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Unit 6: Modern World History

Lesson B: 20th Century Global Politics - Decolonization

Activity 3: Colonial History

In this lesson, you will learn about several examples of the successes and challenges faced by countries as they decolonized. You will begin by completing a step-by-step analysis of what happened in Vietnam. The following activities will serve as models of how you will analyze other case studies, using primary source documents and conducting your own research. In this case study, all resources will be provided for you. In the next lesson, you will find much of the information on your own.

In Activities 3 through 7, you will study information and a series of documents related to Vietnam's fight for independence and the development of its political, social, and economic systems. This activity will help you learn about Vietnam, but it will also prepare you to do some research and source analysis on your own to learn and draw conclusions about the successes and failures of decolonization in other countries, later in this lesson. After you have read over this information individually, you will have the opportunity to discuss how Vietnam gained its independence and its successes and failures after that momentous day. Your teacher may assign you additional research on the decolonization and development of Vietnam.

Vietnam has a long history of fighting off colonial rulers. Starting in 938 CE, the Vietnamese fought off Chinese invaders. For the next 900 years, Vietnam was able to maintain their relative independence. They did this, in part, because they were on similar ground politically, socially, economically, and technologically with neighboring countries.

However, when French rule began in 1858, there was a grave difference between the Vietnamese and their new colonial rulers. France was an industrialized country with a strong economy and strong unified military. Vietnam had neither. It was during this time that the Vietnamese realized that serious changes were needed in their country.

Because of their strengths, French colonial rule continued until 1940. The Japanese war in the Pacific triggered the invasion of Vietnam (French Indochina). With the defeat of France in Europe, the country was forced to surrender control of Vietnam to Japan. The Japanese occupied Vietnam for the next five years. After Japan was defeated in World War II, Vietnam declared independence in September of 1945.

Download Icon Download the Student Resource: Decolonization Case Study Graphic Organizer (doc) to record information about decolonization in Vietnam as you complete this activity.

Directions: Use Document 1 regarding Vietnam's declaration of independence to record information on your Student Resource: Decolonization Case Study Graphic Organizer.

document 1: Declaration of Independence by Vietnam September 2, 1945
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Written Activity - Notebook

Record the document and information gathered on your Student Resource: Decolonization Case Study. Be sure to think about the following questions as you record information.

  • How did nationalism help or hinder the country in its fight for independence?
  • What type of government exists in the country today and why did that particular government take hold?
  • What type of economy does the country have? Who controls the production of goods and services?
  • What rights are guaranteed to the people?