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America and the Vietnam War


Admission requirements

BSA norm and a pass for both first year Themacolleges.


The Vietnam War was perhaps the climax of American power in the twentieth century and also its greatest humiliation. It tore apart the fabric of American society in a way which had not been seen since the American Civil War, and subsequent generations have yet to fully stitch it back together. In pursuit of its war aims, the United States inflicted savage violence on Vietnam, causing large parts of American society to recoil in horror. But why did the United States pursue these aims at all, at what cost for both Vietnamese and Americans, and with what consequences? This course aims to answer these questions by exploring the Vietnam War from both the American and Vietnamese perspectives.

The class will explore this one war in depth across all of its aspects – military, cultural, political and international. Students will learn about the military strategies employed by both sides in the conflict, and why it has so much to teach us about modern warfare. The course will also delve into the anti-war movement in the United States, the impact of the Vietnam War on relations between the superpowers, and the legacies of the war for American society, which include the difficulties faced by the Vietnamese-American community that developed in the U.S. as a result of the war. Students will also study these legacies of the war in film and literature, and the course will make particular use of Vietnam War cinema both to illuminate aspects of the conflict, and also to consider how the war has been represented in popular culture.

By studying all of these aspects of the war in connection to the Kerncollege Global Connections, students will explore the way that two countries which are so geographically distant became so intimately – and destructively – involved in each other’s national life.

As part of this class, movie screenings with refreshments will be held for the group.

Please note that this course will be taught in English. It will give students the added advantage of enhancing their language skills. Assignments and papers are to be written in English.

Course objectives

General learning objectives

The student can:

  1. carry out a common assignment
  2. divise and conduct research of limited scope, including:
    a. searching, selecting and ordering relevant literature;
    b. organising and using relatively large amounts of information;
    c. an analysis of a scholarly debate;
    d. placing the research within the context of a scholarly debate.
  3. reflect on the primary sources on which the scholarly literature is based;
  4. write a problem solving essay and give an oral presentation after the format defined in the Themacolleges, including;
    a. using a realistic schedule of work;
    b. formulating a research question and subquestions;
    c. formulating a well-argued conclusion;
    d. giving and receiving feedback;
    e. responding to instructions of the lecturer.
  5. participate in discussions during class.

Learning objectives, pertaining to the specialisation

  1. The student has knowledge of a specialisation, more specifically;

    • in the specialisation General History the place of European history from 1500 in a worldwide perspective; with a focus on the development and role of political institutions;
    • in the track American History American exceptionalism; the US as a multicultural society and the consequences of that for historiography; the intellectual interaction between the US and Europe.
  2. Knowledge and insight in the main concepts, the research methods and techniques of the specialisation, more specifically;

    • in the specialisation General History the study of primary sources and the context specificity of nationally defined histories;
    • in the track American History exceptionalism; analysis of historiografical and intellectual debates.

Learning objectives, pertaining to this specific seminar

The student:

  1. acquires an understanding of the main events and traditional historiographical interpretations of the Vietnam War;
  2. acquires a working knowledge of key events and historiographical debates relating to the impact of the Vietnam War on American society, culture and politics;
    10 gains an insight into how wars act as mediums of global exchange in general;
    11 is introduced to the variety of sources and digitally available source collections related to 20th century American history.


The timetable is available on the History website.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Course Load

Total course load 10 EC x 28 hours= 280 hours.

  • Attending class: 26 hours.

  • Study of compulsory literature, and movie viewings: 80 hours.

  • Preparation for class, including presentations: 24 hours.

  • Writing a paper (including literature study): 150 hours.

Assessment method

  • Written paper (ca. 6000 words, based on historiography, including footnotes and bibliography)
    Measured learning objectives: 2-4, 6-7, 9-11

  • Oral presentation
    Measured learning objectives: 3-4, 6-7, 9-11

  • Participation
    Measured learning objectives: 5

  • Group presentation
    _ Measured learning objectives: 1, 8_


Written paper: 60%
Oral presentation: 20 %
Participation, including group presentation: 20%
Contributions to BlackBoard discussions: required (no grade)

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average with the additional requirement that the written paper must always be sufficient.


Written papers should be handed in within the given deadline


The written paper can be revised. Revision should be carried out within the given deadline


Blackboard will be used for: - general communication between instructor and students;

  • (required) postings and responses to readings in the forum;

  • submitting final paper through Turnitin.

Reading list

  • Mark Lawrence Atwood, The Vietnam War, A Concise International History(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008). (To be purchased – recommended via Bol or Bookdepository).

  • Robert D. Schulzinger, A Time for War: The United States and Vietnam, 1941 – 1975 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997). (To be purchased – recommended via Bol or Bookdepository).

  • Robert D. Schulzinger, A Time for Peace: The Legacy of the Vietnam War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006). (To be purchased – recommended via Bol or Bookdepository).

Additional literature is to be announced in class and/or on “Blackboard”:


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Until August 15: Dr. Andrew Gawthorpe

After August Dr. Andrew Gawthorpe will have an e-mail address from LeidenUniversity. It will be published here as soon as possible.