D-Day 75th Anniversary

Today is the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy during the Second World War.  So, the Second World War is front-page news today in news media around the world, and many of the reports have a direct link to my course on War in Film at Northern Illinois University.

The New York Times published an interesting article on “‘Saving Private Ryan’ Got My Dad to Finally Talk About the War.”

Here is a link to the article: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/05/opinion/d-day-movies-75th-anniversary.html

Historical anniversaries and commemorations often represent important moments for historical reflection and reinterpretation. So, students interested in the Second World War on film should scout out the coverage of the D-Day commemorations today and the rest of the week.

The BBC reports on official commemorations of D-Day in Normandie, France. The New York Times has additional coverage of the D-Day commemorations, as well as articles on Ernie Pyle‘s wartime reporting, D-Day battlefield archaelogy in Normandie, and historical memory of D-Day in France.


Posted in European History, European Union, French History, Historical Film, History of Violence, Museums and Historical Memory, War and Society, War in Film, War, Culture, and Society | Leave a comment

Political Realism in Apocalyptic Times

This week’s horrific Easter bombings in Sri Lanka remind us once again of the troubling presence of religious violence in today’s world.

Alison McQueen recent book, Political Realism in Apocalyptic Times (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018), grapples with the politics of apocalyptic thinking and the role of religion in political theory.

My review of Alison McQueen’s Political Realism in Apocalyptic Times has just been published by The Strategy Bridge. 

I write: “We seem to be living in apocalyptic times. Since the September 11 attacks in 2001, apocalyptic language and visions of worldly destruction have proliferated in American political culture and news media and around the world. George W. Bush’s crusading Global War on Terror rhetoric employed frequent allusions to God’s will and the Last Judgment. The massive American bombardment and invasion of Iraq—accompanied by oil fires, looting, and destruction—produced a wealth of apocalyptic imagery. The ensuing sectarian conflict during the Iraq War fueled horrific killings, market bombings, and massacres. The brutality of the Syrian Civil War has prompted millions of Syrians to flee as refugees from a war-torn and devastated landscape. Militants have claimed to be acting to establish an Islamic State in Iraq and Syria in preparation for the end times. Civil warfare and religious violence in Nigeria, Congo, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Pakistan, Myanmar, Indonesia, and other nations is often described in apocalyptic terms. Meanwhile, climate scientists warn of the potentially devastating effects of global warming, leading many journalists to offer apocalyptic predictions of global disaster.”

“Within this context, Alison McQueen’s Political Realism in Apocalyptic Times offers a refreshing approach to religion in political theory. …”

My review of Alison McQueen’s Political Realism in Apocalyptic Times is available online at The Strategy Bridge

Posted in History of Violence, Political Culture, Political Theory, Religious History, Religious Politics, Religious Violence, Renaissance Art and History, Strategy and International Politics, War and Society, War, Culture, and Society | 1 Comment

Last Doolittle Raider Dies

Lt. Richard E. Cole, the last crewmember of the Doolittle Raiders, has died. Lt. Richard E. Cole, known as Dick Cole, was co-pilot on the lead plane, piloted by Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, during a bombing mission on Tokyo in April 1942.

Sixteen B-25 bombers of the U.S. Army Air Corps launched from the USS Hornet aircraft carrier on 18 April 1942, on a mission to bomb Tokyo, in an attack that became known as the “Doolittle Raid.”

The New York Times reports: “Richard E. Cole, who was Jimmy Doolittle’s co-pilot in the lead plane of a storied mission in the history of American air power, the bombing raid on Japan in retaliation for its attack on Pearl Harbor months earlier, died on Tuesday in San Antonio. He was 103 and the last survivor of the 80 Doolittle raiders, who carried out America’s first strikes against the Japanese homeland in World War II.”

Lt. Richard E. Cole, co-pilot, is pictured second from the right in this photo. Photo credit: U.S. Air Force.

Students in HIST 384 History of War since 1500 at Northern Illinois University will be interested in this story, having read John Dower’s War Without Mercy, while studying the Pacific War this semester.

For context on the Doolittle Raid and the Pacific War, see:

Gunter Bischof and Robert L. Dupont, eds., The Pacific War Revisited (Baton Rouge, LA, 1997).

John W. Dower, War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War (New York, NY:
Pantheon Books, 1986).

Richard B. Frank, Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire (1999).

Ronald Spector, Eagle Against The Sun: The American War With Japan (1985).

The New York Times has published an obituary on Dick Cole.  CNN also reports on Dick Cole’s death.

Posted in History in the Media, Maritime History, Strategy and International Politics, War and Society, War, Culture, and Society | 1 Comment

Swiss Reformation Conference

The H. Henry Meeter Center will host “The Swiss Reformation at 500,” a two-day conference to mark the beginning of the Swiss Reformation in 1519, when Huldrych Zwingli started his work in Zurich. Bruce Gordon (Yale Divinity School), Amy Nelson Burnett (University of Nebraska-Lincoln), John Roth (Goshen College), Jordan Ballor (Acton Institute), and Esther Chung-Kim (Claremont McKenna College) will assess the impact of Zwingli’s work and of the Swiss Reformation and its significance for us today. Please join us on September 13-14, 2019 at Calvin Theological Seminary (3233 Burton St. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546).

For more information and to register, see https://calvin.edu/…/meeter-c…/swiss-reformation-conference/.

Posted in Conferences, Early Modern Europe, European Union, European Wars of Religion, Reformation History, Religious History, Renaissance Art and History | Leave a comment

Occupation of Paris after the Napoleonic Wars

My French history colleague and friend, Christine Haynes, discusses her new book on the occupation of Paris at the end of the Napoleonic Wars in a podcast of The Siècle.

Christine Haynes’s book is entitled, Our Friends the Enemies: The Occupation of France after Napoleon (Harvard University Press, 2018).

The Siècle podcast is available online.

Harvard University Press provides this overview:

“The Napoleonic wars did not end with Waterloo. That famous battle was just the beginning of a long, complex transition to peace. After a massive invasion of France by more than a million soldiers from across Europe, the Allied powers insisted on a long-term occupation of the country to guarantee that the defeated nation rebuild itself and pay substantial reparations to its conquerors. Our Friends the Enemies provides the first comprehensive history of the post-Napoleonic occupation of France and its innovative approach to peacemaking.

“From 1815 to 1818, a multinational force of 150,000 men under the command of the Duke of Wellington occupied northeastern France. From military, political, and cultural perspectives, Christine Haynes reconstructs the experience of the occupiers and the occupied in Paris and across the French countryside. The occupation involved some violence, but it also promoted considerable exchange and reconciliation between the French and their former enemies.

“By forcing the restored monarchy to undertake reforms to meet its financial obligations, this early peacekeeping operation played a pivotal role in the economic and political reconstruction of France after twenty-five years of revolution and war. Transforming former European enemies into allies, the mission established Paris as a cosmopolitan capital and foreshadowed efforts at postwar reconstruction in the twentieth century.”



Posted in Civilians and Refugees in War, Early Modern Europe, European History, French History, French Revolution and Napoleon, History of Violence, Paris History, Urban History, War and Society, War, Culture, and Society, Warfare in the Early Modern World | Leave a comment

Titian Portrait on View

A Renaissance masterpiece, Portrait of a Lady in White, is currently on view at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California.  The portrait by Tiziano Vecelli (known as Titian) is on loan from the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister in Dresden and will be shown at the Norton Simon Museum through March 2019.

Titian painted Portrait of a Lady in White around 1561. She’s captivated historians and art lovers for centuries — but nobody knows who she i

NPR reports that “in letters, the Venetian Renaissance master Titian referred to the elegant woman as his ‘most precious being’ and the ‘mistress of my soul.’ But he never named the subject of his 1561 painting Portrait of a Lady in White.”

The portrait needs to be considered in the history of clothing and consumer culture in Renaissance Italy. Carol Tognari, curator at the Norton Simon Museum, remarks that “Venetian women were known throughout the world as being well-dressed — sumptuously dressed — and taken care of.”

Evelyn Welch, a prominent Renaissance art historian, has done extensive research on shopping and consumer culture during in Renaissance Italy. Her book, Shopping in the Renaisance: Consumer Cultures in Italy, 1400-1600, demonstrates that women were important consumers in Renaissance Italian city-states.

Court women were especially prominent buyers of cloth, clothing, and jewelry for sale in the shops and markets of Renaissance Florence, Venice, Rome, and other cities. Welch argues that “with more cash in hand than many patrician men, they were powerful purchasers who were able to make a significant impact on the Renaissance marketplace” (Welch, p. 245). She focuses especially on the example of Isabella d’Este’s shopping expeditions to Venice to show how princely women purchased clothing, jewelry, antiquities, and other precious objects.

NPR reports on Titian, Portrait of a Lady in White.

See: Evelyn Welch, Shopping in the Renaissance: Consumer Cultures in Italy, 1400-1600 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press).



Posted in Art History, Court Studies, Cultural History, Early Modern Europe, Italian History, Material Culture, Museums and Historical Memory, Noble Culture and History of Elites, Renaissance Art and History, Social History | Leave a comment

Historians Consulting on Historical Films

Historians often critique historical films through film reviews and newspaper articles that are written after the films are released or when Oscar nominations generate media buzz. Journalists sometimes ask historians to “fact check” and assess the “historical accuracy” of blockbuster feature films set in historical periods.

Less often, historians are invited to act as historical consultants on films during the production process. Historians serving as consultants might engage in screenplay writing or offer feedback during filming and editing.

Filmmakers sometimes utilize historians’ works without having them serve as consultants, however, and sometimes without even acknowledging their publications.

The Guardian reports that: “The ever-expanding number of history programmes on television ought to mean boom time for historians. Yet a growing number of authors and academics believe they are being unfairly cut out of the process. The Society of Authors says it has seen a rise in complaints from members about their work being used in TV shows without credit or payment.”

A complaint regarding the series Harlots has been particularly significant, according to an article by James Tapper, entitled “Historians Fight Back as TV Raids their Research Treasures for its Shows,” which appears in The Guardian.

“Two years ago,” according to Tapper, “Hallie Rubenhold complained that ITV had used her book, The Covent Garden Ladies, as inspiration for Harlots, the drama about the sex trade in Georgian London. She has since been credited as the series inspiration, and her complaints galvanised the Society of Authors, who had been looking at the issue, to draw up guidelines, with Pact, the body that represents independent TV producers.”

One of the best works on the complex relationships between filmmakers and historians is a conversation between filmmaker John Sayles and historian Eric Foner, published in Mark C. Carnes, Past Imperfect: History According to the Movies, rev. ed. (New York, NY: Henry Holt, 1996).

Posted in Careers in History, Cultural History, Early Modern Europe, European History, Historical Film, History in the Media, Museums and Historical Memory, Noble Culture and History of Elites, War in Film | Leave a comment