Organized Panel Session
The current literature has characterized the political consolidation of premodern Vietnam and Southeast Asia from both maritime and inland-centric perspectives. In examining the impact of the wetlands, this paper correlates the degree to which Vietnam established its strong inland political centers with its capacity to tap into maritime networks. The focus is on a region known as Son Nam from the late fifteenth to the late eighteenth centuries. Located in the lower parts of the Red River, Son Nam was one of the four regions adjacent to the capital situated in present-day Hanoi. On the one hand, these regions provided immediate military and economic security for the capital. On the other hand, the riverine system meandering through Son Nam served as a critical water route that linked the capital with the sea in the southeast and with other lands in the further south. By illustrating a double transformation of the wetlands in this region and the Vietnamese state’s agricultural scheme, this study shows that the fifteenth century witnessed Son Nam’s rise to a strategic wet-rice center as much of its wetlands were transformed into rice fields. Underlying this local transformation were the combined impacts of a drier climate, a more developed dike system, and a state policy advocating land reclamation for wet-rice crops. In this way, this study further suggests a possible link between the wealth of Son Nam paddy fields and the reintegration of northern Vietnam into the international maritime networks after the sixteenth century.