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Beyond the Wall: Kevin MacDonald’s The Eagle (2011)

It’s a poorly-kept secret that I love swords-and-sandals movies, regardless of their quality. This is especially true of anything involving legionnaires fighting ‘barbarians.’ While I’ve thankfully moved past (most of) the Roman exceptionalism of my high school years, I still love sitting in a theater and feeling thrilled yet unsettled at confronting the figures lurking in the misty, unknowable forests beyond the edge of the ‘civilized’ world. When I was reminded of the 2011 film The Eagle, then, I couldn’t help but check it out. Though I expected to enjoy what would surely be an over-the-top story, I was surprised by how much I loved this movie historically.... Read More
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Fact or Fun? The Peculiar Case of Historical Accuracy in Strategy Games

We all interact with history in so many ways that show our love and joy for the subject. Reading, writing, discussing, watching movies and TV (and let’s not forget running history blogs); there’s no shortage of ways to consume and revel in history. One admittedly-geeky avenue that lies close to my heart is the realm of historically-set strategy games, whether board games (like Risk and Axis & Allies) or video games (either of the turn-based variety, like Total War, or real-time, like Age of Empires and Europa Universalis). These games, especially the virtual variety, give me the unparalleled opportunity to really dig my hands into the workings of history and play around with its causes and effects. As with any media adaptation, however, historical strategy games pose the conundrum of accuracy versus enjoyment for an historian, yet this particular conundrum comes with its own unique paradox: a truly fun historical game lets players actively steer their own version of events.... Read More
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Fascist Americas: It Can’t Happen in the High Castle

By some coincidence, I found myself immersed in two stories of alternate history this fall. Both imagined the hypothetical scenario of American democracy being hijacked by mid-twentieth-century fascism. The first was It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis, a 1935 satirical novel in which the author asserts that it very much could happen here in […]... Read More
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Imperial (Mis)Adventures: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

I love Indiana Jones. From a young age, the adventures of that methodologically irresponsible archaeologist inspired me to explore all the ancient history I could get my hands on. Even so, an historically-minded review of any Indiana Jones movie is not exactly fertile ground. The history of Jones’ archaeological endeavors is highly massaged, to say the least, yet there is another source of historical inspiration in these movies: each one is a period piece set in the 1930s (or 50s, in the case of the unfortunate fourth installment). While the first and third movies are rather straightforward in their Nazi-fighting setting, the second movie, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, is an exploration of British India that has become ever-more fascinating after my own time studying the empire.... Read More