POL3 306SSeminar: The Vietnam War
Spring 2005
Professor William A. Joseph
PNE 232, x2201 Office Hours: Please check First Class Resume

The PURPOSE OF THIS COURSE is to understand and analyze the origins, development, consequences, and legacies of war and revolution in Vietnam from the early twentieth century to the present. After an introductory meeting, the next section will be spent discussing the meaning and causes of revolution, the relationship between revolution and war, and the tactics and strategies of both revolutionaries and those who want to stop them from winning power and achieving their revolutionary goals.

The remainder of the course will focus specifically on revolution and war in Vietnam and will consider topics such as: the impact of French colonialism on traditional Vietnamese society; the role of World War II in shaping nationalism and communism in Vietnam; leadership (particularly that of Ho Chi Minh), organization, and tactics of the Vietnamese revolutionary movement; the motives, stages, and strategies of American intervention in Vietnam; expansion of the conflict to Cambodia and Laos; important events such as the My Lai Massacre and the Tet Offensive; the anti-war movement in the United States; political and economic development in Vietnam since the end of the war and the reunification of the country under communist rule in the mid-1970s.; and the lessons and legacies of the Vietnam War for both Vietnam and the United States.

Requirements: The written assignments for the course, due dates, and their proportion of the final course grade are as follows:

  1. Presentations, participation, and attendance. (20%)
  2. Two short papers (5-7 pages). The first is due sometime during the first half of the course before spring break, i. e. no later than 4:00 p.m. on Friday, March 18th; the second will be due during the second half of the course and no later than the beginning of reading period. You will be given several options for completing these assignments. (20% each)
  3. A research paper (about 20 pages) on a topic chosen in consultation with the instructor due by 4:30 p.m., Friday, May, 20 th (40%). A one page statement of your paper topic and a preliminary bibliography are due no later than Friday, April 22nd.

Each student will do two oral presentations, one on a topic related to the class subject of the day and one on a conversation with someone about her or his experience, memory, or knowledge of the Vietnam War. Further instructions for these, as well as for the short essays and the research paper will be handed out. Please see the list of "Responsibilities and Expectations" for the course that is attached to this syllabus.

Required Books: The following books are available for purchase in the bookstore. They are also on reserve in the Library.

  • Bao Ninh, The Sorrow of War.
  • Graham Greene, The Quiet American.
  • Robert J. McMahon, Major Problems in the History of the Vietnam War, 3rd edition.
  • Tim O'Brien, If I Die In a Combat Zone.
  • James S. Olson and Randy Roberts, Where the Domino Fell: America and Vietnam, 1945-2004. (4th Ed)
  • Sidney Schanberg, The Death and Life of Dith Pran.
  • Tran Tu Binh, The Red Earth: A Vietnamese Memoir of Life on a Colonial Rubber Plantation.
  • James W. Trullinger, Village at War: An Account of Revolution in a Vietnamese Village.

Video Assignments: There are both required and recommended video assignments for this course. The required videos should be taken just as seriously as the required reading. All required and recommended videos are on reserve at the library and many of them can also be borrowed from the instructor. We may try to arrange group showings of some of the videos; students are also encouraged to view the videos in groups, if possible. For a list of many of the videos on the Vietnam War available in the College Library, see the Videos on the Vietnam War in the Wellesley College Library link on the instructor's homepage.

Internet Assignments: There are quite a few Internet assignments for this course, which can be accessed via the on-line syllabus or the FirstClass course conference. There is an extraordinary wealth of information about the Vietnam War on the Internet: some suggested sites can be found on the "Vietnam Links" on the instructor's homepage.

Photograph Books: Photographs are a particularly vivid and affecting way to try to understand the realities of the Vietnam War. The four listed below are particularly remarkable and are available in Clapp Libary. I urge you look at one of more of these books at some point during the course.

  • Vietnam: images from combat photographers / Owen Andrews, and C. Douglas Elliot (DS557.72 .A53 1991)
  • Images of war / Julene Fischer and Robert Stone (qDS557.7 .I48 1986)
  • Requiem: by the photographers who died in Vietnam and Indochina / Horst Faas and Tim Page (fDS557.72 .F33 1997)
  • Another Vietnam: pictures of the war from the other side (qDS557.72 .P34 2002)

Course Schedule and Assignments