Analyze similarities and differences in how India gained its independence and how ONE of the following gained its independence during the 20th century.
Algeria Vietnam Angola Two similarities in how India and Vietnam gained their independence during the 20th century were that in both cases, a charismatic leader marshaled nationalist sentiment in the push to escape a European colonial overlord, and in both cases the triggering event toward independence can be traced to the empire-shattering effects of World War II.1 A major difference in these movements, however, is that India negotiated its independence from the British while Vietnam was forced to undertake armed struggle against the French.2
In both India and Vietnam, a central figure rose to prominence as the leader for the cause of independence.3 That leader in India was Mohandas Gandhi, and in Vietnam it was Ho Chi Minh. These men were not at all alike. Whereas Gandhi practiced satyagraha and non-violent forms of protest, such as leading the Salt March and a boycott of British textiles, Ho for more than 20 years as the leader of communist North Vietnam led the fight against the French and later against the United States in a protracted “proxy war” in the larger Cold War battle between the U.S. and USSR.4 Despite Gandhi’s nonviolent lead, however, independence for India was marked by considerable bloodshed. This was not due to clashes with the British but instead was caused by the violence between Hindus and Muslims that erupted in 1947 as South Asia was partitioned into two states – Hindu-dominated India and Muslim-dominated Pakistan. Gandhi predicted this bloodshed and was an outspoken critic of the idea of partition, championed most vocally by Muhammad Ali Jinnah of the Muslim League.5
Although the initial drive for independence came much earlier, the power of Asian nationalism became unstoppable in India, Vietnam and elsewhere in the wake of World War II. Although British Prime Minister Winston Churchill vowed to maintain the British empire whatever the cost, the economic devastation of the war made it unrealistic for Britain to bear the financial burden of empire in India, which explains why the British voted Churchill out of office just two months after V-E Day, despite his heroic wartime leadership beating back the Nazi threat.6 In a similar fashion,7 World War II brought Vietnam’s independence movement to a head as Ho helped oust Japan from the country in the closing days of the war and then immediately issued the Vietnamese Declaration of Independence.
The events of World War II, in fact, explain the major difference in India’s independence when compared to Vietnam’s: The former was negotiated peacefully, while the latter was achieved only after a lengthy war. When Britain’s Labour Party displaced Churchill in 1945, its mandate was in part a repudiation of empire, and so the negotiated independence for the so-called “jewel in the crown” was little more than a formality. Britain had weathered the Blitz and helped liberate western Europe from the ravages of Hitler’s regime. In sharp contrast, the French at the conclusion of World War II were reeling from the humiliation of being so easily defeated and occupied by the Germans. And that no doubt explains why they set out to recapture their world-power status by reasserting through force their imperial ambitions in Southeast Asia, not to mention north Africa.8 They recaptured Saigon and much of southern Vietnam in 1945 before moving on to the north in a brutal bombing campaign to retake Hanoi. But through the late 1940s and early 1950s, Ho and his communist forces – aided by communist China after 1949 – successfully used guerrilla warfare in the countryside to force the French to sue for peace. Vietnam’s struggle for independence then morphed into the Vietnam War between the communist-backed north and the U.S.-backed south, a Cold War struggle that eventually ended with Vietnam’s reunification as an entirely communist state by 1976. That Vietnam’s independence became a proxy war between the U.S. and USSR highlights another difference with India, which pursued a neutral policy of nonalignment with either superpower during the Cold War.9
1 Notice that in the first sentence of my thesis statement, I’ve adopted as much of the language of the prompt as possible, parroting it back for the Reader … and I’ve explicitly identified two similarities with the repetitive use of the signal phrase “in both cases.”
2 To complete the thesis statement – to ATFQ! – I’ve now identified a difference with unambiguous language: “A major difference …” Also notice that I’ve been explicit about this difference, stipulating something specific about India on the one hand and Vietnam on the other hand. I didn’t make the mistake of being vague (e.g., A major difference was whether they had to fight for their independence. Well, which had to fight and which didn’t? Spell it out specifically, as I did.
3 Notice I’ve restated the first similarity. In the Comparative essay, be redundant! To get the point for making direct comparisons, you must make them AFTER the thesis statement.
4 In the last three sentences, I’ve gone out of my way to sprinkle in as many discrete facts, or pieces of evidence, as I can to provide the details to back up the first claim in my thesis. These include specific names (Gandhi and Ho), concepts (satyagraha), events (Salt March and boycotts) and background (“proxy wars” of the Cold War between the U.S. and USSR). Readers count these individual pieces of evidence, and you’ll need a certain number to earn both of the evidence points, or just one. Just how many pieces of evidence are required isn’t determined until the Reading itself, after a sampling of the essays already written … so obviously, the more the merrier.
5 You may have noticed that I’ve talked about some differences between Gandhi and Ho in this paragraph, but that doesn’t detract from my larger claim that the independence movements in both countries were led by charismatic leaders. And you may also have noticed I’ve brought up the violence that came about in India after partitioning. I could have identified this accompanying violence as a similarity, but the reasons for the violence differed … so I chose to explain it as a difference. This points to an important point: You can sometimes argue something as a similarity or a difference, depending on how you word it. Choose one or the other, however, and be as explicit as you can in explaining why it is a similarity or a difference. DO NOT, under any circumstances, try to argue something as both a similarity and a difference.
6 You earn a point on the Comparative Essay for explaining a reason for a similarity or difference, and here I’ve outlined why the British were ready to allow India to negotiate its independence (“the economic devastation of the war made it unrealistic for Britain to bear the financial burden of empire … which explains why …”).
7 Use signal phrases like this one to make direct comparisons throughout your essay. DO NOT do a mind dump on one thing in one paragraph, and do a mind dump on another thing in the next paragraph … and just leave the point of comparison to be inferred by the reader. Spell it out directly, repeatedly, again and again … with words and phrases like “in contrast to” and “in a similar way” and “whereas” and “on the other hand.”
8 Here I’ve explained the reason for another point of comparison (“And that no doubt explains why …”). Always try to explain WHY things are similar or different.
9 As I worked to finish this essay, another difference came to me, so I spelled it out at the very end. At this point, if time allowed, I could tack on one final paragraph and restate my thesis (remember that in all three essays, your thesis must come in either the first or last paragraph), incorporating this second difference to go along with the two similarities for now a four-pronged thesis. But I don’t have any time left, and I know that a three-pronged thesis will always be good enough. In fact, a two-pronged thesis (with one similarity and one difference) will probably be deemed sufficient.