The International History of the Vietnam Wars - HIST7002

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2023 to 2024.


The course explores the causes, conduct and consequences of the French and American wars in Vietnam. The course begins in the aftermath of the Second World War with the French Indochina War and charts the United States' growing concern with the region, the Americanisation of the war in Vietnam under President Johnson and eventual disengagement under President Nixon. In addition to placing the conflicts in their regional and international contexts, the course will consider the military strategies implemented in the field and the domestic challenges inherent to fighting a "limited war". The second part of the course focuses on the domestic aspects of the American war including the role of the media, the evolution of the anti-war movement and civil-military tensions. In addition to acquiring substantive knowledge, students will practice core skills, including accessing and critically assessing primary sources, communicating effectively orally and in their written work as well as working in groups.


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 72
Total private study hours: 528
Total module study hours: 600

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods:

Essay 1 (3,000 words): 8%
Essay 2 (3,000 words): 8%
Primary source analysis exercise (3,000 words): 8%
Book review (1,000 words): 8%
Group work and presentation (in-class group work, 10-minute oral presentation and self-reflection exercise): 8%

Examination 1 (2 hours, essay-based): 30%
Examination 2 (2 hours, Gobbet analysis): 30%

Reassessment methods:
Reassessment Instrument: 100% coursework

Indicative reading

Indicative Reading List:

Basha i Novosejt, Aurélie. I Made Mistakes: Robert McNamara's Vietnam Policy. (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2019).
Gaddis, John L. Strategies of containment: a critical appraisal of American national security policy during the Cold War. (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2005).
Herring, George C. America’s Longest War: the United States and Vietnam, 1950-1975 4th ed. (New York, NY: McGraw Hill, 2001).
Logevall, Fredrik. Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam (New York, NY: Random House, 2012).
McMaster, H.R. Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam (New York, NY: Harper Perennial, 1997).
McNamara, Robert S. and Brian VanDeMark. In Retrospect: the tragedy and lessons of Vietnam. (New York, NY: Times Books, 1995).
Nguyen, Lien Hang. Hanoi’s War: An International History of the War for Peace in Vietnam. (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2012).
Sorley, Lewis. A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America’s Last Years in Vietnam. (New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1999).
Stewart, Geoffrey C. Vietnam’s Lost Revolution: Ngo Dinh Diem’s Failure to Build an Independent Nation, 1955-1963. (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2017).
Young, Marilyn B. The Vietnam Wars, 1945-1990. (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 1991).

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Deploy advanced techniques of analysis and enquiry within international history, understanding how local, national, regional and international factors intersect in the unfolding of events.
2 Critically examine the personal, national and international considerations that shaped decisions for war.
3 Demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the challenges of fighting a "limited war" for a democracy as well as the political and other considerations that shaped military strategy.
4 Utilise established techniques to place the Vietnam Wars in historical perspective, including their contemporary resonance.
5 Situate the wars in a regional and international context, understanding the complex issues surrounding how colonial and Cold War considerations influenced outcomes in the field.
6 Demonstrate advanced ability to engage with existing historiographical debates, including in written and verbal assessments.

9. The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Deconstruct problems in a logical and sequential manner.
2 Construct coherent and evidence-based written and oral arguments.
3 Interpret statistical and numerical information accurately and be able to contextualise it against qualitative information.
4 Demonstrate the ability to work independently and in groups.
5 Critically assess different types of primary sources, with an ability to understand their strengths and weaknesses as evidence for historical enquiry.
6 Demonstrate advanced ability to provide persuasive written and verbal presentations while deploying a range of primary source materials and high level historiographical content.
7 Demonstrate advanced ability to access, analyse and integrate primary sources into written and verbal assessments.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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