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Theory made Literal: Star Wars and Concepts of Empire

For a student of historical empires, it is always fascinating to see how the word 'empire' is used in less academic circles, particularly the nebulous realm that is popular culture. So often in fantasy and science-fiction media, polities and leaders are given titles meant more to convey a sense of majesty or malevolence than to reflect any accurate picture of the structure of the state in question.... 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
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A Nervous World: Present Day Reflections from Austrian History

In my previous post, I took a moment to reflect broadly on the Austro-Hungarian Empire, an anachronism in its own time and an Empire very much lost to history, its legacy splintered across central and eastern Europe. As I explained then, imperial Austria’s history is of special interest to me for these very reasons which […]... Read More