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The Grimy, British Forest Gump: BBC’s Peaky Blinders

Chalk another one up to my brother. It’s a rare event that he’s the one to recommend a period piece to me, but when he does, I make sure to watch. I’d heard about Peaky Blinders for a while, but had just never got around to it. That changed this summer, and now that the most recent (fifth) season has aired on Netflix, what better time is there to review this riveting, historically-saturated series?... Read More
STAR WARS: EPISODE VII - THE FORCE AWAKENS, 2015. ©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/Lucasfilm

An Empire Revised: Star Wars, Fascism, & History

One does not need to look very far for homages to history within George Lucas’s Star Wars franchise. A noble Republic transforms into a corrupt Empire in a reflection of ancient Rome, and, of course, that Empire employs stormtroopers and commits genocide in a dark mirror of Nazi Germany. This last comparison has been clear from the moment Star Wars premiered in 1977, and has served the franchise well in these intervening forty years. Indeed, when asked to tease the origins of the First Order, villains of the Disney sequel trilogy, Lucasfilm representatives likened them to Nazis who escaped to Argentina; this time, however, those escaped fascists regroup and strike back. It is precisely this appearance of the First Order, however, that has begun eroding Star Wars’ original fascist allegory for me, for as the First Order ascends in villainy, Star Wars seems intent on mitigating the evil of the original Empire.... Read More
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Judging the Past: The Historian as Ethicist

As I was reading Alexander Watson’s Ring of Steel for an upcoming Concerning History Book Club post, I was struck by how easily perspective can be lost when dealing with subjects that we find morally unacceptable. Ring of Steel offers a different portrait of the war than most English-language accounts. Early on, Watson argues that […]... Read More
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Making History, Marking History II: The Great Anniversaries of 2019

It’s the second anniversary of Concerning History, and as we did last year, we wanted to taking a look at some of the major historical moments being commemorated this year and provide some recommendations for further reading! There are plenty of other events out there worth noting, 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
Vanquished

Book Club: The Vanquished by Robert Gerwarth

It’s time again for the Concerning History Book Club, where we recreate the experience of the engaging book discussions we’ve had throughout the years in classes and with each other. This month, Bryan, Jeff, and Kevin read The Vanquished: Why the First World War Failed to End by Robert Gerwarth. KL: It wasn’t an accident […]... Read More
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Wars of the Poppies: Politics and Remembrance

For the first time in a few years, I didn’t wear a poppy for Remembrance Day. The choice may seem odd given the significance of this year’s commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Armistice. But over the past few years, I’ve felt increasingly conflicted about wearing the symbol, which I feel has a political […]... Read More
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False Anniversary: Prolonging the Great War Centennial

Last Sunday marked the hundred year anniversary of the First World War Armistice between the Allied Powers and Germany, last of the Central Powers to ask for a cessation of hostilities. Surely by now you’ve all seen countless articles and media commemorating the end of the Great War, and 2018 will almost assuredly mark the end of any official centennial observances. They’re all wrong.... Read More
Remembering the Great War

Book Club: Remembering the Great War by Ian Isherwood

by Bryan Caswell, Heather Clancy, and Kevin Lavery Welcome to our very first Concerning History Book Club! As with the rest of the blog, the goal here is to provide a space for us to continue engaging with history. In the case of our book club, we hope to replicate the engaging discussions we’ve had […]... Read More
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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
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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