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Academic Year 2023/2024

Revolution and War in Twentieth-Century Vietnam (HIS32690)

Arts & Humanities
3 (Degree)
Module Coordinator:
Dr David Kerr
Mode of Delivery:
On Campus
Internship Module:
How will I be graded?
Letter grades

Curricular information is subject to change.

How did a small, impoverished Asian nation survive and prevail in the most destructive conflict of the twentieth century? This module will look to explain Vietnam's extraordinary resilience through fifty years of warfare and occupation through an examination of its social and cultural history. Major themes will be: the impact of French colonialism on Vietnam; the invention of traditional and modern Vietnamese identities in the earlier twentieth century; the nature of the Vietnamese revolution and Vietnamese nationalism; the experience of war and its impact on Vietnamese society, north and south.

Students will be assigned readings in advance of the seminars. Most of the readings are drawn from recent Vietnamese literature, and are presented in translation. In addition, students will be given a large selection of historical texts on each week's topic and a recorded guide to the readings.

Assessment will be by means of a term paper due at the end of the semester, weekly learning journals that record the student's response to the week's readings (not only the seminar texts), and attendance and participation at the seminars.

No previous knowledge of Vietnamese or Asian will be assumed or required.

About this Module

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of the module students will have acquired the greater global perspective that comes from studying Asian history and society. They will be able to think about and discuss the Second Indochina War ('the Vietnam War') not only as a crucial episode in Cold War international history, but within the contexts of Vietnamese anti-colonialism and the modernization of Vietnamese society. They will have practiced reading and analyzing Vietnamese literary texts, as well as Vietnamese political essays and military-strategic tracts.

Indicative Module Content:

Week 1. Introduction to Vietnam and traditional Vietnamese society (seminar texts Le Luu, 'A Time Far Past', extracts, Frances Fitzgerald, Fire in the Lake, extracts)
Week 2. The Nature of French Colonialism (seminar texts Ho Chi Minh, 'French Colonialism on Trial', Phi Van, 'The Peasants', extracts)
Week 3 Economy and Society in French Indochina (seminar texts Tam Lang, 'I Pulled a Rickshaw', Tran Tu Binh, 'The Red Earth')
Week 4. A Modern Vietnamese Identity (seminar texts Vu Trong Phung, 'The Business of Marrying Europeans', 'Dumb Luck', extracts)
Week 5. The End of French Indochina (seminar texts Vo Nguyen Giap, 'People's War, People's Army' and Truong Chinh 'The Resistance Will Win', extracts)
Week 6. Reading Week
Week 7. Building Socialism in the Democratic Republic (seminar text Duong Thu Huong, Paradise of the Blind, extracts)
Week 8. Ngo Dinh Diem and the Republic of Vietnam (seminar texts Robert Shaplen, 'Saigon' and David Halberstam, 'The Making of a Quagmire', extracts)
Week 9. Vietnamese society and the American war (seminar texts Dang Thuy Tram, 'Last Night I Dreamed of Peace', extracts, Duong Thu Huong, 'Novel Without a Name', extracts)
Week 10. The Aftermath of war (seminar text Bao Ninh, 'The Sorrow of War')
Week 11. Life after the revolution (seminar texts Le Minh Khue, 'Scenes from an Alley' and Nguyen Huy Thiep, 'The General Retires')

Student Effort Hours:
Student Effort Type Hours
Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Seminar (or Webinar)




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
Formal teaching will comprise lectures and seminars. The lectures will provide an essential chronological and political spine, introduce topics and issues in social and cultural history, and aim to inspire interest. The students will do the bulk of the learning themselves, using a range of weekly readings that will be provided on Brightspace as a guide. The seminars will be based around one or more weekly texts. Students will use the seminars to discuss both the texts and the week's topic. After the seminars they will write a weekly learning journal, detailing their response to the week's material and debates. There will be no formal student seminar presentations.

Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.

Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade In Module Component Repeat Offered
Essay: A 4000 word essay on a topic of your choice (after consultation with the module coordinator), due at the end of the semester. Week 12 n/a Graded No


Journal: A weekly learning journal of approximately 500 words outlining the response to the assigned weekly readings. Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No


Attendance: Attendance and participation at weekly seminars Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No



Carry forward of passed components

Resit In Terminal Exam
Spring No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 

Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, on an activity or draft prior to summative assessment
• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Weekly written feedback on learning journals, advice and guidance on term paper throughout the semester, including the option to submit a draft.