Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln" movie starring Daniel Day Lewis is worthy of study. First question: Is it historically accurate? Like so many motion-picture and theater dramas, it draws too heavily on the "great man" theory of history, as historian Eric Foner, author of The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery, points out in this clip: … Continue reading Lincoln Movies: Historically Accurate?
I have not posted much on this blog about the powerful military leaders, strategies and battles in history, when in fact there are whole courses, schools and museums devoted to military history. For some students, especially those who go on to serve in the military, that IS what history is mostly about, war games. For others, … Continue reading Coming to Terms with Military History: Civil War, WW1, WW2, Vietnam, Iraq
Crash Course tries not to give "too much great man history, but we have to admit: Napoleon Bonaparte is a pretty big deal. Join us as we track the rise, further rise, fall, rise, fall, mortal fall, and posthumous rise of Napoleon. This guy changed France, he changed Europe, and in a lot of ways … Continue reading Age of Napoleon: How It Started, How It Ended, His Legacy, How It Shapes Us
When pondering who was the most important person of the 20th century -- a great question for an essay in world history, btw -- Adolph Hitler, Winston Churchill, Josef Stalin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Mao Tse Tung come initially to mind. Most definitely NOT Gavrilo Princip. Who? You may ask. But if not for him, … Continue reading Who Was Most Important Person of 20th Century? Gavrilo Princip??
Journalists, particularly American reporters, love to make and break celebrities, and subscribe almost exclusively to the implicit theory that great or bad men and women shape history, almost to the exclusion of all other theories. Historians are skeptical of this theory, and take a much broader view. Journalists like to think of their work as … Continue reading Similarities and Differences Between Journalists and Historians
History, especially American history, is too often told as a narrative of great, strong, wise men and women of vision who risked everything, challenged the status quo, inspired followers. History is often "tainted by superhero narratives that tend to focus on great individuals," wrote Dr. Rob "Biko" Baker in The Nation in 2007. "Far too often … Continue reading Collective Action By Average People Can Change History As Much As Strong Leaders
To those who wonder whether great men and women shape history or if moments make leaders great, Winston Churchill is an excellent case study. He always aspired to be great, and showed courage throughout his life, but did not seem destined for greatness until age 65 in 1940, when “the man and the moment only … Continue reading Winston Churchill: Case Study in Great Man Theory
Did Cleopatra’s Nose, Henry the VIII’s Libido, Richard III’s Horse and Your Ancestors’ Luck Make Crucial Historical Differences? Exploring Divine Providence, Retribution, Destiny, Predestination, Teleology and Chaos Theory Chaos Theory or Butterfly Effect Has Idea of Progress Disappeared? Why Counterfactuals Are So Popular ‘Inevitable’ Triumph of Democracy, Capitalism Now Very Much in Doubt Golden Age for Dystopian Fiction Power of Counter-Factual … Continue reading Philosophical Underpinnings For Studying History
There's no question that Winston Churchill demonstrated greatness in rallying the British in World War II and saving England from Nazi invasion. But he also helped to shape the Middle East we know today, not in positive ways. He bragged about creating the border between Trans-Jordan and Saudi Arabia one Sunday afternoon in 1921 while … Continue reading If Churchill Was Sober in Shaping the Middle East, Might 100+ Years of Conflict Have Been Avoided?
In the mid-1970s, the US was led by two good and decent men, one Republican (Gerald Ford), and one Democrat (Jimmy Carter), who as it turned out were very unpopular through no fault of their own, but because of the economy and foreign fiascoes beyond their control. "John Green teaches you about the economic malaise … Continue reading Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter: Two of the Unluckiest Presidents