The Hanoi Rat Massacre: How a Rat Infestation Got Worse in 1902

TLDR In 1902, the French governor of Indochina implemented a plan to eradicate a rat infestation in Hanoi, but it backfired as people started breeding rats for the bounty on their tails. This incident, known as the Hanoi Rat Massacre, is an example of the unintended consequences that can arise from incentive programs.

Timestamped Summary

00:00 The French governor of Indochina implemented a plan to get rid of a massive rat infestation in Hanoi in 1902, but the program ended up making the problem worse.
01:53 In 1902, the French governor of Indochina implemented a plan to bring modern infrastructure, including flush toilets, to the French section of Hanoi, but the sewer pipes they installed ended up causing a major problem.
03:19 The French hired rat hunters to kill rats in the sewer system of Hanoi, but despite killing thousands of rats per day, the rat problem persisted.
04:39 The rat tail bounty program in Hanoi backfired as people began importing and breeding rats to harvest their tails for the reward.
06:00 The Hanoi rat massacre is an example of the Cobra Effect, where a bounty on rats and cobras led to people breeding them instead, resulting in a larger population.
07:29 Incentives can often lead to unintended consequences, such as the example of offering money for positive COVID-19 tests in the UK.
08:51 The governor of Indochina, Paul Domair, eventually became the president of France in 1931, and despite the French leaving Vietnam, there are still millions of rats killed every year in the city of Hanoi.
Categories: History Education

Browse more History