire - Lesson Summary

The rat hunt and bubonic plague of 1903 was a clear indication of the failure in the French civilising mission. It also presented a unique way for the Vietnamese to counter colonialism in day- to -day life. Bubonic plague is a contagious disease, which often proves fatal and can also cause an epidemic.
In 1903, the bubonic plague broke out in Hanoi and people manipulated the situation in a different way to exploit French colonisers.
Modernizing Hanoi, one of the main cities of Vietnam came first on their agenda. The French part of Hanoi was beautified with wide avenues and a well laid out sewer system. The native quarter was completely ignored with no modern hygienic facilities.
The sewers in the French part of the city provided perfect conditions for rats to breed in and easy movement throughout the city. Hanoi hence became a favourable place for the outbreak of plague.
To combat the rat menace, a rat hunt was started in 1902. While catching rats in dirty sewers, the Vietnamese realised the concept of collective bargaining.
The bubonic plague continued to affect Hanoi during 1903 and the subsequent years. The Rat Hunt marked the defeat of French colonisers and an  utter failure of their civilising mission.


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