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Far from Home: A Crazy Tale of Myth and Memory in Downtown San Francisco

One hot afternoon this June, Heather and I made our way up to San Francisco from our new(ish) home in the ‘South Bay.’ It was, and still is, our first full summer out here in the Bay Area, and we wanted to see the sights, take in the ambiance, and check out the legendary San Francisco Pride events. While strolling around the green space outside City Hall, I was intrigued to see a statue from behind that seemed to beholding an animal. This was indeed the case, and as my surprise at seeing a miniature lion in a statue’s arms began to register, I was floored by an even bigger realization: this was a statue unlike any I had before seen in America.... Read More
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Through the Words of Others: Dane Kennedy’s The Imperial History Wars

“The History Wars.” It sounds like the title of some new science fiction show, one with undoubtedly cheesy special effects and horridly inaccurate costuming. In reality, the History Wars are much less exciting. Originally coined in Australia in the 1990s to describe debates over the existence of a colonial genocide of aboriginal peoples, this phrase has come to encompass all such contentious debates over history and memory that have spilled over into the public sphere in recent decades. Imagine my delight, then, at receiving Dane Kennedy’s The Imperial History Wars as a birthday present this past March. I eagerly dove in, anticipating controversies and arguments galore related to my specialty. In place of war, however, I was greeted unexpectedly by a cogent little discussion of the state of British Imperial history as a field of study.... Read More
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The Why of it All: Searching for Meaning in Historical Wars

This past Wednesday, Heather, Ryan, and I had the pleasure of attending a talk delivered by Dr. Ian Isherwood at our alma mater, Gettysburg College. Dr. Isherwood has been a great friend and mentor to all of us here at Concerning History, and his talk dealt with a subject he has worked with extensively as part of his own historical specialization: the supposed futility of the First World War. The historiography and public perception of that war has traditionally been filled with lamentations of a pointless war, one fought for no real purpose and resulting in a meaningless peace settlement. While historians have admirably pushed back against these ideas in recent decades, public perception of the Great War remains very much filled with images and language of futility. On some level, this is certainly understandable. One cannot avoid pictures of the hellish conditions on the Western Front, and the outbreak of the Second World War only twenty years later would seem to indicate that the resolution of the First had been a failure. Listening to Dr. Isherwood lecture on the subject, however, I began to wonder why this was even a discussion in the first place. Why must we invest wars with a higher meaning? Where does this impulse come from? And why, for whatever reason, does the First World War fall short of our collective expectations?... Read More
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In Defense of Radical Responses to Civil War Monuments

I began writing on this topic several weeks ago, well before the despicable rally that took place in Charlottesville over the weekend. The controversy over Confederate monuments has been unquestionably transformed by the alliance of neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, and the so-called Alt-Right that came out “in defense” of Charlottesville’s Robert E. Lee monument. […]... Read More