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

American Horror Story: AMC’s The Terror: Infamy

Last spring, Heather and I enjoyed AMC’s somewhat nontraditional historical horror/thriller The Terror (reviewed here on Concerning History). Its story of a British expedition trapped north of the Arctic Circle, struggling to survive the elements even while stalked by a malevolent spirit, was gripping and, well, weird. We were excited to hear that it had been renewed for a second season, though of course this new batch of episodes would need to cover a different story. On board for an anthology series of different period piece horror stories, Heather and I eagerly tuned in.... Read More
The Pacific

Captivating, but Repetitive: HBO’s The Pacific

I realize that I am long overdue on this one. I’ve always meant to get around to watching HBO’s follow-up to their acclaimed miniseries Band of Brothers, but The Pacific inexplicably kept slipping down further on my watch list. Finally, this past winter, my brother sent me his DVDs of the series, and I no longer had any excuse to wait. As a huge fan of Band of Brothers (despite some of its odd interpretive choices), I was eager to dive into a similar telling of a different theater of the Second World War. As Heather and I made it through the miniseries’ ten episodes, however, I found myself both satisfied and left wanting.... Read More

Interpreting the Big Easy: To Complicate or not to Complicate?

If you happen to travel to New Orleans, you cannot miss the fact that the city is home to the National World War II Museum. The universe simply will not let you. From signs in the airport to billboards along the highway to targeted internet ads once the Facebook algorithms figure out you’re in New Orleans or planning to go, you are inundated with publicity for the museum that is proudly described as “TripAdvisor's #2 Museum in the World, and the #1 destination in New Orleans.” Heather and I hardly needed this much convincing; we had already pre-ordered our tickets weeks before we landed, and on the third day of our trip, we drove up to the museum campus to see what all the fuss was about.... Read More
Normandy American Cemetery Stonewall Inn Wellington Victoria RR Chase

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

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

Growing Up Nazi: Cate Shortland’s Lore

A while back, Heather picked up a DVD of a movie called Lore (German, pronounced like the name Laura). She said it was a favorite of hers and that we should watch it together sometime, but that was about as far as the conversation went at the time; apparently, Lore was a movie . It stared out at me for months from our racks of movies, until finally we hit the sweet spot of mood and time to watch it. What followed was a sobering, unique take on the aftermath of the Second World War that even Heather’s prior explanations didn’t quite prepare me for.... Read More

Complicity or Respect? Conflicting Themes in HBO’s Band of Brothers

I recently had the pleasure of re-watching HBO’s Band of Brothers as I introduced Heather to it for the first time. Unlike most other historical media I consume (or re-consume), I won’t be writing a general review for this miniseries. Band of Brothers is beloved and much talked about, and I frankly have nothing new to add to the conversation. While watching, however, I noticed something odd. In the final two episodes lurked a cognitive and thematic dissonance that, given recent trends in American and world politics, was thrown into higher relief than on other viewings.... Read More

What’s in a World War, Part II: Let’s Shorten This Up a Bit

Years ago, in my American Military History class at Gettysburg, our professor began our foray into the Second World War with a curious statement: World War II should actually be considered to have begun in 1937, with the Japanese invasion of China. While normally I would applaud efforts to reduce Eurocentrism and emphasize global connections, I internally scoffed at what I then (and still) considered to be a ridiculous notion. The whole world was not at war yet, only Japan and China; how then could you say that the Second World War had begun? This memory was called to mind recently as Kevin and I reflected on how we define world wars and global conflicts in modern history (found here), and my thoughts began to wander to other, less orthodox, conclusions. Though Kevin and I did not exactly agree on a precise definition of a ‘world war,’ we did agree on three general criteria. Perhaps the most fundamental of these, and the starting point of our debate, was the scope of fighting. A world war is typically a war in which fighting occurs across most of the world. We even later reach the conclusion that this fighting must be connected in some way, as part of a single, cohesive war effort. I was led further and further towards a daring question: if Japan and China’s isolated fight should not count as the beginning of World War II, why should Britain, France, and Germany’s?... Read More