Tuesday, November 21, 2017

A.J. Langguth (1933 - 2014)

My first visit to the USA was in 1969 as a tourist on the way back to Australia from a business trip to Germany. This was followed by sporadic business trips, mainly to Pittsburgh PA, up until the early 1990s.
About 17 years ago I started visiting the USA on a regular basis for extended periods for personal reasons.
Seeing I was now mixing with the general population and getting immersed in day to day living there, I thought I'd better get to know the country a bit better than what we were taught at school ie. the basic Columbus, Pilgrims, War of Independence, Civil War stuff.
I went looking for some history books.
Among the many I came across one called Patriots, The Men Who Started the American Revolution by A.J.Langguth
Here was a book written about the American Revolution through the eyes of the people who were part of it: George Washington, John Adams, Samuel Adams, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry.
I liked the author's style and sought more by him.
Arthur John Langguth was an author, journalist and educator, born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. 
A graduate of  Harvard College, he was South East Asian correspondent and Saigon bureau chief for The New York Times during the Vietnam war.

He joined the journalism faculty at USC in 1976 eventually achieving the post of Professor Emeritus of the Annenberg School for Communications School of Journalism at that institution. 
He retired from active teaching at USC in 2003. 
He was the author of satirical novels as well as more importantly, for me, American history.
We corresponded by email occasionally about his work and what was in his writing pipeline. He had an affection for Australians due to his time in Vietnam and had visited Sydney on one occasion.
He had dedicated one of his books, Our Vietnam: The War 1954-1975, to Neil Davis who was an Australian combat cameraman recognized for his work as a photojournalist during the Vietnam War and other conflicts in the region. He was killed in Bangkok in 1985, while filming a minor Thai coup attempt.
I was Googling the other day to find out if there was another book of his published and was  saddened to read of AJL's death a few years ago.
Below is my Langguth reading list. It is recommended for those with an interest in American history who like a novelist style approach to a subject while concentrating on the personalities of the time rather than just dry facts and figures.

  • After Lincoln: How the North Won the Civil War and Lost the Peace Simon & Schuster, 2014
  • Driven West: Andrew Jackson and the Trail of Tears to the Civil War Simon & Schuster, 2010
  • Union 1812: The Americans Who Fought the Second War of Independence Simon & Schuster, 2006
  • Our Vietnam: The War 1954-1975 (Simon & Schuster, 2000), Touchstone Press (paper), 2002
  • Patriots, The Men Who Started the American Revolution (Simon & Schuster, 1988); Touchstone Press (paper), 1989, 2002

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