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South Vietnam: A Social, Cultural, Political History, 1963 to 1967


This dissertation explores the putative autocratic legacy of President Ngô Đình Diệm among South Vietnamese and the dynamic nature of South Vietnam’s social, cultural, and political development during the so-called interregnum period, 1963 to 1967. The years between President Ngô Đình Diệm’s First Republic government, from 1955 to 1963, and President Nguyễn Văn Thiệu’s Second Republic government, from 1967 to 1975, demarcate this distinct but misunderstood period of national development. Previously, under the leadership of President Ngô Đình Diệm and his family, domineering conservative Catholics who exhibited much enmity for Western influence amid an escalating civil war, South Vietnam experienced better security conditions, but its citizens enjoyed fewer personal freedoms and had less civic independence. The overthrow of Ngô Đình Diệm’s government engendered watershed changes. South Vietnam experienced deteriorating security conditions, but citizens enjoyed more individual freedoms and had greater civic independence. Driven by elite and non-elite domestic actors, this shift impacted various aspects of society, from sports and female gender norms to politics and the performing arts. Whereas most literature portrays the 1963 coup against Ngô Đình Diệm as throwing the country into complete chaos and engendering widespread failure for multiple years, this work highlights the coup as a point of departure for a new and creative phase of national innovation, reinventing the mid-1960s as a creative and generative phase of South Vietnamese history. An overwhelming majority of extant South Vietnamese press materials published between November 1963 and September 1967 support this study.

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