I am, like most people out there, self-isolating as a result of the COVID-19 epidemic. Given the fact that so many of us are now getting used to conducting business and leisure via Zoom–a platform on which I’ve been teaching for years–I thought the time was right to offer another large-scale online class, this one on the history of the Vietnam War. This subject was suggested to me by a student of one of my previous classes, so this one can be truly said to be “by popular demand!”
The Vietnam War is a complicated and emotional subject. Its roots lie as far back as Vietnam’s medieval past; the sudden discovery of the place by American politicians in the 1940s ignored the country’s long history of resisting foreign domination. It was probably one of the worst spots in the entire world that American policymakers could have chosen to try to “contain Communism.” What happened in Southeast Asia between roughly 1950 and 1980 is extremely complex, but it’s really worth a deep dive to try to understand it.
As usual, my teaching approach is the “geohistory” format, where I show (via Google Maps software) the locations where various events occurred. The sites we’re going to see in the class are not limited to Vietnam or Southeast Asia, as the war had a worldwide reach; you will see, for example, the house in Paris where the U.S. withdrawal was negotiated, or the place where the Kent State massacre occurred.
This street in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), near this very spot, was where the Pulitzer Prize-winning photo of the horrifying execution of Nguyen Van Lem was taken in February 1968. This is one of the many sites we’ll see in this class.
In 2014 I served as a teaching assistant for a senior history professor teaching a course on the Vietnam War, and in 2017 I was asked to take over the course myself. The course didn’t end up happening, but the notes and research I gathered formed the basis of this online course. I think this will be a great opportunity to use the down-time of the quarantine to expand our historical knowledge.
I realize people are financially strapped as a result of the COVID-related economic crash. If you want to participate but find it’s too spendy, email me anyway and we can work out a deal. (Also note that getting access to the recorded videos is cheaper than live real-time access).
I hope to see some of my former students and fans join me for this class. It begins April 18!