Swedish-American historian and educator Fredrik Logevall will speak about his book, “Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam,” at the Boca Grande Community Center at 5 p.m. on Nov. 18.
Logevall won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for his book. The story begins in 1919 and traces how the twentieth century conflict in Vietnam drew in all the world’s powers, leading to the demise of France’s colonial empire, and embroiling the United States in an unavoidable quagmire. Logevall said in an interview with CBS that history by analogy is always treacherous, as every case is unique, “One of the themes in the book is that a great number of the problems the French experienced in the field militarily were then the same ones the Americans had after that. And I think in Afghanistan we see those same problems.”
Logevall is part of the Friends of Boca Grande Community Center’s new lecture series, “America’s Conflicts,” that will focus on some of the historical conflicts that have embroiled the United States. “FOBGCC has a committee for each of our lecture series,” said Program Director Debbie Frank. “The committee consists of residents here in Boca Grande, along with some of our board members. Often we are able to bring in such high-quality speakers as a result of a committee member’s connections, either directly or indirectly knowing someone. Fred Logevall was brought up by the committee as an excellent speaker on the Vietnam War.”
When asked what inspired him to author the book, Logevall replied, “I knew from my teaching that the earlier period in Indochina, including World War II and the French Indochina War that followed, was comparatively understudied and also highly important in laying the seeds of the later American war. It was also a fascinating period in its own right, with a rich array of colorful characters. Too often we debate the Vietnam War and write about it as though it suddenly began one fall day in the early 1960s. In fact, the Second World War is crucial to all that will happen later in the struggle, as is the French war. I wanted to tell that story.”
There will be a Q & A session following the presentation.
Logevall is currently on the faculty at Harvard University. He will be teaching a class this spring titled, “U.S. Foreign Policy in a Global Age.” The professor and his wife live in Cambridge, very close to the Harvard campus. Logevall said this will be his first time visiting the Boca Grande area. “I was pleased to accept a very kind invitation from the good folks at the community center,” he said. “I am delighted to have the opportunity to see a part of the state I have not experienced before.”
FOBGCC Board Chair Roger Lewis said that after the organization did a three-day series on the civil war, it was determined there was a strong interest in the topic. So he started looking around, and after some searching on the internet, he stumbled across Logevall’s book. “It seemed to make sense that he would be an ideal speaker, because he takes a fascinating look at the war — not from a battle perspective, but from a geopolitical outlook,” Lewis said. Logevall has published numerous books and articles on U.S. foreign policy in the Cold War era. He has lectured widely around the world on topics relating to diplomatic history and contemporary U.S. foreign policy.
Tickets for the lecture are $35 for general admission and $60 for reserved seating. For more information, call 964-0827 or visit friendsofbocagrande.com.