Seasonal Affectation: The Curious Case of Romanticizing Weather in History

We all have our pet historical time periods. Whether we come to them in seminal moments as children or discover a newfound appreciation for them as adults, there’s always something beyond the basic facts, something ahistorical that resonates and calls us to patronize those particular eras more than others. You might call this the ‘essence’ of the period or subject, such as each individual understands it, and while this affection can lead people to become avid students of history, they can also contribute to all the implicit biases that make the field of history so perilously subjective. I’ve recently noticed a manifestation of my own biases that may sound ridiculously petty, but nonetheless plays a key role in my consumption of history: the weather.... Read More

Behind the Scenes: D’Weston Haywood’s Let Us Make Men

When Heather gave me a couple books that lay outside my normal historical comfort zone this past Christmas, I figured I would ease myself into reading them, lest I lose my motivation and let them fall by the wayside. The first, Aberration of Mind (reviewed here on Concerning History), was familiar in period, if not in subject; this second book, however, was familiar in neither. My fascination with history usually peaks around 1914, and it could certainly use much more non-European focus, I must admit. I was thus both excited and somewhat hesitant to begin reading an academic monograph on the role of the black press in the civil rights movements of the 20th century. Luckily, however, the outcome of reading D’Weston Haywood’s Let Us Make Men was precisely what you want to happen in this situation: strangely compelling and profoundly illuminating.... Read More

Lost in Translation: The Impossible Task of Complete Historical Accuracy

Spring 2019 saw yet another HBO phenomenon in the form of the docudrama miniseries Chernobyl (and you can look for a review coming next year to Concerning History). The recent Emmys briefly brought Chernobyl back into the spotlight, and I heard again a complain I’d first encountered back when the show originally aired: there were no accents or, rather, there were the wrong accents. No character in the show speaks with a Russian or Ukrainian accent, and indeed most of the actors stick to their native British cadence. This sorely bothered some people, to the point of even not being able to finish the show. Heather and I, however, were not bothered by it in the slightest. It’s a rare moment when internet podcasters are on the side of historical accuracy and I am not, so why this seemingly uncharacteristic shift in perspective?... Read More
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Anatomy of Battle: The Siege of Minas Tirith

Hobbit Day has come again, and with it, Bryan and Francis’ now-traditional post discussing some element of intersection between history and that beloved fantasy realm of Middle Earth. This week, in what may become a long-running series here at Concerning History, Bryan and Francis dissect the climactic siege of Minas Tirith and Battle of the Pelennor Fields from The Return of the King, showcasing multiple elements of historical inspiration, or at least historical echoes, for the biggest battle described in detail Tolkien’s legendarium. Please forgive the longer-than-usual post; they’re both incurable nerds...... Read More

Scholar of Many Worlds, Part II: Who’s Afraid of Spoilers?

I have a spoiler problem. Let me clarify. No, I don’t lose my temper when finding out the ending to a decades-old movie I’ve never seen, nor do I purposefully avoid all trailers for an anticipated movie so that I can see it fresh the first time; quite the opposite. I became infamous among our friends at Gettysburg for blithely spoiling all manner of stories as I excitedly shared my own knowledge and passions with others.... Read More

Dashed Hopes: Netflix’s Roman Empire: The Mad Emperor

About a year ago, Francis and I watched the second season of Netflx’s ancient historical docudrama, Roman Empire (reviewed here on Concerning History). On the whole, we were disappointed. Production value was low, and its narrative of Julius Caesar’s rise to power was both sensationalized and oddly understated. Still, I’m never one to forego anything set in the ancient world; I get so little of it these days, and beggars can’t be choosers. In my previous review, I even expressed some hope; I didn’t mind the show’s many flaws if, as I hoped might be the case, it could serve as a platform for telling the stories of lesser known figures from Roman imperial politics. When I saw that Roman Empire’s third season was upon us, then, I dutifully powered up the computer and settled in to watch.... Read More

Wondering Through the Shelves: Thoughts on History in American Bookstores

This weekend, I put words to a feeling that had been building for some time: bookstores have alienated me as an historian. Well, not all bookstores. Over the past few years, as I’ve made a habit of perusing whatever Barnes & Noble or local book sellers cross my path on weekly errands, I’ve drifted away from the beloved science-fiction and fantasy sections of my adolescence and towards the history section, looking to fuel my ever-burning desire to learn more about the events of the past, even after obtaining my official degrees. As I’ve done so, however, I’ve noticed a marked contrast between these American bookstores and the shops I used to frequent while studying in Oxford, and not for the better.... Read More

Sweet Revenge: History’s Knightfall, Season 2

Last year, I was pleasantly surprised by History Channel’s newest scripted history content, Knightfall, and its decision to steer into the motifs of a grail quest that we know, somehow, will lead to the fall of Knights Templar in the early fourteenth century. A little over a year later, its second season premiered to much fanfare, centered almost entirely around the fact that the always wonderful Mark Hamil would be joining the cast as a crotchety old Templar veteran tasked with training the Temple’s new initiates (sound slightly like a recent Star Wars movie, anyone?). Eager to hear more of the mysteries of the Holy Grail and see how, exactly, the tragic flaws of main character Landry de Luson lead to his order’s destruction, I dutifully tuned in.... Read More

An Era Too Far? Capturing the Ancient World on Film

I love the ancient world. More specifically, I love studying western Eurasia anytime before AD 500. This was my original, grade school love affair with the past, and while my interests later diversified and I sought degrees in modern history, the ancient past has never lost my attention (leading me to remark to one professor at Gettysburg that I "dabble in archaeology," much to his amusement). One result of this, as you might expect and surmise from many of my reviews here on Concerning History, is a deep and abiding affection for 'swords-and-sandals' movies. I listen to a fair number of movie and entertainment news podcasts, and I couldn't help but notice an absence of these kinds of movies in recent years. This post was originally intended to be my musings on the cause of that absence, but I quickly realized that I was wrong; there wasn't an absence of swords-and-sandals movies per se; there just weren't any I liked.... Read More
King in the North

A Hoard of Knowledge: Max Adams’ King in the North

I was first introduced to the writings of Max Adams through In the Land of Giants, which Kevin and I will hopefully get around to hosting a book club discussion on one of these days. Enchanted by Adams’ compelling prose, especially as it described the elusive world of early medieval Britain, I decided to look up his other works and start from the beginning. That beginning was The King in the North: The Life and Times of Oswald of Northumbria, and Adams did not disappoint with his study of this great Christian martyr and Anglo-Saxon warrior king.... Read More