Making sense of the wars for Vietnam has had a long history. The question “why Vietnam?” dominated American political life for much of the length of the Vietnam wars and has continued to be asked in the three decades since they ended. This seminar will combine readings of new interpretative writings on the war with primary sources (textual, oral and visual) to examine recent conceptual shifts in the contested terrain of Vietnam war scholarship, ranging from top-down reconsiderations of critical decision-making moments to microhistories of the experiences of war that explore its meanings from the bottom up. It will also raise questions about larger meanings and the ongoing relevance of the wars for Vietnam for our understanding and teaching of American history in a wider global context, exploring such issues as American empire, decolonization, the Cold War, and the relationship between the American war in Vietnam and present day wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Seminar led by Mark P. Bradley, University of Chicago