HST699: The United States in Vietnam, 1945-1975

15 credits (Semester 2019-20: Autumn)

Module Leader: Andrew Lee

Module Summary

The Vietnam War remains one of the most divisive episodes in modern history. It was a war fought without censorship. It was a war that pushed the American Imperial project to its very limits. It was a war in which thousands of students took to the streets to burn their draft cards in acts of defiance. It was a war that exposed the socio-economic division at home with the vast majority of those drafted to fight and die overseas coming from working class and African American backgrounds. And it was a war that the U.S. ultimately lost.

America’s longest war, the Vietnam conflict, continues to evoke conflicting interpretations, meanings and memories. It is the aim of this module to chart the contentious history of the Vietnam War from 1945 to 1975.

Module aims

This course examines the role of the United States in Vietnam from 1945 to 1975, focusing on the foreign policy objectives and domestic political considerations which led to direct military engagement and which sustained the US war. You will consider the modernisation and limited war theories which fuelled US intervention in Southeast Asia, and will seek to understand the character of the Vietnamese revolution. You will examine relevant, often highly contentious, historiographical debates, and will analyse the role of the Vietnam experience in informing US foreign policy in the years following disengagement. We will also look at the protest culture that emerged in the wake of Vietnam, looking at the birth of the anti-war movement, draft resistance and popular cultural responses to the war. By analysing how public opinion and domestic political issues affected US policy in Vietnam, you will gain a greater understanding of the process of American foreign policy-making and how American longest war fundamentally altered society.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, you will be able to demonstrate:

  1. A broad understanding of the United States military engagement in Southeast Asia and post-1945 foreign policy;
  2. The ability to define, deliberate and assess the reasons for US intervention in Vietnam and the rationale for the military policies pursued;
  3. The ability to assess conflicting historiographical arguments and to reach considered and independent conclusions in relation to such arguments;
  4. The ability to construct and defend oral arguments as part of class discussion;
  5. The ability to appreciate the roles of political and cultural histories in contributing to our understanding of diplomatic history and international relations.


Learning hours
Seminars Tutorials Independent Learning
10 1 139

The module will be taught in five, two-hour classes, each based on one of the following topics: The Vietnamese revolution and US Cold War doctrine; Americanisation of the war; G.I. Experience; Domestic politics and protest culture; Détente, the Nixon Doctrine and the legacy of a lost war. There is a rich and growing literature relating to the Vietnam War and to each of these topics, which relate to wider discussions of the nature of historical enquiry and investigation of modern history. You will, in addition, have individual tutorial contact with the module leader to discuss your chosen topic for the written work.



Assessment methods
Assessment % of final mark Length
Coursework 100% 3000 words

Students will prepare a 3,000-word paper relating to at least one of the key themes of the module.


Selected reading

  • George C. Herring, America’s Longest War: The United States and Vietnam, 1950-1975 (4th edn., 2002)
  • Christian G. Appy, Patriots: The Vietnam War Remembered form all sides (New York: Viking, 2003).
  • Christian G. Appy, Working Class War: American Combat Soldiers and Vietnam (1993)
  • Michael Herr, Dispatches (London: Picador, 1978).
  • Michael S. Foley, Confronting the War Machine: Draft Resistance during the Vietnam War (Chapel Hill: North Carolina University Press, 2003).
  • Frederick Logevall, Choosing War: The Lost Chance for Peace and the Escalation of War in Vietnam (1999)
  • Robert Buzzanco, Masters of War: Military Dissent and Politics in the Vietnam Era (1996)
  • Melvin Small, Antiwarriors: The Vietnam War and the Battle for America’s Hearts and Minds   (2002)
  • Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones, Peace Now! American Society and the Ending of the Vietnam War (1999)
  • Michael Hunt, Lyndon Johnson’s war: America’s Cold War crusade in Vietnam, 1945-68 (1996)
  • Arnold Isaacs, Without Honor: Defeat in Vietnam and Cambodia (1998)
  • Tom Wells, The War Within: America's Battle over Vietnam (1994)
  • Marilyn B. Young, The Vietnam Wars (1991)
  • Brian Van DeMark, Into the Quagmire: Lyndon Johnson and the Escalation of the Vietnam War (1995)



*The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption.