Phủ Lý was taken by the French canonnièrel'Espingole and 28 men captained by Adrien-Paul Balny d'Avricourt on 26 October 1873, shortly before Balny's death together with Francis Garnier at Hanoi's West Gate.
In the aftermath of World War II, Phủ Lý was where a significant number of VNQDĐ leaders were captured by the Viet Cong in 1946. It was also where the retreating French forces launched attacks on June 30, 1954. The town was almost completely destroyed in five days of bombing between July 14 and November 5, 1966.
^"Après la prise de la citadelle de Hanoï par Francis Garnier le 20 novembre 1873, il participe à l'occupation du delta du fleuve Rouge, s'emparant notamment de Hung-Yen le 24 octobre, puis Phu-ly le 26, Haï-Djuong le 3 décembre."
^Van Dao Hoang Viet Nam Quoc Dan Dang: A Contemporary History of a National Struggle: 1927-1954 Pittsburgh 2008 Page 333 "However, during their retreat, many were arrested by the VC military force and public security when they arrived at Phủ Lý. They were then taken to Thanh Hóa and Nghệ An for detention. Included among the prisoners were Đỗ Văn, Bùi Anh Tuan and Mrs. Đặng Trần Hồ. Those who decided to stay had to defend their headquarters and confront their enemies, because the VC continued to terrorize and execute them."
^Nguyen Công Luan Nationalist in the Viet Nam Wars: Memoirs of a Victim Turned Soldier 2012 "the retreating route of the French forces launched its bloody attacks at Phủ Lý, a small town thirty miles south of Hà Nội."
^Liberation: an independent monthly Volumes 11-12 1966 "Phu Ly was attacked on six different occasions, five of them between July 14 and November 5, 1966 (when I happened to be in the outskirts)."
^Elizabeth Jelinek Boardman The Phoenix trip: notes on a Quaker mission to Haiphong 1985 "We knew that Phu Ly was a city of 7,600 people that lay about thirty five miles south of Hanoi. We also knew that it had been completely destroyed six months before in a series of air attacks lasting five days."