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US History – The Vietnam War, 1945-75

2. Origins

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In this module, we examine the origins of the Vietnam War to answer the question of why there was a war in Vietnam in the first place. We start by looking at what life was like in colonial Vietnam. Although the French brought economic development to the region, this came at enormous cost to the Vietnamese population. The system the French created spurred a strong impulse amongst Vietnamese to gain independence, particularly with Ho Chi Minh. Despite failures early on in his life, Ho was able to create a powerful nationalist movement that, from the 1940s, was able to challenge French (and Japanese) rule.


In this course, Professor Mark Atwood Lawrence (University of Texas at Austin) explores the American experience in Vietnam. We start by introducing the Vietnam War and explaining its significance for the United States. In the following modules we will then explore five key questions: (i) why was there a crisis in Vietnam?; (ii) why did Vietnam matter to the United States?; (iii) why did the United States fail to achieve its objectives in Vietnam?; (iv) how did the United States end its commitment in Vietnam?; and (v) what were the legacies of the war for the United States?


Professor Mark Atwood Lawrence is Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin, as well as Director of the LBJ Presidential Library and Museum in Austin. Professor Lawrence has written and taught widely on the subjects of U.S. foreign relations, the Vietnam War, international history, and decolonisation. He has published two books on the Vietnam War - Assuming the Burden: Europe and the American Commitment to War in Vietnam (University of California Press, 2005) and The Vietnam War: A Concise International History (Oxford University Press, 2008).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Lawrence, M. (2021, October 26). US History – The Vietnam War, 1945-75 - Origins [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Lawrence, M. "US History – The Vietnam War, 1945-75 – Origins." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 26 Oct 2021,

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