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

Thirsty Women: Sophia Coppola’s The Beguiled

About a year ago, we watched, intrigued, as a new trailer for a romantic drama unfolded before us. An independent film with a star-studded cast, it promised suspense, betrayal, and revenge in a tale of stilted lovers and, even better, it was set in during the American Civil War! That film was Sophia Coppola’s The Beguiled, and we couldn’t wait to check it out and bask in the melodrama, for good or for laughably bad. We were finally able to get our hands on it recently, and it while it certainly wasn’t the most enriching film in terms of history, it’s story certainly didn’t disappoint.... Read More

Not Quite, but Getting There: Ian Barnes’ Historical Atlas of Native Americans

I admit, this seems like a strange choice of book to review. What can the possibly be to say about an atlas? Ian Barnes’ Historical Atlas of Native Americans, however, is more than simply a collection of maps; it is a general overview of the history of Native Americans from the Stone Age to the present, illustrated with artifacts, drawing, paintings, photographs, and, of course, maps. These elements, coupled with the intriguing state of being authored by a white, British, academic, called for reflection on their execution.... Read More

The Why of It All, Part II: The Worst Question in History

“What was the American Civil War about?” This question has bedeviled American historians and, indeed, the American public for over a century. Its battlefields are endless, and, for many people, the answer that you provide determines whether you are a Knowledgeable or Ignorant Person. I’ve certainly been involved in more than my share of skirmishes, so it probably isn’t a surprise to hear me say that I hate this question. What may be surprising, however, is my reasoning.... Read More

Checking All the Boxes: TNT’s The Alienist

The end of March saw the end of the TNT miniseries event, The Alienist. We had our eyes on the show from its first aired commercial, and tuned in with great interest for ten weeks to see its enigmatic story unfold. Though the show was certainly eye candy for anyone interested in nineteenth-century America, and its story proved just as intriguing as promised, The Alienist as a period piece never proved more than simply competent for our tastes.... Read More
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Making History, Marking History: The Great Anniversaries of 2018

To mark the first anniversary of Concerning History, we’re taking a look at some of the major historical moments being commemorated this year and providing some recommendations for further reading. There are plenty of other events out there worth marking, however, so if you have one you think we should have included, we invite you to scroll down to the comments and share it with us.... Read More
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Switching Sides: Hell on Wheels, Season 5

The final season of Hell on Wheels is radically different than all that came before. In search of his missing Mormon wife and child, Bohannon quits the Union Pacific and ends up the chief engineer of Collis Huntington’s Central Pacific, blasting his way through the Sierras in the race to beat Cullen’s previous employer. As the closing episodes race through the conclusion of the Bohannon-Swede grudge match and the completion of the railroad in Utah, viewers might be a bit disappointed by the varying quality in episodes and the abrupt way some storylines conclude (especially the dangling threads of the revenge plot that began the entire show, now completely forgotten and never addressed). Nevertheless, the decision to switch focus to the Central Pacific comes with exciting new historical ground to cover.... Read More
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Mormons! Hell on Wheels, Seasons 3 & 4

The finale of Hell on Wheels’ second season is draining. Cullen Bohannon’s budding life on the railroad is shaken to the core, and all that exists for him to care about now is finishing the road. As we enter Season 3, we find Cullen a (literally) frozen shell of a man, but as winter ends and the railroad thaws out, our familiar cast of characters returns and Cullen begins to pick up the pieces and move on.... Read More

Looking Back: A 2017 Historical Retrospective

With 2017 behind us, the staff of Concerning History took some time to speculate what the events of this year might mean to people in the future. As the job of the historian is to consider the past, this task is naturally beyond our expertise and abilities. Nonetheless, we think that a preliminary consideration would be worthwhile for what it says about the experience of living through this year. Throughout our conversation, we’ll be guided by the following question: What will future historians talk about when they talk about 2017?... Read More
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Each Man’s Own War: Hell on Wheels, Seasons 1 & 2

It is often bemoaned among historians of the American Civil War that the war’s western action is criminally under-studied (though these days that really only still applies to action west of the Mississippi). An equally underappreciated topic is the era immediately after the war, as veterans struggled to readjust to civilian life after ‘seeing the elephant.’ Put these two together in one TV show and you get Hell on Wheels. This gritty western follows Cullen Bohannon, an ex-Confederate, as he gets swept up in the construction of the transcontinental railroad in the late 1860s and holds a wealth of historical landmarks and themes that will leave a discerning historical audience excited (and, in some cases, highly annoyed).... Read More