HIS 365G • The Vietnam Wars
8:00 AM-9:30 AM
This course introduces undergraduates to the complex and controversial history of the wars fought in Vietnam from 1941 to the 1980s. It will focus especially on American intervention and can be taken to satisfy the legislative requirement in U.S. history. Students should be aware, however, that the course will devote careful attention to Vietnamese history as well as the history of French, Japanese, British, and Chinese interventions. In this way, the course will attempt to place the American war in the broad context of colonialism, nationalism, communism, and cold war.
The class will begin by considering the development of Vietnamese nationalism and communism during the period of French colonialism. It will then examine the profound impact of the Second World War, which brought about, in succession, Japanese, Chinese, and British intervention before the country fell once again under French domination. The French war (1946 to 1954) will receive careful attention before the class shifts its focus to the United States for the second half of the semester. Lectures and readings will consider many of the major controversies associated with the American war: Why did the United States intervene despite the lack of tangible American interests in Vietnam? To what extent and why did American policymakers misunderstand the nature of the war? Was the war winnable in any meaningful sense? What social, cultural, and political legacies has the war produced in the United States and Vietnam?
Requirements will likely include a few brief reading quizzes (25%), a paper of approximately five pages (25 %), a midterm examination (25 %), and a final (25%). Students will also have the opportunity to improve their grades through class participation but not through extra credit assignments.
Possible texts include William Duiker, SACRED WAR; Christian Appy, WORKING CLASS WAR; Nguyen thi Dinh, NO OTHER ROAD TO TAKE; Robert S. McNamara, IN RETROSPECT; George Herring, THE PENTAGON PAPERS: ABRIDGED EDITION; William Lederer and Eugene Burdick, THE UGLY AMERICAN; Charles Neu, THE LEGACY OF VIETNAM; and a photocopy reader of documents and essays.