David Biggs's picture
David Biggs

David Biggs received a BA with Honors in American History from the University of North Carolina in 1992 where he helped develop a student environmental action coalition and worked in rural development. He left his homeland (que huong) to become a volunteer English teacher in Vietnam and explore the other side of the world. There, he became fascinated with Vietnam's rich culture, amazing people, food and its long history. He became especially interested in the environmental legacies of war in Vietnam and fell in love with one region in particular, the Mekong Delta, from his first motorcycle adventures there in 1994. He returned to the United States to pursue a PhD in environmental and Southeast Asian history at the University of Washington in Seattle (1996 to 2004). His dissertation examined social and historical dimensions of water politics in the delta through periods of imperial, colonial and wartime government. That book Quagmire: Nation-Building and Nature in the Mekong Delta (University of Washington, 2011), received the George Perkins Marsh Award in 2012 and led him to new collaborations with social scientists, policymakers and historians. Since 2012, he has shifted his focus to the war-torn landscapes of central Vietnam near the former imperial capital, Hue. He is completing a manuscript titled War in the Land: History and the Militarized Landscape in Central Vietnam. That book and associated works draw on historical geographic information systems (hGIS), extensive research in aerial photography and map collections, and several years of site visits to villages and former military sites. While most people are aware of the ecological destruction associated with American military operations in Vietnam during the 1960s, few know that many of the same areas had suffered deforestation and ruin in pervious eras of militarization going back, in some places, to the 1400s. It’s a layered history of militarization that explores social legacies and policy implications for postwar development in this layered space. He was most recently a Carson Fellow at the Rachel Carson Center in Munich, Germany, and he is now teaching courses in environmental, world and Southeast Asian history at the University of California at Riverside. Since completing War in the Land, he has embarked on a related writing project, a graphic novel, and he continues to consult on environmental projects with organizations and state agencies. 


Associate Professor


  • environmental
  • world and Southeast Asian history
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