This book, published in French in 2018, is a revised version of my doctoral thesis, which was awarded by the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne in 2016. It originated in a trip to Vietnam, the first of several, in 2010. All those who initiated me into the world of Asia, and who accompanied and supported me in my research should rightfully be thanked here. They will forgive me if I cannot mention them individually.
I have a particular debt of gratitude to my thesis supervisors, Hélène Blais, and Hugues Tertrais, as well as to Philippe Papin. This book is the fruit of their guidance. I thank the organisers and regular participants at the “Empires” seminar at the Ecole normale supérieure-rue d’Ulm, who helped shape my thinking and fuel my enthusiasm. I thank all the colleagues at the University of Paris I with whom I had the good fortune and honour to work, and the many researchers who gave me their time, and opened up new avenues on South-East Asia for me, on the history of colonisation and the history of cartography: they will recognise themselves in this description. During a three-month stay in London for archival research, I was particularly lucky to meet William Gervase Clarence-Smith, who agreed to be one of my thesis examiners, Felix Driver, who was always helpful and enthusiastic about my research, and Natascha Pairaudeau, whose advice accompanied me throughout the years.
I would never have been able to carry out research in several countries had it not been for the financial support of a number of bodies: the Collège des Écoles doctorales, the Labex EHNE, the Centre d’histoire de l’Asie contemporaine and the École française d’Extrême-Orient. I am also grateful to those who opened their homes to me during my sometimes lengthy research trips in Ho Chi Minh City, Yangon, Aix-en-Provence, and elsewhere. I thank Nguyễn Thu Hoài and Vũ Thị Mai Anh, François Tainturier, U Htun Yi and Tin Naing Win for deciphering the Vietnamese and Burmese maps for me. Not forgetting the staff at the various archives in which I worked, nor Laura Margueritte for her patience in producing the maps.
The idea of an English translation of the book came when at Cambridge as a British Academy Newton International Fellow. My thanks go to Sujit Sivasundaram for providing the initial impetus for this project, to Tom Simpson for his sustained support, and to Wolfson College for contributing to funding the translation, and for enabling so many fruitful discussions on maps in South-East Asia. I also thank the translator Saskia Brown, and Brill for taking on the English-language publication as the opening volume in their new “Mapping the Past” Series.