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The University of Southampton

HIST3069 The Vietnam War in American History and Memory part 1

Module Overview

This module explores the origins and course of the American intervention in Vietnam from the Vietnamese revolution of 1945 through both the French and US military campaigns to the fall of Saigon in 1975. The module will examine American involvement ‘in the round’, incorporating Vietnamese, French, Chinese and Soviet sources and perspectives as well as those of American participants. It will focus in particular upon the continuing historical debates about the war and its outcome: was US intervention justified in the context of the Cold War? Why did the war last so long? Was defeat inevitable or avoidable? The module will conclude by examining the war’s impact on the wider course of US foreign policy.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • The history of the American intervention in Vietnam, its impact upon Vietnam, and its legacies with respect to US foreign policy
  • The historical controversies surrounding the American intervention in Vietnam
  • The types of sources available to historians of the Vietnam war and the ways in which they can be interpreted
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Engage critically with the historiography of the American intervention in Vietnam
  • Evaluate the significance and value of a wide range of primary sources, including issues of production and audience/reception
  • Weigh the relative significance of the key factors which both produced the American intervention in Vietnam and affected its outcome
  • Relate the history of the war in Vietnam to subsequent US foreign policy and foreign policy debates
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Gather and select information and synthesize it into clear and coherent arguments, both on paper and in informal oral exercises
  • Communicate effectively in group discussions
  • Work effectively with others in identifying and solving problems
  • Display effective time management and good organizational skills
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Search for and locate historical sources to support your essay work
  • Identify extracts from primary sources and draw out the methodological problems involved in their use, as well as their significance to the module
  • Analyse and collate a wide range of historical information
  • Produce clear and coherent essay work


This module will explore the origins and causes of the American intervention in Vietnam, the progress of the war and the reasons why it was not successful, its legacies for Vietnam and the Vietnamese, and its short- and long-term impacts upon American foreign policy. Part 2 of the module will explore the domestic impacts of the war within the United States.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • Two double sessions per week in a seminar format • Discussion of set secondary readings and primary documents • Tutor-led sessions designed to develop skills of source analysis Learning activities include • Guided reading in preparation for discussion • Source analysis exercises • Individual and group presentations

Independent Study260
Total study time300

Resources & Reading list

David L. Anderson, (ed.) (1993). Shadow on the White House: Presidents & the Vietnam War, 1945-1975. 

Lewis Sorley (1999). A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and the Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam. 

H.W. Brands (1996). Since Vietnam: The United States in World Affairs, 1973-1994. 

Marilyn B. Young (1991). The Vietnam Wars 1945-1975. 

Anthony Short (1989). The Origins of the Vietnam War. 

Lloyd Gardner (1989). Approaching Vietnam: From World War II through Dienbienphu. 

Jeffrey Race (1972). War Comes to Long An: Revolutionary Conflict in a Vietnamese Province. 

Michael Lind (1999). Vietnam: The Necessary War: A Reinterpretation of America's Most Disastrous Military Conflict. 

Gerard J. DeGroot (2000). A Noble Cause? America and the Vietnam War. 

David Halberstam (1972). The Best and the Brightest. 

Guenter Lewy (1978). America in Vietnam. 

Loren Baritz (1998). Backfire: A History of How American Culture Led Us into Vietnam and Made Us Fight the Way We Did. 

Qiang Zhai (2000). China and the Vietnam Wars, 1950-1975. 

David M. Barrett (1993). Uncertain Warriors: Lyndon Johnson and his Vietnam Advisers. 

Walter L. Hixson (ed.) (2000). Leadership and Diplomacy in the Vietnam War. 

Frances FitzGerald (1973). Fire in the Lake: the Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam. 

Ronald H. Spector (1985). Advice and Support: The Early Years of the United States Army in Vietnam. 

Walter L. Hixson (2000). The Roots of the Vietnam War. 

George C. Herring (1986). America's Longest War: The United States and Vietnam 1950-1975. 

Lloyd Gardner (1997). Pay Any Price: Lyndon Johnson and The Wars for Vietnam. 

Richard A. Melanson (1996). American Foreign Policy since the Vietnam War: The Search for Consensus from Nixon. 

Gabriel Kolko (1986). Vietnam: Anatomy of a War 1940-1975. 

Fredrik Logevall (1999). Choosing War: the Lost Chance for Peace and the Escalation of War in Vietnam. 

David Kaiser (2000). American Tragedy: Kennedy, Johnson and the Origins of the Vietnam War. 

Mark Philip Bradley (2000). Imagining Vietnam and America: the Making of Postcolonial Vietnam, 1919-1950. 

Jeffrey Kimball (1998). Nixon's Vietnam War. 


Assessment Strategy

Assessments designed to provide informal, on-module feedback  weekly student presentations and discussion  practising close source reading and analysis  student-led debates


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (3000 words) 40%
Essay  (3000 words) 40%
Take-away exam 20%


MethodPercentage contribution
Additional Work 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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