David Zierler


On his book The Invention of Ecocide: Agent Orange, Vietnam, and the Scientists who Changed the Way We Think About the Environment

Cover Interview of July 31, 2011


I come from a generation of younger historians who believe that the process of documenting and explaining change over time cannot be confined to any single sub-discipline of history.  The world is simply too complex to fit into such neat compartments.

I think that The Invention of Ecocide exemplifies the point: by following Agent Orange over the decades, and in such varied sites as academic laboratories, war planning boards, and from the Vietnamese jungle and into the bodies of gravely ill U.S. servicemen, I have attempted to demonstrate that the process of “doing history” is about following the topic and its sources wherever they take you, no matter the implications of whether or not the final product will land in this or that course catalog or reading list.

The result, so far, has been rewarding.  I have been gratified to learn that readers interested in many diverse disciplines have found value in the book.  The lesson I take away from this is that when a historian conceives of a new project, he or she should not self-limit their ensuing historical exploration once they have posed the basic research question.

© 2011 David Zierler