For the next National History Center and Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Weekly History Seminar, Marilyn B. Young, Professor of History at New York University, analyzes “The Eternal Question of Counterinsurgency” on Monday, May 3, 2010 at the Wilson Center.
What are historians to make of the phrase made famous during the Vietnam war, “hearts and minds”? With the advantage of distance in time and the cooling of passions, it seems clear that the phrase reflected a tactic of counterinsurgency characteristic of the European colonial empires as well as the American attempt to find a solution to the war. The rediscovery of counterinsurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan is not only a military tactic but also something that approaches an ideology—and something well worth discussing in the context of the war in Vietnam.
New Books in History has a new podcast of an interview with Mark Philip Bradley and Marilyn Young, the editors of the Making Sense of the Vietnam Wars, the first volume in the Reinterpreting History series produced by the National History Center and Oxford University Press. The volumes in the series aim to convey to readers how and why historians revise and reinterpret their understanding of the past, and they do so by focusing on a particular historical topic, event, or idea that has long gained the attention of historians.
As Marshall Poe, editor of New Books in History, states, “[The] authors provide no simple answers because there are none. You will not find easy explanations, good guys and bad guys, or ideological drum-beating in these pages. What you will find is a sensitive effort to understand an event of mind-boggling, irreducible complexity. There’s a lesson here: we may think we know what we are doing on far-away shores, but we are fooling ourselves.”
The first volume of the Reinterpreting History series, published by Oxford University Press, received a great book review in the latest volume of the Journal of American History (volume 96, issue 1). The volume, entitled Making Sense of the Vietnam Wars: Local, National, and Transnational Perspectives is edited by Mark Philip Bradley and Marilyn B. Young.
Reviewer Patrick Hagopian from Lancaster University in Lancaster, England, says, “This volume gathers together a group of distinguished scholars to bring fresh perspectives to the question, ‘Why Vietnam?’ Their contributions address the factors that led the United States to intervene militarily in Vietnam and the reasons (other than military strategy and feats of arms) that the conflict developed and concluded as it did; they also demonstrate the liveliness of current historiographical debates. The emergence of new interpretations results in part from the availability of new Vietnamese-language archives, the declassification of documents in the United States, and the release of materials in China, Eastern Europe, and Russia…..
“…The new synthesis toward which this volume excitingly, although perhaps distantly, signals, will involve not just the integration of materials from various national archives but the tracing of the connections between the large-scale and finely observed local perspectives that its contributions explore. The cutting-edge research in this volume constitutes a crucial addition to the library of anyone interested in the histories of the Vietnam Wars.”
The full review is availabe at the History Cooperative. This volume, and the second volume in the series on Atlantic History, are available for purchase through the Center’s E-Store.