The Vietnam War tells the story of one of the most divisive episodes in modern American history through primary sources, ranging from government documents, news reports, speeches, popular songs to memoirs, writings by Vietnam veterans (including coauthor John Fitzgerald), and poetry by Vietnamese and Americans on matching themes. The book begins in the 19th century when Vietnam became a French colony, and traces the insidious route by which the United States became involved in a war on the other side of the world.
Broadly speaking, historians mainly write two kinds of books. "Popular" histories are directed at the layperson and casual reader, and are usually researched from secondary sources other books, articles, and the like. The more serious books, aimed at a discerning readership, invariably are researched from primary sources such as letters, diaries, official papers, documents, and so forth. The authors of this volume have taken a different approach: they present readers with a wide collection of historical source material, and leave it up to them to interpret the evidence for themselves. One of the Oxford University Press' Pages From History books, this title is a typically meaty example of the series. The Vietnam War, with all of its complexity and vehement feelings, makes a perfect forum for this approach. To this end, the authors present an impressive array of press stories, posters, foreign press reports, speeches, political cartoons and, especially, numerous photos that inflamed the public throughout the war. Because historical documents often contradict each other, the reader soon learns a vital lesson in sorting facts from opinion. Using original source documents in this way can take one of two different paths. The historical evidence can lead the researcher to genuine objectivity, or it can be selectively used merely to confirm a preexisting bias. That's another good lesson for students. (Pages From History). KLIATT Codes: SA Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2002, Oxford Univ. Press, 173p. illus. bibliog. index.,