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A Comprehensive Tapestry: Rob Johnson’s The Great War and the Middle East

As in any conflict spanning a vast geographic area, the First World War has theaters that have been discussed ad nauseum and theaters that warrant barely a mention in all but the most academic of publications. The Western Front and, more generally, the war in Europe have always constituted the former, while the sub-Saharan African and East Asian theaters are most often the latter. The Middle East falls in an odd area between these two extremes. Certain military operations, like Gallipoli or the Arab Revolt, are no less famous than the Somme or Verdun, yet even I did not know the details of the vast majority of the campaigns that swung back and forth across the sands and mountains of that most ancient of regions. The irony here is thick; the legacies of the First World War and its peace settlements are perhaps most visible in the Middle East, both in its political geography and in the accompanying unrest in the region. Rob Johnson’s The Great War and the Middle East is a valuable corrective to this patchy record, and while Johnson’s prose may not be the most approachable for members of the general public, the information contained within weaves a comprehensive tapestry of the Great War in the Middle East.... Read More
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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
1188px-1968-05_Évènements_de_mai_à_Bordeaux_-_Rue_Paul-Bert_2 US_64th_regiment_celebrate_the_Armistice Maertz

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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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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Not God’s Country: Netflix’s Godless and the New American Western

Has there ever been a subject that captured America’s imagination like the Wild West? What American triumph more glorious than the Winning of the West? What more iconic (and retroactively troubling) childhood memory than playing cowboys and indians? What films more seminal to the American film tradition than those staring John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Roy […]... Read More