In this lesson, students will watch selected clips from The Vietnam War and examine the impact of French colonial rule of Vietnam on both the French and the Vietnamese people. Then, they will conduct a cost/benefit analysis for each country and discuss solutions.
- Examine the different types of colonialism experienced by the Vietnamese.
- Explore the effects of the French pacification program.
- Conduct a cost/benefit analysis of French colonialism on the Vietnamese.
About The Author
Greg Timmons has been a social studies teacher for over 30 years. He has written lessons for several PBS productions including The NewsHour, FRONTLINE, Black America Since MLK: And Still I Rise and various Ken Burns productions including The War, Prohibition, The Dust Bowl, Baseball, The Tenth Inning, The Central Park Five, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History, and Jackie Robinson. He is the winner of the 2007 American Educational Publishers Award.
1. Begin by showing students the clips from The Vietnam War.
2. Discuss the following questions:
● How did colonialism, first under the Chinese and then the French, impact the Vietnamese people? What did they gain, and what did they lose?
● Under the conditions of colonialism, why was it easy for the French to feel superior to the Vietnamese, and for the Vietnamese to resent the French?
● How did the French policy of pacification set the tone for relations between the Vietnamese and the French? How did it set the standard for brutality among the combatants?
● Describe how the Vietnamese fight for independence was similar to other colonies’ struggles for independence from more powerful and domineering countries. For example, what similarities and differences do you see in Vietnam’s quest for independence from France and the American colonies’ break with Great Britain?
3. Form students into small groups and have each group do a quick cost/benefit analysis of colonialism for the French and the Vietnamese. Distribute two copies of the graphic organizer handout to each group and ask them to complete an analysis for each country, France and Vietnam.
When students have completed their handouts, debrief the class with the following questions:
● Which country benefited the most from colonialism? In what way?
● What were the political, economic, and social costs of colonialism for both countries?
● Which country seemed to “pay” more?
● What arguments could each country have made to convince the other that either the benefits were good for both France and Vietnam if Vietnam remained under French rule, or the costs were too high for the French to maintain colonial rule over Vietnam?