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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

Module Aims

• Explore the historical controversies surrounding the origins and course of the US intervention in Vietnam, its immediate and long-term impacts upon that country, and its legacies with respect to US foreign policy • Illuminate and critically assess those controversies through the study of primary documents and texts from the period • Understand how US foreign policy contributed to and was changed by the national encounter with Vietnam

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.

Special Features

Using the bibliography provided and guidance from the tutor, you will be able to research in depth the topic for each week, and come to class prepared to discuss your ideas. Seminars will provide an opportunity to discuss your ideas with other students and to analyse both primary documents and elements of the historiography, with the tutor facilitating and contributing to the discussion where necessary. You will then be able to develop your analysis of primary and secondary sources into an extended essay on a subject of your own choice. The use each week of primary materials, meanwhile, will allow you to identify these or related extracts in your gobbets exam, and to reflect meaningfully and succinctly on the significance of those extracts to our knowledge and understanding of the US intervention in Vietnam. The module explicitly aims to develop your analytical skills in order to equip you for the continuation of your studies with a research- based focus in Part 2.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guenter Lewy (1978). America in Vietnam. 

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

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


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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