Guide for the Force or Movement essay



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Guide for the Force or Movement essay
In 1954 France, a proud European nation with a formidable military and long history of colonial rule, was defeated and humiliated by an idea. The idea was nationalism. Nationalism is the desire of a people who share a common ethnic or cultural background and beliefs to govern themselves. It is the idea that foreign powers who seek to exploit your people and control your nation need to be overthrown. Nationalism has deep roots in Vietnam. It was the force that was fed by China’s attempts at cultural and military domination of the Vietnamese people and the force that ultimately led to the expulsion of the Chinese. When the French arrived they arrived in a land with a long history of resisting foreign invaders. The French exploitation of the Vietnamese (particularly in the rubber plantations) resulted in a number of nationalist organisations being formed to expel the French. The most significant of these was the Viet Minh. At Dien Bien Phu thousands of Vietnamese carried food and supplies to Viet Minh forces. The Viet Minh victory at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 ended French rule in Vietnam and led to the division of Vietnam at the Geneva Conference.



The purpose of the essay question is to explain how a FORCE or MOVEMENT has had an impact in the historical context of your choosing.
To do this you need to achieve the following:


  1. Name and Define the FORCE OR MOVEMENT

  2. Briefly explain HOW the FORCE developed over time.

  3. Explain how it influenced an event in history (usually by inspiring an organisation or group of people to take action)

  4. Explain the consequences of that action.


There are usually three types of questions that deal with historical forces or movements. All three can be answered by using Vietnamese nationalism and Dien Bien Phu, although the answers require a slightly different focus.
Question Type One “How did nationalism influence a group to seek change?”
How did an historical force or movement influence an individual or group to seek change?

Describe and explain the consequences of actions taken by the individual or group to bring about change.


For this type of question

Question Type Two “How did nationalism influence a group to challenge a government?”
Describe and explain how a force or movement influenced a specific group or individual to challenge the authority of a government, or a rival for power.

Describe and explain the consequences of this challenge.


  • The force or movement = Nationalism

  • The individual or group = The Viet Minh

  • The challenge = Fighting the French at Dien Bien Phu

  • The government = The French in Vietnam.

  • The consequences = France was defeated at Dien Bien Phu, French rule of Vietnam ended, Vietnam was divided at the Geneva Conference, the Viet Minh became the government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.


Question Type Three “How did nationalism have an influence on people’s lives?
Describe and explain the background and events that led to the end of a government’s or a leader’s rule.

How did an historical force or movement related to these events have an influence on people’s lives at this time?




  • The background = The history of Vietnamese nationalism.

  • The events = The Battle of Dien Bien Phu

  • The government = The French in Vietnam

  • The force = Nationalism

  • Influence = Suffering under the French and the willingness to support the Viet Minh, taking leadership positions in nationalist movements (General Giap, Ho Chi Minh), assisting the Viet Minh at Dien Bien Phu (providing food, carrying arms, joining them).

  • The people = The Viet Minh and their leadership but also the peasant villagers, porters and Vietnamese people who supported the Viet Minh because they shared their nationalist ambitions.




Note – for this type of essay question it is critical that you provide evidence of popular support for NATIONALISM and the Viet Minh. This can include (but is not limited to):

  • The popular support among villagers for the Viet Minh

  • The peasant support at Dien Bien Phu

  • Evidence that the Vietnamese people suffered at the hands of the French and supported an end to French rule.


A possible structure for your responses is given below. This is NOT meant to be exhaustive and will need to be modified according to the type of question you get asked. It does provide some tips as to the type of evidence and links you should be thinking about when you prepare and write your own essays.
Basics (structure)

  • Each essay needs a formal introduction, concise body paragraphs and a formal conclusion.

  • The introduction should present the main argument of your essay in summary form AND define the key idea of nationalism.

  • The conclusion should not present any new ideas but should provide a brief summary of your essay and end with a general observation about the role of nationalism in the context of your essay.

  • PEE every paragraph:

    • POINT (one key idea – or point – only!)

    • EVIDENCE (support your argument with specific examples, dates, names)

    • EXPLAIN how the content of this paragraph relates to the overall idea of nationalism. EVERY paragraph should include the word “nationalist or nationalism!”


Basics (writing)

  • If the paragraph is more than 10 lines long it is probably too long!

  • If a sentence contains more than 2 commas it is too complex!

  • Leave a line between every paragraph to clearly signal the beginning of a new idea.


Basic outline of potential content for body paragraphs


  1. History of resistance to imperial powers (BRIEF!)

  • Chinese occupation (imposition of religious values, use of military force to suppress rebellions)

  • Vietnamese villages had a strong sense of identity due to their close-knit nature.

  • Vietnamese resented foreign control and a number of guerrilla movements fought the Chinese.

  • Independence was won in AD938 by Ngo Quyen.

Key links to make: Chinese domination  repression of Vietnamese  Increased sense of nationalism (as expressed through village identity, guerrilla resistance, mass support for guerrilla leaders)  successful outcome for Vietnamese (Chinese expelled)



  1. The French arrive

  • Arrival of the French (1859 -1885).

  • French exploitation of labour, preferential treatment of Cochinchina, bias towards Catholics, brutal suppression of rebellions  Vietnamese resistance (Scholar’s revolt, formation of the Indochinese Communist Party).

Key links to make: The arrival of the French AND their conduct encouraged Vietnamese nationalism and the formation of nationalist organisations.



  1. Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Minh

  • Ho Chi Minh’s early involvement in anti-French activities.

  • Movement to Europe (in time for Russian Revolution!)

  • Called to Russia in 1923 to receive training as a Comintern agent.

  • Returned to Vietnam in 1941 to from the VietMinh



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