Writing a book on a large, multifaceted, and complex historical subject on which there is a vast amount of source material is a little like sculpting a substantial yet elegant statue from marble. In this case, the sculpting process is far from complete. A potentially valuable book remains submerged within this long and inadequately edited volume. A clue to the problem lies in the subtitle, which asserts that the book is ‘the complete story of the Australian war’. There is, of course, no such thing as a complete history: even the longest multi-volume histories must decide what to exclude.
Bruce Davies: Vietnam
Vietnam: The Complete Story of the Australian War
by Bruce Davies with Gary McKay
Allen & Unwin, $55 hb, 736 pp, 9781741750287
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Peter Edwards is an historian specialising in Australia’s national security policies and policy-making. He is the Official Historian of Australia’s involvement in conflicts in Malaya, Borneo, and Vietnam, for which he wrote Crises and Commitments (1992) and A Nation at War (1997). He is also the author of Arthur Tange: Last of the Mandarins (2006), Permanent Friends? Historical Reflections on the Australian–American Alliance (2005), and Prime Ministers and Diplomats (1983); the co-editor of Facing North (vol. 2, 2003); the editor of Defence Policy-Making (2008) and Australia Through American Eyes (1977); and a founding editor of the series of Documents on Australian Foreign Policy.
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