Vickery on Kiernan
It was with particular interest that I read Liam Kelley’s book review of Ben Kiernan’s Việt Nam: A History from Earliest Times to the Present. Other than the war between the United States and Vietnam, the period leading up to it, and thereafter, I am not particularly familiar with or exceptionally interested in the history of Vietnam. What caught my attention was the author of the book, Ben Kiernan. As I read on, I began reflecting on a conversation I had had with my recently departed friend and historian, Michael Vickery.
According to Vickery, Kiernan asked him some years ago to do a peer review of the first chapter or two of the history of Vietnam Kiernan was writing. Vickery obliged in his characteristic fashion.
Vickery was not a Vietnam specialist, but he was a first-rate historian, well-versed in Southeast Asian history. He also had done a considerable amount of research on the Cham in Vietnam. But above all, Vickery was a purist when he critiqued the work of other historians; he gave no quarter when, in his opinion, the scholarship was sloppy or specious.