Civil Wars

A Perplexing Journey: David Armitage’s Civil Wars

I first encountered David Armitage through a textbook in my Atlantic World survey course sophomore year at Gettysburg. That book, The Declaration of Independence: A Global History, is an outstanding bit of intellectual history. I still have it, packed away in a box somewhere, and it was likely one of the first inspirations for my eventual turn away from American history and towards a larger perspective. When I learned of Armitage’s 2015 history of comparative civil wars, it was only a matter of time before I got around to reading it. While its contents didn’t quite live up to my expectations, Civil Wars certainly proved as intellectually stimulating as I’ve come to expect from this distinguished historian.... Read More
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Trying to Do Too Much: Netflix’s Outlaw King

Billed alternately as a somewhat-sequel to the classic movie Braveheart and “the real story of Scottish independence that Braveheart didn’t tell you,” (the two aren’t mutually exclusive, by the way), Netflix’s new film featuring Chris Pine as the titular character, Robert the Bruce, has been on my radar for a while. Being somewhat familiar with this period of Scottish history, or at least, familiar enough to want to see the Bruce portrayed historically faithfully, I dove right in after it dropped on Netflix November 9. While I enjoyed Outlaw King well enough, one thing it most certainly is not is historically accurate.... Read More
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False Anniversary: Prolonging the Great War Centennial

Last Sunday marked the hundred year anniversary of the First World War Armistice between the Allied Powers and Germany, last of the Central Powers to ask for a cessation of hostilities. Surely by now you’ve all seen countless articles and media commemorating the end of the Great War, and 2018 will almost assuredly mark the end of any official centennial observances. They’re all wrong.... Read More
Remembering the Great War

Book Club: Remembering the Great War by Ian Isherwood

by Bryan Caswell, Heather Clancy, and Kevin Lavery Welcome to our very first Concerning History Book Club! As with the rest of the blog, the goal here is to provide a space for us to continue engaging with history. In the case of our book club, we hope to replicate the engaging discussions we’ve had […]... Read More
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Complicity or Respect? Conflicting Themes in HBO’s Band of Brothers

I recently had the pleasure of re-watching HBO’s Band of Brothers as I introduced Heather to it for the first time. Unlike most other historical media I consume (or re-consume), I won’t be writing a general review for this miniseries. Band of Brothers is beloved and much talked about, and I frankly have nothing new to add to the conversation. While watching, however, I noticed something odd. In the final two episodes lurked a cognitive and thematic dissonance that, given recent trends in American and world politics, was thrown into higher relief than on other viewings.... Read More
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Man Pain for Days: Starz’s Spartacus

This show has been on my watch list for years. Ironically, it was originally recommended to me by my brother (I’m usually the one mentioning historical shows he might like). I had heard other rumblings and knew something of its reputation since, but only recently, when I saw that it had made it onto Netflix, did I finally get around to checking it out. Spartacus both delivered on everything I had heard and surprised me with its gratifying attention to historical detail.... Read More
Distant Revolutions

Ripples of Republicanism: Timothy Roberts’s Distant Revolutions

It is unwise, as the saying goes, to judge a book by its cover. More specifically, I have increasingly found that the titles and jacket descriptions of history books can be highly misleading as to the nature of the information, and arguments, within. Such was the case with Timothy Roberts’s Distant Revolutions. Heather and I recently acquired this book in an effort to learn more about its titular upheavals after mentioning it in our 2018 historical anniversaries post (found here). I expected a refreshing dose of perspective to American ideas of our own exceptionalism; instead, I found a fascinating history of connections that crossed the Atlantic and bridged the upheavals of 1848 with that of 1861.... Read More
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Imperial Confusion: Stages of Roman Government and Expansion

As I made my way through the second season of Netflix’s Roman Empire (reviewed last week), a line from its narrator (the always delightful Sean Bean) brought me up short. Describing Rome in the middle of the first century BC, the show states that “Rome was not yet an empire, but a Republic.” I snorted with laughter; an old nemesis of mine had reared its ugly head yet again. In an effort to perhaps lessen the spread of this idea, I took to my keyboard in an attempt to explain exactly why I was so bitterly amused, and in so doing shed light on one of the more misunderstood aspects of Roman history: the stages of its government.... Read More
Master of Rome

Cracks in the Marble: Netflix’s Roman Empire: Master of Rome

While we are officially historians of the modern era, faithful readers of this blog will know that both of us are part-time Classicists, and so it should come as no surprise that we welcomed a new season of Netflix’s docudrama series Roman Empire (previously thought to be only a miniseries) with open arms. The new season, subtitled Master of Rome, focuses on the life and exploits of the most famous Roman, one of the most famous people, to ever live: Julius Caesar. We must confess, we were both a bit disappointed by this. The decision to focus Roman Empire’s first season, Reign of Blood, on Commodus at least expanded upon a lesser known figure; Julius Caesar is in no need of such a treatment. Indeed, if you’re looking for an excellent dramatic adaptation of Caesar’s rise and fall, HBO’s Rome will scratch that itch all day. Unfortunately, our disappointment with Roman Empire’s second season did not end with its choice of subject matter.... Read More
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The Historical Middle Earth: Men of the West

Another Hobbit Day (September 22nd, the birthday of both Bilbo and Frodo Baggins in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-Earth) has passed. This year, rather than singing dirges of fallen Gondolin now that we must wait another 365 days to eat a third breakfast (also known as elevenses) without shame, we decided to look at some of the lesser known historical inspirations for crucial civilizations in Tolkien’s Middle-Earth.... Read More