It has been said that one must recognize their history in order to understand the present and prepare for the future. Although our course is entitled “Vietnam & 20th Century Experience”, our course actually begins in the 19th century. This is because it is both necessary and helpful to study the context of prior history in order to understand that culture and the mindset that the people of that culture were in when decisions were made and actions were taken that led to significant events in their history.
Studying the prior history of Vietnam is important because we learn that Vietnam was completely under French rule by 1893 (Week One Lecture, 2013). Why was Vietnam such a prized possession to have? Vietnam’s location was significant within itself; Vietnam had “a strategic location astride major shipping lanes linking India, China, Japan, and the islands of Southeast Asia” and served as a source of foodstuffs and raw materials (Moss, 2010, p. 2). We must put ourselves in the shoes of the Vietnamese people during this time and view these events from their point-of-view also.
There were territorial wars including France, Japan, and eventually the United States which all treated Vietnam and the Vietnamese people as nothing more than property that they wanted to gain and maintain control of. No respect or value of their culture was held by any of these countries, which served as another reason that Vietnam sought national identity and independence. Studying the context of the prior history of Vietnam and what the participants of this history valued helps understand the elements that led to the independence of Vietnam.
All of the information needed to understand the decisions made and the actions taken by the Vietnamese people to fight for their independence is gained through studying the context of their prior history. The Vietnamese people were able to seize the opportunity at the best time to take control of their country. In Chapter One of our text, it explains the timeline in which the Vietnamese people began to position themselves to take control of Vietnam.
This was after the French were removed from power and when the Japan was nearing defeat. Efforts taken by the Vietminh, such as redistributing land and installing revolutionary regimes not only benefited movement towards the liberation of the Vietnamese people, but also benefited the people by ending the famine. With interventions such as these, which had positive results, the Vietnamese people strongly believed they deserved independence because they felt that they were capable of maintaining themselves as a country.
With these beliefs, it allowed Vietnamese people to come together to restore their national identity which was most important and held great value to the Vietnamese people (Moss, 2010). As a student of history, primary and secondary resources will be most helpful in learning the context of this course. Our textbook for this course, being a secondary source will be the main resource that I use in expanding my knowledge of the history of Vietnam in the 20th century.
I am blessed to have primary sources such as my grandfather and great-uncles that served in the military during the Vietnam War and are now Veterans. Long before I even knew I would be taking this course, I knew of war stories and how life was in Vietnam during the war. I also heard of how it was in the United States during the war and after the war. This also helps put in perspective how life was during this time, by not only reading it in a textbook, but having real-life testimonies from people that were on the front lines as everything unfolded.