What is. What is felt. What is thought.
The recreation of THE history and the understanding of A history.
Professional History and Popular History
The History that is common knowledge, the history that is assumed, the history that is generalized: that is popular history. It is the stuff of fable that can also seep into a history of how people think and relate themselves to history and adding themselves to an ever-adapting and shifting story.
A professional history tries to bring events of the past back to life. It is a Frankenstein like project. To be professional history is to dig and sift through fact and fiction and make a distinction between what is real on a tangible spectrum and what is real in the minds of the players within that history. It is doing research finding primary documentation to back up definitions of the past.
The distinction between the two comes from how the story is told. Are elements left out? Are all the players in the event present? Where is the narrative coming from? Is it framed in the mindset of the present or is it told true to the time? Are there sources to back up the story? What type of sources are being used? Is it peer-reviewed or a primary document? Does the story have holes in it? Are wide generalizations made that threaten the integrity of the past?
In Cohen’s book “History in Three Keys,” The Boxers as Event, Experience, and Myth, the distinction is beautifully laid out. While telling a narrative of the Boxer Uprising, he includes histories as the event, the experiences of the people of the events and a history of myth and how myth, even if false to the event, creates history. In his preface, on page xiii, Cohen makes a point or maybe warning to historians. He writes, “Are historians, too, ultimately fashioners of myth?” In this statement, he asserts that history will be dug up, but it will never be quite the way it was when it was present. As historians, we have the power to tell the story of the event of old and in doing so we decide what to include and exclude. Cohen makes distinctions between his three types of history. With history as an event, he tells a factual story, history as an experience he tells a personal story, and history as a myth he tells a story of perception. Each valued history within its own context.
In Cohen’s retelling of the Boxer Uprising, he keeps his story and sources tightly woven together. With each point he makes he includes a proper notation that links his points to factual evidence and perspective from the people relating to the event.
-September 12th, 2019
The Old. The New. The memory.
In Robert Citino’s article, Military Histories Old and New: A Reintroduction, Citino reviews military history in its future in today’s professional scheme. Outside of the professional circle military history is trending among the public and consequently trending within the movie industry as well. Despite this increase in the public interest, military history is shrinking in its academic field. Citino’s main objective is to outline the growing complexity behind the decreasingly unpopular professional study of military history.
Citino breaks military history into three groups:
- “War and Society” or “New history” (Citino 1070)
- “traditional operational histor[y]” (Citino 1070)
- “history of memory and culture” (Citino 1071)
Within these three groups, Citino fleshes out what military history means within these contexts and how they can come together to portray a fuller history.
Citino defines a “new history” as looking past the guns and the battle plans and into the inner workings of society at war, pre-war and post-war. He looks at the “social composition of armies and officer corps, civil-military relations, the impact of war on race, class, and gender” (Citino 1071). Citino brings up the shift in education to consume this new definition of military history. In schools, much of what is taught is not necessarily the battle scores but the underlying social complexities of the time. So, what does that mean? What do social complexities have to do with understanding military action? To answer this Citino uses the multiple different American wars to surface the need for a more well-rounded military history. Take the American Civil War: This war was not a “mere military conflict” but a “revolution that overthrew the social order of the old South” (Citino 1072). In this movement so much was being added to the narrative and not all who deserved a voice in that story got it. Citino uses Donald Shaffer’s After the Glory to point out that “Black soldiers not only had to fight to get into the war, they then had to fight to get into the history of war” (Citino 1073). With gender, race, class, and society all added into the mix of military history it can be likened to a tree’s branches reaching up and outgrowing their own branches.
Citino adds to the branches or ranks of military history the traditional face of what it “means” to study and analyze military history. The Traditional sphere is more than just tactics and trench warfare it is “the relationship of armies to the societies that spawn them, and the complicated mix of factors that turns some forces into sharks and others into their bait” (Citino 1080). While looking at this perspective one is seeing through a lens of the makings of an army, a fighting force, the leaders, and how each military force is made. From the combination of “new” and “old” history, a new lens is created that gives a clearer picture of all the questions of what, how, when, who and everything in-between.
A new split diversion from the “old” history is the “emphasis on culture, especially history of memory” (Citino 1082). From this category, a light is shown on much of what is left out or cut out from the “historical truth” (Citino 1082). In this history, the focus is on the individuals. The daughters, the sons, the fathers, the mothers, the players and actors in the history that is being told. It breaks the almost scientific way of looking at “old” and “new” history that relays on the observance, analysis of the events but adds an element of uncertainty. “Old” history is the body, “new” history is the head, while culture and memory are more of the heart of the history that pumps life into the event.
History is not necessarily seen as something that is constant but something that is always fluctuating and changing to adapt to new perspectives, new information, and new lenses to see out of. Its compared to a “shifting identity” (Citino 1082). This “shifting identity” is the restudy of events of old and the reevaluation of what “we” think we know about an event and how “we” decide to frame that event. To understand the culture of an event without having “our” “own cultural assumptions” is where the real magic happens (Citino 1820). But there is even something to be gained from what a culture assumes about another and then that is added into the ever-evolving historical narrative set aside for the next generation and the next.
Citino knows that there are exemplary works coming out of the field of military history, but he also understands in order for the field to continue to move along with it needs to tell a story that has the body, the head, and the heart. It needs to be as close to breathing as possible in order to recreate an accurate portrayal of what was.
Citino, Robert M. “Military Histories Old and New: A Reintroduction.” The American Historical Review, vol. 112, no. 4, 2007, pp. 1070–1090. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/40008444.
-September 15th 2019
Literature Review Topic
Literature Review Topic
As this course has gone on, I have become increasingly interested in history as experience and myth. From this, I have developed the topic of history perceived through film and cinematography and what history looks like through the lens of Hollywood. I will be looking specifically at American film on World War II. I will narrow this down to looking at the West Pacific portion of WWII.
Possible questions/themes to look into:
- What was included and left out
- How the movies shaped people’s perceptions of the war
- The directors retelling of history and what does their narrative look like
- Popular themes
- Experience and Myth
- Teaching history through film
Sources I am looking into:
“Motion Pictures and the study of Attitudes: Some Problems For Historians.”
By Small, Melvin
Source: Film & History (03603695). Feb1972, Vol. 2 Issue 1, p1-5. 5p.
While scrolling through sources I stumbled onto “Motion pictures and the study of attitudes: some problems for historians” by Melvin Small. He provides some insight into how to think about the movie industry and its effect on societal thinking. His article focuses on Russia and American opinion during/post World War II through the film industry. This differs from my topic which focuses on the film industry centered around the Western Pacific. The article itself is a bit dated however most of the ideology seems to be aligned with a more recent sentiment. Small poses two questions of concern when analyzing the big screen: “ First, how do motion pictures affect images? And then, and even more troublesome, how can the historian manage such an unusual source (Small 1)?” These two questions he introduces are relevant to film not only about the opinion on Russia during WWII but to films that are created on history itself.
List of sources to comb through:
(I have not read through these in-depth. I am just adding them to keep it all in one place.)
“NOW HEAR THIS, NOW HEAR THIS!”.
The biggest theater. (cover story)
Midway to Understanding: Seventy Years of History?
MEMORY, IDENTITY, AND COMMEMORATIONS OF WORLD WAR II: Anniversary Politics in Asia Pacific.
Hollywood, don’t you go disrespectin’ my culture: The Good Shepherd versus real CIA history.
Filming The Marines In The Pacific: An Interview With World War II Cinematographer Norman Hatch.
South Pacific and American remembering; or, `Josh, we’re going to buy this son of a bitch’!
INTRODUCTION: FRAMING THE ASIA PACIFIC WAR WITH AN EVEN HAND.
Building Marines Hollywood Style.
Victory At Sea: A Case Study in “Official” Telehistory.
America, World War II, and the Movies: An Annotated Booklist.
MUFFLING THE BELL OF LIBERTY: CENSORSHIP AND THE WORLD WAR II DOCUMENTARY.
MOTION PICTURES AND THE STUDY OF ATTITUDES: Some Problems For Historians.
DOCTORAL DISSERTATION ABSTRACT: THE HOLOCAUST IN AMERICAN FILM.
‘Hellhound on my trail’: Crossroads and the Racist Ravishment.
Movies under the Sea: Film, Morale, and US Submarines during World War II.
Film Violence and the Institutionalization of the Cinema.
War in the dark.
Good Bombing, Bad Bombing: Hollywood, Air Warfare, and Morality in World War I and World War II.
TEACHING HISTORY THROUGH FILM.
THOSE WAR FILMS – FACT, FICTION, IMPACT.
 Small, Melvin. “MOTION PICTURES AND THE STUDY OF ATTITUDES: Some Problems For Historians.” Film & History (03603695) 2, no. 1 (March 1972): 1–5.
When reading historical fiction, it is important to not take everything presented as fact but instead use it within the context of fiction. To prevent confusion best practice would be to look into the author and their work to ensure they are framing history correctly in their story. By reading first how the author wishes to use history and create their story it can prevent misconceptions about the time period and topic. It should also be advised to look into who much research the author put into their story and how it mirrors historical fact.
Historical fiction can be a wonderful tool to use when trying to understand and teach history. It quite literally puts history into story format and gives it a sort of artificial life. The reader is immersed in the time period through characters and settings while gaining a way to frame the historical time itself. Using historical fiction as a way for the audience to become familiar and associated with the subject can be either a way to introduce or solidify the topic.
I actually read Luen Yang’s Boxers and Saints before our class got into the Boxer Uprising. By reading Boxers and Saints first I was able to have a shelf in my brain to place all that I was learning about the Boxer Uprising on. While reading the graphic novel I did not take everything I read as fact but used it as a way to understand what I later learned and read on the subject. In elementary school, I remember watching a television series about the American Revolution. The series brought history to life for me and it helped me to better understand concepts. Now I watch the same series with my youngest sister and watch the same history be brought to life again.
In with the New and Add to the Old
More resent fields, such as women’s gender history and environmental history, are becoming more prominent in the world of history. As time goes on new categories are established within history and a richer field materializes. The new fields add more diversity and narratives for fields that did not use to have a voice such as women. With the development of such fields, more information can be added to the existing narratives. Fields begin to cross into each other an add to each other’s stories. Take environmental history for example. Environmental history can be beneficial in the history of war. The effects of war and what that means for the environment. Not only does the history of war gain a new perspective but so would fields such as industrialization and the history of the geography of a land. As the fields are now some are stronger than others. It comes down to if the fields are being invested in and what people are paying attention too. Fields that have the publics’ attention are going to get more favor and money behind them. The public can play a role in getting fields recognized and ignored.