Modern Vietnam War Studies Project

Though the decades-long war ended as the North Vietnamese tanks rolled into Saigon in 1975, its legacy of ash and embers still glows in the soul of every survivor. A politicized struggle for perception, interpretation, and control of the historical memory over the past war still rages in both countries. Among scholars, questions about the war remain unanswered in large part because current historical study is unbalanced toward the U.S. perspective with little to no scholarship attempting to understand the Vietnamese perspectives. Likewise, the scant war studies based in official histories in Vietnam are often sanitized for causes equally political and cultural, shunning both individual aggrandizement and the evidentiary approach that informs conventional historiography, East and West. Serious study of the war demands a complete set of perspectives.

The Modern Vietnam War Studies Project is working in close collaboration with colleagues across Harvard University to develop a new digital archive of original Vietnamese sources for studying and teaching the Vietnam War and its lasting impact.

The project is unique in the following groundbreaking initiatives:

1. Collect, translate, organize, and analyze original in-person oral histories and never-seen-before materials including documents and personal effects captured by the U.S. military and limited distribution reports and publications.

2. Build a world class Vietnam War History Virtual Archive center at Harvard University in collaboration with the other American institutions.

3. Build an interdisciplinary curriculum that offers courses based on primary-source digital materials.

4. Develop a consortium of scholarly, diplomatic, military, and civic institutions to write the next chapter in the deepening of U.S.-Vietnam relations—a historical and spiritual reconciliation.

5. Address the war legacy issues for Vietnamese war veterans and their families by returning diaries, letters, and other materials.

6. Organize conferences, seminars, and workshops to expand engagement and collaborations between scholars in various parts of the world.

The Modern Vietnam War Studies Project represents a potential breakthrough in conflict scholarship. Employing memory and history as both source and subject in teaching and research, the project advances methodology and theory in exciting new ways. Its multi-perspective approach creates a rich understanding that fills in gaps that have hereto been unfilled.

For more information please contact Senior Researcher Hai Nguyen at hai_nguyen@hks.harvard.edu.