Struggles for Independence

Dickson College, Semester 2, 2013

Term 3Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8 | Week 9 | Week 10
Term 4Week 11 | Week 12 | Week 13 | Week 14 | Week 15 | Week 16

Class Files

BSSS Policies & Procedures Manual

Oral PresentationOral Presentation Resource Page

Struggles for Independence on ClioIdealism, Self-Interest and the Vietnam War
Hannah Walker, 2010

US Intervention in Vietnam
Ursula Cliff, 2010

The Causes of the Cold War
Isobel Egan, 2011

The Practice and Legacy of Colonialism
Unit offered in previous years with some useful info and resources.
Important DatesTuesday 27th August - In class essay.
Wednesday 28th August - Draft for research essay due (if you are going to submit it, this is optional.)
Wednesday 11th September - Research essay due.
Tuesday 29th November - Document Test
Wednesday 20th November - Oral presentations to be viewed (see presentation schedule to the left).

ResourcesInternet Modern History Sourcebook

Guide to Grammar & Writing
DC Library
DC Library History Page
Textual references
Reference generator - Harvard system
Inserting quotes into essays
How to write a bibliography
See the PPT on annotated bibliographies

Alpha History - French Colonialism in Vietnam
BBC - Vietnam War

TeacherName: Jason Abela
Staffroom: Humanities - N39
Phone: 6205 6481
Twitter: @Kipchaq (I shall tweet any changes to the CLIO page, and other info about the course)

Week 1 (23 - 26 July)
To start out I got you to answer a short questionnaire so that I could get an idea of what you already knew about the topic. After this we briefly discussed what the broad purpose of the unit was before getting into the introductory PowerPoint I had prepared. I began by giving an overview of European colonialism (which began in the 15th Century and didn't officially end until after World War II).

After lunch we took a look at the effects of European colonialism. To do this, we looked at some contemporaneous sources, such as Las Casas' A Brief Account of the Destruction of the Indies. We concluded that it seemed as though the indigenous populations were, in general, treated very poorly and suffered greatly under European domination. Finally, we got started on analysing one of the sources using OMAD BOOTLACE.

We started out by finishing off the OMAD BOOTLACE analysis from last lesson. Once everyone got done we started reading about French colonialism in Indochina, as Vietnam is going to be the first of our case studies.

We continued reading, then answered the comprehension questions. We ended with a discussion, concluding that, just as elsewhere, things weren't great for the indigenous populations in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia under French dominion. At the end of the lesson we started watching a documentary on the First Indochina War (available on YouTube).

Week 2 (30 July - 2 August)

We finished off the documentary on the First Indochina War today (available on YouTube). Afterwards we took a look at some of the key documents surrounding the peace settlement of the war, including the Geneva Declaration, and the US response to it (I know this stuff is kinda boring, but it contains very important information!)
After lunch we started investigating why the US supported Vietnamese self-determination, yet was soon to become embroiled in a war to prevent the Vietnamese from choosing a Communist government. In order to do that we needed to go back in time to the early 19th Century and look at the beginnings of American isolationism with the Monroe Doctrine. We then took a look at the Doctrine itself, and got started on analysing it.

We started out by finishing off reading and analysing the Monroe Doctrine, then we had a brief chat about what this told us about American isolationism. We talked about notable examples where the Monroe Doctrine was ignored, such as the enigmatic Pastry War (I got some of the details wrong, the French Emperor of Mexico wasn't installed until their second war with Mexico in the 1860s. You can read about the Pastry War here). I then continued on with my presentation, now looking at how the American public mindset, and subsequent governmental policy, began to change from isolationism to interventionism with World War I, and particularly with the events of Pearl Harbour and World War II. We looked at how this translated into the Domino Theory and Containment policy, intended to stop the spread of Communism, and why this meant America felt the need to involve itself in the Vietnam War.

Today we finished off the presentation on the change in America's policy from isolationism to interventionism, accompanied by some robust discussion on whether the Domino Theory and the policy of Containment was necessary. Afterwards we did a bit of a warm up activity to see what terms you knew, and defined those you didn't, that will be useful as we investigate deeper into the Vietnam War. After this we decided as a class that we wanted to take things easy (it is last period on a Friday after all), so we watched Platoon for the last 15 minutes. We might make this a regular thing (watching movies that are accurate and relevant to what we are studying) for the last little bit on a Friday, as it is simultaneously entertaining and educational. I also handed out the assignment sheet today (sorry I didn't get it to you sooner!)

Week 3 (5th - 9th August)

Due to AST trials, we spent the double lesson in the library. First we researched the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, to learn what happened and how the Vietnamese were able to defeat a European colonial power. Afterwards we spent some time working on our assignments.

Today we recapped on the First Indochina War, then the Year 11s presented their findings on the Battle of Dien Bien Phu to the Year 12s. Following this we began to take a look at the period between the First Indochina War and Vietnam (or Second Indochina) War. We watched a video of Thich Quang Duc's self-immolation, in protest of Ngo Dinh Diem's regime, and the response of the Diem administration from Madame Nhu (Diem's wife). This gave us a sense of how insensitive and callous the administration really was to its populace. Finally we took a look at Lyndon B. Johnson's address to the nation at the very beginning of the Vietnam War, which followed the Gulf of Tonkin Incident. We didn't get finished with this, so please complete reading and taking notes on it for homework, as we will be addressing it next lesson.

I also handed out the notice for the in-class essay next week at the end of the lesson. I got the date wrong on that form (sorry!), so I will reissue it.

Following on from yesterday's lesson, we took an in depth investigation into the Gulf of Tonkin incident. To do this we looked at several primary sources to piece together what happened. As everyone discovered, the incident was very murky, with lots of conflicting reports, and that noone (not even the sailors) really knew for sure what happened. We had a fantastic discussion on this, debating the various facets of this critical incident. This is, at its core, what history is all about: sifting through evidence to try and shed light on a controversial event. In particular I find that this event is critical to analyse, and one of the most potent examples of the saying that "The first casualty of war is truth."

Week 4 (12th - 16th August)

We decided to revise for the double today. Focused especially on linking the last three weeks together, from the beginnings of European colonialism through to modern day independence struggles.

In class essay held today

I was sick today, but Lia took the class and had you read and analyse two speeches by Ho Chi Minh. The point of this in particular was to look at whether his ideas made him a Communist or a Nationalist. Depending on which speech you got, he may have seemed more of one or the other.

Week 5 (19th - 23rd August)

I handed out a glossary of useful terms today, then we took a more in depth look at the Vietnam War, and what was going on in America in regards to policy, and resistance to the war. We also began looking closely at the experience of people in the war, on both sides of the conflict. One case study we looked into was the execution of Nguyen Van Lem. After this we continued watching Platoon.

We continued watching Platoon. We will finish it off next lesson, then discuss and debrief. You will be quizzed on what the movie tells us about the experiences of people during the war!

We didn't quite get through Platoon, so we will finish off the last few minutes next lesson, then we will be discussing it.

Week 6 (26th - 30th August)

In class essay resit.

We finished off Platoon today, then we took a closer look at tactics in the Vietnam War. I gave a presentation on the tactics used by both sides, then you went through a worksheet on the topic.

I was sick today, but you were asked to go to the library and choose either Viet Cong or American tactics to research and write up a detailed report on their tactics and how effective they were.

Week 7 (2nd - 6th September)

We started our new topic today, moving from South East Asia to Africa. I gave an introductory presentation on this, then we watched parts from the documentary White King, Red Rubber, Black Death (available on YouTube), which covers the atrocities that occurred in the Belgian Free Congo State colony.

Today we read an excerpt from perhaps the most famous piece of literature from (or inspired by) the Congo, Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. Afterwards we answered some questions on it and discussed the image it painted of the Congo.

We haven't had much time in the library to work on your assignments yet, so we spent this lesson to give people a chance to do this.

Week 8 (9th - 13th September)

We spent the double in the library again to give people time to finish off their assignments.

We worked through a worksheet today, dealing with primary sources on the Congo Free State. At the end of the lesson we discussed how the sources matched up with the image painted in Heart of Darkness.

The perspective that Europeans held of their colonial subjects has been discussed several times, but we haven't had a direct look at the cultural evidence of this perspective before now. So today we took a look at some primary sources that demonstrate the mindset that Europeans had.

Week 9 (16th - 20th September)

We went to the computer labs today to complete two activities. The first is a puzzle, challenging you to put together all the countries of Africa. This is both a bit of fun and a really good way to improve your geographical knowledge of Africa and its great many countries! Afterwards we looked into some of the key personalities in the history of the Congo, doing some research into them.

One of the key differences between Vietnam and the Congo (indeed much of Africa) is that there was not a clear victory in their struggle for independence. Even though decolonisation and the withdrawal of European powers was accomplished, the Congo continues to be engulfed by revolts, war and death. I gave a presentation on the events that led up to its most significant crisis, the Second Congo War (also referred to as the Great African War or African World War). To finish off the lesson we looked at a document detailing the causes of the war.

First up we finished read the Great African War excerpt and summarising it. Afterwards I gave a presentation on two case studies: Uganda and Algeria. This was a comparison of two different struggles for independence, as Algeria was a settler state, and so had a large French population; whereas Uganda was a protectorate, and so only had a minimal British population that went over as administrators. As such, the British were far more willing to pull out of Uganda than the French were out of Algeria (which had in fact been declared as a province of France proper, rather than a separate colony). We looked at how this resulted in a much more violent struggle for the Algerians, whilst the Ugandans basically had independence granted during the wave of decolonisation in the 60s.

Week 10 (23rd - 27th September)

We started watching The Last King of Scotland today. While this is based on a fictional book, that revolves around a main character who is a Scottish doctor, serving as Idi Amin's personal physician, it is based around historical events and it does a good job at being accurate most of the time. At times the history is muddled a bit for the sake of the story, but overall it is quite historical, and it does an amazing job at communicating the dual nature of Idi Amin: both calm, charming and funny, whilst simultaneously impulsive, blood thirstyand merciless. Forest Whittaker won several awards for his portrayal of Amin, and I feel as though it does an exceptionally good job of exploring the changing attitudes towards Amin (whom was initially hailed as a liberator).

We finished off watching The Last King of Scotland, then watched a real life interview of Amin in 1980 (available on the BBC site), just after he had been exiled and was living in Saudi Arabia. We compared his personality here to how he was portrayed in the movie, and concluded that it seemed like a fairly accurate portrayal. However, some of you expressed a bit of dislike over the fact that they invented a fictional character (Dr. Garrigan) when there were so many historically accurate characters that they could have based it on. We also discussed the issue of having a story about Africa and the Ugandan struggle for independence where the protagonist was a white Scottish man. Despite these problems, overall most agreed that it was a really good movie that gave some good insights into the personality of Amin.

A few of you were interested in seeing a more modern interview of Amin. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear that there is one, however I did find an article wrtitten by Barron (who did the 1980 interview), published just after Amin died (available here). We went to the library today to work on an empathetic task, imagining what it would have been like for someone living in Uganda under the Amin regime. I also handed out the assignment sheet for next term's Oral Presentation.

Have a wonderful holiday everyone, see you next term!

Week 11 (14th - 18th October)

Welcome back everyone, hope you had a great holiday!

We've moved onto the final topic for this semester, Eastern Europe. To start off we watched a documentary detailing the political situation in the post-WWII period (available on YouTube). As we learnt, the situation in Eastern Europe was largely determined by the Soviets, as they had occupied almost the entirety of the area from Moscow to Berlin (with the exception of Greece). The video also covered to some extent the plight of the Polish people, and how they continued to suffer under Soviet domination.

After lunch we looked at a few documents regarding the history of Poland's repeated independence and partitioning. We didn't quite get through this, so we'll finish off tomorrow.

Today we finished off reading the documents. Most people were finding the history a bit confusing to understand, so we discussed it as a class. The main points to draw on are:
  • Poland was partitioned three times between Prussia (later Germany), Russia and Austria over the period 1772 - 1795.
  • Poland briefly gained independence after WWI, before being partitioned between Germany and the Soviet Union in 1939.
  • After reoccupying Poland, the Soviets promised free elections but never delivered on them, instead installing a Communist government and enforcing their membership in the ComIntern by force.
  • The first partition of Poland was decided on at the Vienna Conference, with the three countries essentially drawing up contracts to agree on pieces of land to take. This was later ratified by the Polish government (though they weren't given any choice). We noted how this seemed quite an unusual event, but also drew similarities to the Scramble for Africa, and how the European countries would decide arbitrarily on borders to share the land.
  • We noted that Poland was unable to win its independence without significant foreign intervention. This is quite different to the countries we studied in Asia and Africa that largely won their independence by expelling the foreigners.
After finishing with this we went to the computer labs to put together a timeline of Poland's struggle. I asked you to do this yourself as you learn much more that way, but afterwards I provided everyone with a comprehensive timeline for future reference. Please remember that we will spend Friday's lesson in the library so you can work on your oral presentations, so make sure you have something to work on!

We spent the lesson in the library today to give you some time to work on your oral presentations.

Week 12 (21st - 25th October)

To begin we went through the various definitions of words describing a state of subordination. These included:

Vassal - A formal contract of subordination, where one agrees to accept another as a liege lord in return for a fief. This was a common system of distributing land in the European Middle Ages.
Colony - A settlement in a foreign land, usually a considerable distance from the homeland of the dominant country. It is characterised by deliberate large scale migrations that have a significant impact on the local population and culture. There is also significant efforts at resource extraction.
Dominion - Similar to a colony, but there is only small scale migration. The dominant country often works in concert with local collaborators to maintain political, cultural and economic dominance. Resource extraction is still carried out.
Satellite - A satellite is a system of domination that is the most indirect. It is where the government of a country is friendly to the dominant country and follows their directions politically. This can either be a voluntary situation (such as Australia's position as a British satellite after its independence), or a forced situation (such as Eastern Europe after WWII, or South Vietnam etc.)

Afterwards we went to the computer labs to do some research, completing the following activities to learn more about the Iron Curtain:

After recess we went back to the classroom to discuss our results in researching. Then we went through two primary sources on the Iron Curtain; a speech by Roosevelt, and Stalin's response to it. We then discussed your personal opinions on the Iron Curtain, as to whether Roosevelt, Stalin, or perhaps both were correct to some degree. We specifically discussed whether or not the Iron Curtain was a form of oppression equal to the colonial empires we have studied previously.

After learning about the Iron Curtain, it's time to take a look behind it! To do this, we looked at a journal article entitled Poland's Role in Loosening of the Communist Bloc, written by Adam Bromke and published in 1965. It describes how the events in Poland, particularly the Poznan Revolt of 1956, were unique in the Soviet Bloc, and set a precedent that would be followed throughout the Eastern European satellites, leading to the collapse in Soviet power and a program of destalinisation and desatellisation (i.e. undoing the changes implemented by Stalin, and ending the system of Soviet satellites in Eastern Europe).

Afterwards I started a presentation on the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, that was largely triggered by the Poznan Revolt. We got up to the slide with the disembodied statue head of Stalin, and discussed how pulling down statues is often a ceremony that happens during a revolution, celebrating the freeing of the country from the yoke of the dictator. We will finish off the presentation next lesson.

After finishing off the presentation I started on Wednesday, you were all assigned a part of the uprising (the numbered slides in the presentation) to act out. Everyone really got into this and it was a fantastic lesson! Thanks all for giving it a good go.

Week 13 (28th October - 1st November)

Document test was held today.

We spent the lesson in the library to give you time to work on your oral presentations.

Today we watched a documentary on the state of the Soviet Union after Stalin's death (available on YouTube). In particular we looked at how the events following his death, particularly Khruschev's denouncement of Stalin and release of information, prompted the events in Poland and Hungary that we have been looking at.

Week 14 (4th - 8th November)

We spent the double in the library to give you time to work on your oral presentations.

We've nearly crossed the finish line now, so we're moving on to the end of the Soviet Union. To cover this, we started looking at the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the repercussions this had for the rest of the Soviet Bloc.

Continuing on with the events that led to the fall of the Soviet Union, we watched a documentary that gives an excellent overview of the events in its final days (available on YouTube). Next week we will finish off the topic by looking at what happened in the former Soviet satellites after its collapse.

Week 15 (11th - 15th November)

We spent the double in the library to give you time to work on your oral presentations.

On the home stretch now! To finish off the section on Eastern Europe, we need to look at the fall of the Soviet Union. As such I asked you to pick one of the former Soviet Bloc countries and research the conditions and events that had occurred in it since 1989. We will discuss the results on Friday.

I was hoping to have a big discussion on the conditions of Eastern Europe, but it seems most of you didn't complete the research! This was a shame! At any rate, we wrapped up on the unit by discussing how Eastern Europe suffered an economic, and in many ways societal, collapse after the fall of the Soviet Union. I referred back to the documentary we watched, where they claimed that the dissolution of the Soviet Union was neither reached democratically, nor was it what the majority wanted. Building on this, we read an interesting article that looks at the opinions of a few former Soviet bloc countries' statistics on opinions concerning the fall, and whether things were preferable now than they were under the Soviet Union. It is interesting that the clear majority now think things were better during the Soviet Union, and that many seem to value economic and social security with a strong leader as being preferable to having freely elected leaders without security. Whether or not the Soviet Union should be viewed positively or negatively is up to you to decide, but this information certainly challenges the usual narrative of the Union being an 'evil empire', whose end was unanimously celebrated by the oppressed peoples of Eastern Europe.

Week 16 (18th - 19th November)