The Dwelling Place

The Dwelling Place is a movie based off a novel of the same name by Catherine Cookson. Catherine Cookson has made many Victorian era-Edwardian Era period novels which were turned into movies in the 1990’s. Many are compelling stories, often highlighting social issues faced in those eras. However, the most interesting story I’ve seen so far is called The Dwelling Place.

The plot centers around Cissie Brodie, the eldest child who is a teenager who now must take care of her younger siblings when their parents die from cholera. To avoid the inevitable fate of being split up forever and sent to workhouses, Cissie takes matters into her own hands, and moves the family into an empty cave they found they named “the Image result for the dwelling place catherine cooksondwelling place”. In the meantime, the younger siblings, two younger brothers and two younger sisters take on jobs to help support their little family. The brothers work in a mine and the sisters work as a maid and laundress. Cissie and the family also prepare a roof and entry way for the impending winter and meet Matthew, a local carpenter to help them out. Matthew develops an interest in the family, and gets attracted to Cissie. When one of the brothers comes home from the mine with a gash on his knee, it is revealed that he is being abused in the mine. Matthew gets both boys out if that mine and employs the older one as his apprentice instead. The two sisters, Mary, becomes a maid, and Bella becomes a laundress. The youngest child, Joe wanted to help too, and does so by catching rabbits.

Life gets up heaved for the Brodies soon after things begin to settle down. One day, while Joe was catching rabbits, he went onto a noble’s estate and was caught by the daughter on there. Joe screamed for help and Cissie came and fetched him back, making an enemy out of the people living on the estate. Clive, the son of the estate’s owner followed Cissie Image result for the dwelling place catherine cooksonback and raped her in front of little Joe. Joe ran to get help and meets Lord Fischel, the owner of the estate. He witnesses the act and is horrified that his children would do such a thing. As punishment, he sends Clive away at sea and Isabelle, who first caught Joe, is grounded. Matthew finds out something was amiss when the oldest brother, his apprentice tells him what happened. Matthew was furious, but Cissie told him to keep out of it. Months later, Lord Fischel was riding by in his carriage and saw that Cissie was pregnant with his son’s child. He sends his butler to find out when the child is due. Lord Fischel tries to persuade Cissie into giving him the child, but she remains steadfast in her decision to keep him. This all changes however, when Bella, the younger sister was accused of theft of some handkerchiefs. Bella threatened with the prospect of jail, Cissie makes a deal with lord Fischel to give him the child in exchange for all charges to be dropped for Bella. For this, Cissie also would be payed a hefty sum each week for the child’s absence. Cissie was devastated at the loss of her child.

Three years later, Clive returned from sea a changed man. He sought Cissie out and told her she could keep her child once he knew what happened between his father and Cissie. Clive felt it was unjust what his father did. his condition was that the child could not live in their hovel, but must have a proper house and be sent to school. Clive would arrange this by buying Cissie a house in her name. Cissie would agree to those terms. Since Cissie’s life wouldn’t stand still though, Matthew who had to marry another, but was still attached to Cissie saw Clive as one, the one who wronged her, and two, a new rival to his affections. He tried to persuade Cissie to let him buy her a home, but Cissie wanted her son back so badly, she was compelled to take up Clive’s offer. Isabelle, however is completely opposed, and tries to get the child back. A fight ensues between her and Clive and he accidentally kills her in the struggle. This is covered up to look like a riding accident. Meanwhile, the child is not attached to Cissie as she didn’t raise him, and Cissie ultimately decides to let Lord Fischel have him back. She also returns the deeds to the house and the money he gave her for the child. As she went back to the dwelling place, Clive catches up to her and confesses is love for her and they decide to marry. Cissie moves back into the house he has bought for her and Clive told her he’d rejoin her after one more year at sea.

Image result for the dwelling place catherine cookson

Overall, I thought the story was compelling. However, my biggest praise was for Cissie’s character. She had shown a strength of character and fortitude that many her age and even older would never have! They way she cared or her younger siblings, and even giving up her own child so that her sister would be protected was awe inspiring! Also, the fact that she never took charity and always insisted on providing for herself. I think she should have taken more help than she did! The greatest feat of character she did, in my opinion though, was giving her child back when she knew he didn’t love her, and giving up the deeds to the house and the money. It truly showed how she honored her word and the deals she went into and her integrity. It also showed her love for her child, as she wanted the best for him and what he needed, beyond her own desire to keep him. Cissie overcame all odds to make life better for her family and retained her integrity throughout her ordeal in a way many wouldn’t have.

The stranger part in the story was probably Clive’s transformation from callous rapist, to repentant and loving father to the boy. Some of it felt like it was stretched a bit too far outside the boundaries of imagination. Others noted, in a modern context, Cissie’s choice to marry her former rapist seemed detrimental and unsatisfactory. However, one must not look at it through modern eyes. Women back then were not empowered like women today to stand up against sexual assault, and considering Cissie’s circumstance in life, the marriage to Clive was the best thing she did in terms of securing her family’s future out of destitution. Not to mention, Clive did return a changed man, and helped her get her child back to make amends and even bought her a house. He came to love Cissie, and it was a marriage of love, more than necessity. I think Cissie, being who she was, would have refused if she did not love him, as she refused many other comforts in favor of her integrity.

Overall, I loved the history too! The costumes were period appropriate and it showed the type of hardship and poverty that faced many in that era. The plot was engaging and one could really be transported back in time! Overall a great period drama!

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Posted in Early Modern History, Opinion Piece, Reviews | Leave a comment

Happy (German) Memorial Day!: Volkstrauertag

This song is a German military song for fallen comrades. It talks about a soldier and his comrade as they go into battle and the close bond they shared. In battle, one of them is struck with a bullet and is mortally wounded. He reaches his hand out for comfort as he dies, but his comrade can’t come to his aid because he must reload to fire at the enemy. Ultimately, the fallen comrade dies and presumably goes to heaven and his friend remembers him.

The song has been translated into other languages due to the universality of  the theme: camaraderie between soldiers. While a German song, it is devoid of nationalism and politics for a specific army or nation, and the story can resonate with many different countries. Nazi Germany used the song, but the song itself predates the Nazis by over a century, with the lyrics written in 1809 and set to the music in 1825. Indeed, the song is still played at German military funerals today! It is also played on the Volkstrauertag, the German equivalent to Memorial Day in the US as it honors fallen soldiers in the German army. It is celebrated two Sundays before the first day of Advent. 

I wanted to bring this piece of culture and history from Germany to light, one, to show that we aren’t the only ones who honor their fallen and their military, and two, to show that even the other side deserves to be commended for the sacrifices they endured too in wars such as WWI and WWII. Even though Germany and the US were on opposite sides,  I have argued in several posts, that the German soldier endured the same, if not more hardships than allied soldiers. Even in light of a totalitarian regime and tyrannical political party, the average soldier fought and died defending Germany as we did our country. In the heat of battle and the struggle to survive day to day, most soldiers’ priorities are staying alive, not pondering the nuances of the ideology they fight under. I’m glad to see Germany is taking pride and honoring their military, even in times when they’d rather forget their past. If we insist so strongly on insisting ours is extra-special, we might as well let other countries take pride in theirs, and remind ourselves, our military isn’t the only great military in the world… Let’s remember the struggles, sacrifice, honor and bravery of soldiers around the world, not just our own. Like war, many of the experiences of soldiers are universal.

For further research:

Volkstrauertag

Ich Hatt’ einen Kameraden

(Not) Guilty by Association: The Wehrmacht

Posted in Art and History, Helping Make History More Interesting, Holidays, Military, Modern History, Opinion Piece, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Political Correctness is Making History, History…

Throughout this blog on numerous occasions, I have emphasized how we cannot judge historical people by contemporary standards. Everyone is shaped by the cultural matrix they live in, us included, and many attitudes that are acceptable and thought of as a non-issue or mildly controversial could become unacceptable only a few years later! Even in the past century, our cultural attitudes have shifted drastically on many fronts. What was okay then is unacceptable now and vice versa.

As a historian, I’m disappointed in this new trend, where people have decided to tear down monuments of explorers like Columbus or dismiss figures like Thomas Jefferson or George Washington because they were slave owners. I get the arguments how explorers Related imagelike Columbus started a new wave of European imperialism around the world, or how slavery shouldn’t be dismissed and history “whitewashed”. I understand that we do need to acknowledge history that puts us in a bad light, not just the history that puts us in a good light. However, going out of one’s way to tear down a monument reminds me of the old iconoclasm in the Byzantine era and the Reformation when people thought the old ways were idolatry and steamrolled over them. While this new movement is not religious, it’s an iconoclasm all the same of our cultural icons, such as Columbus and Jefferson. The people tearing down these sculptures are doing so because they don’t like these figures and want to erase them from our collective history.

Look, I myself don’t condone slavery or oppressive domination of non-European cultures. However, I was born in a different era with different values. To impose my own moral leanings on these figures is unfair as we would not want to be judged by standards we could never know about. Focusing on one singular aspect that makes people like Washington, Columbus and Jefferson seem like immoral people, dismisses all the good they did contribute to history. Washington was a good general and president in a world where near infallible kings were the rule, and a more democratic system of power, the Image result for columbus statueexception. Columbus, while hard on the natives was just like every other explorer of his day, and conqueror for that matter. People like Columbus paved a new world with new resources for Western civilization to grow into the advanced one it is today. It seems like a double standard to look at Ancient Rome with awe at it’s vast influence on the world, yet condemn our own culture and people like Columbus for doing the same. Yes, Jefferson and Washington had slaves. Have you read history? Most upper class Virginian planters did at the time. It’s sort of like saying, a person from the 21st century had a car that ran on gasoline and fossil fuels vs. the car a century in the future that doesn’t and judge that person morally for owning a car that consumes fossil fuels. In the 21st century, most people have cars that run on fossil fuels and contribute to our carbon footprint. Does that mean that in a century or so when we have more environmentally friendly cars, us owning the fossil fuel powered car make us immoral? In 18th century Virginia, there were slaves. A century or so later they abolished slavery. While slavery, like fossil fuels that pollute the atmosphere were/are bad, the majority of people had them then/now, so judging an individual for having either thing is hypocritical.

Image result for washington with slaves

Overseer: “Mr. Washington, people in the 21st century have been complaining about you owning slaves. What do we do now, Mr. President?”

Also, why do we feel some need to completely dismiss the points we do agree on with historical figures or their contributions to society such as inventions and ideas that we all agree moved us forward just because one aspect of them is one we disagree with? I read an article listing many famous scientists who the author thought should have their Nobel Prize revoked. Mind you, this wasn’t for plagiarism, or fraud, or anything having to do with their work in science, but for a now racist or sexist attitude that had nothing whatsoever to do with their great accomplishment in advancing science. They didn’t win the prize for social justice, so why dismiss their contributions based on their own personal opinion? I’ve personally observed that we give celebrities and athletes so much more leeway and still admire and idolize them even though they do immoral things. Somehow, our society has brushed their faults aside, yet is all too eager to dismiss a historical person who has contributed real, meaningful and extremely relevant things to our society today. Men like Columbus, Washington and Jefferson, who seem to bear the brunt of these attacks right now, have contributed far more towards society than say Justin Bieber or Kim Kardashian. Athletes and celebrities who have taken drugs, got in scandals, hurt other people, been to jail etc. have more of our respect and esteem than great historical figures that had something we now deem unacceptable such as owning slaves or having racist or sexist views.

Overall, our new attitude of just erasing and dismissing history and the people who made it will make history, history. :(

Posted in Early Modern History, Modern History, Opinion Piece | Leave a comment

Officers and Men

Throughout much of history, there has been a divide between officers and enlisted men up to modern day. However, this was especially prevalent in societies with a much more defined class divide than we have today. It’s traditionally known that officers used to be thought of as a more well bred, more “refined” class and the enlisted men as the uncouth and uneducated rabble.  This was the prevalent view during the Napoleonic era. Of course, many officers did not behave as “officers and gentlemen”, and there was a minority of enlisted men who were educated, and also, many could have a “gentlemanly” character but not be born a gentlemen. Mostly though, the stereotype of enlisted men as a more rowdy uneducated rabble was true, as many who enlisted were from the poorer sections of England and some who couldn’t find employment elsewhere or were ordered to serve for crimes. Officers were often from the upper classes with very few being raised from the ranks, like Sharpe was, in Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe series. This broad overview is what many get when researching into the relationship between officers and their men. However, one source described more in detail, some of the more subtle nuances between officers and men.

It’s a fast and easy conclusion that due to the wide divide between officers and men socially as well as in authority, officers looked upon their men with a condescending and snobby manner. Many cite Wellington saying that the common soldier was the “scum of the earth”. True, some officers did abuse their power and treat their men as inferior

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“Hmm… Common rabble…”

beings, but one source, Officers and Gentlemen: Gentlemanly Mystique and Military Effectiveness in the Nineteenth Century British Army by James A. Shaw argues that most officers viewed their men in a sort of paternalistic, yet kinder view of the men they led. By today’s standards, this view too is somewhat unacceptable for a modern army, as society emphasizes more egalitarianism in class divides, however, for the time period, that view was not cruel, but more caring and fatherly. Other examples noted included comparing the relationship to an aristocratic landlord and his tenants, or how a lower being can succeed under the guidance of it’s master. The relationship was quite unequal, but more one of firm guidance and caring.

“The inbred distrust of the laboring masses by the gentry was inevitably duplicated in the relationship between officers and men. Reenacting the feudalistic framework of conduct between the lord and the serf, the officer’s attitude toward his retainers was basically paternalistic, not cruel. If one’s servants were controlled effectively, wonders could be performed by the constant conditioning of discipline…Thus, the officers’ view of the enlisted man was a blend of wary suspicion, mild interest, and strict control. Their sentiments about the troops were similar to the feelings that they entertained for their horses and dogs. The enlisted man was regarded by his officers as a mechanical device, capable of valiant service under the stern guidance of his master.” (Richard Blanco, “Reform and Wellington’s Post-Waterloo Army,” 128-129)

This view is no longer in favor, and many today would find the comparison to pets and animals highly offensive and classist,  but one must remember it was a different time period with different values. For that time period, that view is much more enlightened and humane than the usual perception of a tyrant abusing his power.

The common soldiers too had the view mostly, that the officers were more well bred for the job. This is where the “gentlemanly mystique” comes in. The view that the officers unlike the men, were born for the role and handled it the best. They were the ones to look up to, yet they were on a pedestal out of reach for the common man to actually become. The “gentlemanly mystique” was mainly guided by character and virtues, but ones that the upper classes possessed. It was argued that the common soldiers were more “rough and tough” and were very hardy, but the officers were truly the brave ones, according to this view. The common soldier, although could do daring feats in battle, had less to lose basically, than the rich, privileged officer who risked throwing it all away lest they die and endured harsh conditions by choice giving up their cushy life on their estates for duty. The common soldier already had little in life. While I think that common soldiers were brave too, as many had to leave their families and did have things that mattered to them to lose in the call of duty, I do find that argument compelling as I’ve never thought of it that way before. The officers are not “braver” due to their station in life alone, but because they had a lot more to lose and a stake in society that the common soldier did not. Many common soldiers were in awe of the officers. This quote sums up this point nicely.

“The characteristic of a gentleman most closely tied to military leadership was the attribute of “magic.” Wilkinson defines magic as “that mysterious aura of different-ness which distinguishes certain leaders and makes them respected for what they are rather than what they do [italics added].” [32] If Wilkinson is correct, then those of lower social status must have bought in to the notion that gentlemen were somehow fundamentally different – better- than themselves, more suited and able to command men. It was faith in this gentlemanly mystique, backed by a harsh disciplinary code, which ensured prompt, unthinking obedience from the common soldier and, combined with the inherent tenacity and bravery of the men in the ranks, contributed to the steadiness of the British line.”

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The officer on his pedestal

I think overall this view had many valid points. The officer’s attitude towards their men as paternalistic fits logically in a time period where the aristocracy would govern the lower classes in civilian life and the good ones would view them as faithful servants who could thrive under their guidance. I find it interesting too, that many of the common soldiers acknowledged the need for strict discipline and firm leadership to keep the men in line.  While I am sure though many did have contempt for the officer who thought himself so above them, and was more privileged, other wiser men knew the need for order and discipline. One rifleman, Benjamin Harris put it like this:

22472172_695821543948445_1836868298_o“Indeed, it requires one who has authority on his face, as well as at his back, to make [soldiers] respect and obey him. They see too often, in the instance of sergeant-majors, that command does not suit ignorant and coarse-minded men; and that tyranny is too much used even in the brief authority which they have. A soldier, I am convinced, is driven often to insubordination by being worried by these little-minded men for the veriest trifles, about which the gentleman never thinks of tormenting him. … for our men to be tormented about trifles…is often very injurious to a whole corp.” ( Rifleman Harris P. 67)

Other soldiers described their ideal officers as ones who were firm in command, but also took the effort to truly get to know their men and care for them. I think the relevance of that today is that they did not mention that they worshiped the officer’s authority, but his character and leadership qualities. Authority alone is not enough to gain respect from one’s subordinates, one must also be a strong leader and role model. This is relevant throughout all time periods :)

Here’s the source that describes this in much more detail : Officers and Gentlemen: Gentlemanly Mystique and Military Effectiveness in the Nineteenth Century British Army

Posted in Early Modern History, Military | Leave a comment

Helping Make History More Interesting: William Hogarth

Few have heard of William Hogarth, an engraver in 18th century England. He was known for his very detailed pictures of subjects ranging from the usual portraits to most significantly, his satirical drawings and cartoon strips providing commentary on social issues of his day, many of which are timeless and easily relatable to today. He was born in London in 1697 to a lower middle class family. He was apprenticed in engraving where he learned his art work in the many engravings he did. His father was once imprisoned for his debts, so it is theorized that is where Hogarth was exposed to the harsher realities he would later draw. Uniquely too, was that Hogarth intended his works to be mass produced, so the lower classes could also appreciate his works, especially his moral stories. These are some of my favorite of his works:

  1. A Harlot’s Progress

 

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This is what could be considered like a comic strip today. It is composed of six scenes chronologically telling the story of a young girl who is tricked into a life of prostitution and ends up in jail and eventually succumbing to STDs at the age of only 23. I like the analysis given about it, as in each picture, there are symbolic details that foreshadow what will happen next as well as explaining the scene more. An example would be the first image of her being lured into prostitution, such as the indifferent clergyman and the toppling pans his horse is tipping foreshadowing her imminent “fall” into disgrace, as well as a dead goose signifying her death. Personally, my favorite image is the jail scene. I like the man in the stocks! Love the caption above him, “Better to work than stand thus”.  I find this work significant as it rings true today as well. Girls are still lured into the sex trade with a promise of a better life, but often end up just like the girl in this story; imprisoned or suffering from poverty and venereal disease. The story’s moral message rings true today, cautioning young women not to fall into that trap and become exploited as the next victim. It also shows the tragedy of those who befall such a sad fate, and the injustice of those who would trap those girls into that life that still is just as significant today as it was then. I am inspired to make a modern retelling of that sad tale.

 2. The Four Stages of Cruelty 

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Hogarth was known to love animals, and was horrified at the many cruel things people would to to them, such as tormenting dogs and cats, torturing birds, and beating horses. He drew this story to illustrate how cruelty to animals often leads to cruelty towards one’s fellow man and how cruelty in the end is punished. The story depicts “stages” of cruelty, the first being the torturing of animals, then progressing to beating a horse so badly it cannot stand and breaks a leg, to murdering a woman in cold blood. The perpetrator is ultimately hanged then dissected, his cruelty now being turned on him, as a “taste of his own medicine” so to speak. I think this piece is also relevant to today, as many studies show that cruelty to animals is a serious sign of psychopathy and leads to cruelty towards humans too. Also, disappointingly, people still treat animals this way, thinking it’s funny and not caring about the poor creature’s suffering. I can relate to Hogarth’s outrage and wish to stop such injustice. I think he was ahead of his time in is concern for animals, and I find it interesting too, that he wrote himself, it was supposed to be understood by “men of the lowest rank” so to educate them in the errors of their ways. One can see his hurt in his work, as it lacks the more humorous elements of other works. I think he felt it was a somber message to get out there though, one that still must be said today as young people continue to torment innocent creatures.

3. The March of the Guards to Finchley

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This painting is much lighter in nature than the deep moralizing works listed above, but guardsit does contain it’s share of commentary on indisciplined soldiers! Hogarth wanted to present it to the king who took great offense at his soldiers being mocked! I guess the truth hurts :) I like the exquisite detail of all the soldier’s misbehavior and chaos they attracted, especially with the women ;) Some funny details include a drunk soldier to the far right too drunk to stand, yet refuses water given by a woman in favor of more gin, and two women fighting over a grenadier in the center of the picture! My most favorite detail though: a man in the far left urinating against the tavern “pained by his venereal infection”.

 

 

4. The Five Orders of Periwigs

On a much lighter note, many of his works were intended to be quite humorous and satirical! One of my very favorites is called “The Five Orders of Periwigs”. This one makes fun of the ridiculous wigs of the era! I also love that it is an intellectual satire, as it also mocks the 5 orders of classical architecture as well! I also can’t help but laugh at the minute detail he put into “measuring” those wigs also making fun of architectural drawings! By being so analytical with the wigs, he takes making fun of them beyond just saying they’re ridiculous, but doing so at an intellectual level by being overly analytical. It can be a bit heavy to digest for the modern viewer to get the humor at first, but I couldn’t help but look up to and laugh at the burning satire it truly is! Ouch :) …

5. (Bonus) Satire on False Perspective

Just for funsies:)  This picture was used for art students by Hogarth as a study on perspective and what NOT to do! The challenge: Can you spot the errors in artistic perspective in this drawing? Wikipedia spotted 22! :)

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I think William Hogarth is quite an interesting artist, and person! His social commentaries ring true today, and his humor is still funny through the ages! I like the poem his friend wrote for his grave:

“Farewell great Painter of Mankind
Who reach’d the noblest point of Art
Whose pictur’d Morals charm the Mind
And through the Eye correct the Heart.
If Genius fire thee, Reader, stay,
If Nature touch thee, drop a Tear:
If neither move thee, turn away,
For Hogarth’s honour’d dust lies here.” 
Posted in Art and History, Early Modern History, Helping Make History More Interesting, Humor, Opinion Piece | 1 Comment

“Why the Silence?…”

(This is a public service announcement brought to you by History is Interesting :)

Unless you’re outside the US, or are off the grid, you’ve probably heard a constant bombardment of news revolving around subjects such as President Trump, racial tensions, international turmoil, refugee crises, etc… No matter what side you’re on, you’ve also probably observed that many organizations and groups, from schools, media outlets, professional associations, and personal blogs and social media to name a few, have taken a public stance on many of these issues. Many from all sides say something along the lines of, “we cannot stay silent”, or “silence is complacency” or whatever else. Some who did not publish a public stance feel that such heated and polarized topics are either inappropriate to address for their group, or may alienate people, such as potential customers or employers. However, some may wonder why a history blog would not want to comment on such an exciting and tumultuous time in our own history. While I do not shy away from taking sides when backed up with a strong argument and strong evidence, and feel that intellectual freedom should allow people to openly debate issues relevant to them not in fear of “offending” others, I chose not to comment on today’s issues for three reasons:

One, I feel it is actually inappropriate for me to have a stance on these current issues through this blog. While this will certainly be a chapter in our future history books, it’s not history yet! Yes, this is a tumultuous time for the US and much of the nation is polarized on these issues, however, that does not make it history. Sure, you can argue that “history” can span a time of millennia ago, to this past morning. There are singular days so important they are history in themselves, but the key premise I’m getting at here, is history, whatever the time span, is in the past. These events going on now, are going on now. This means to me as a historian, that I can’t have the impartiality that a scholar of history should have when analyzing and critiquing what went on. I’m currently immersed in the situation, not as a detached observer, but as a participant. Now, this does not mean I am being politically active at all, I am not, but I am “participating” by simply being a member of this society and absorbing the attitudes of everyone around me as well as being bombarded by many conflicting accounts of what’s going on. This makes it impossible to get the impartiality I want to address the situation.

This works for all history as well. Primary sources are indeed valuable assets to the historian who wants to get a better picture of what was going on at the time, and bias can be welcomed, as it shows how people of the time perceived what was going on. However, one must always take such accounts with a grain of salt when one wants to research what actually transpired because of their inherent bias. One may get a better picture of what happened in the Civil War by reading something researched by a historian in an academic paper, than in a contemporary northern or southern newspaper, for example. Yes, they do contribute to the bigger picture for sure, but have an inherent bias. If I take a stance now, analyzing what is happening in my current world, I’m creating a primary source, not a scholarly analysis for history. Future historians would like to know what the average American thought of the Trump administration, but my aim is to be the observer, not the studied! Maybe 20 years from now, we could step back from this era and look with a more impartial and level headed eye, but from the looks of it now, that’s not happening any time soon ;)

This is not to say that we can’t make connections from our past to the present, of course we can! History often does repeat itself in patterns and we can compare to an extent, that is, the present with the past, but that’s not what those other sources are doing when they take a stance nowadays. The past does affect the present, and we should all be aware of how it does impact us today, but taking a stance as others are doing does not help that goal either.

Secondly, I am not one for just jumping on the bandwagon just because everyone else is. I actually find many of the organizations that release public statements on either side are being inappropriate by doing so as their aim in general is not directly involved with such issues they’re taking sides on. Schools, for example should be impartial and let students form their own opinions. News organizations should report impartially too. Other organizations just have little or nothing to do with these issues in general. I understand that personal bloggers and social media are more free to have opinions like that, since it’s personal, and everyone does have an opinion! But this is not a personal blog. I have opinions, which I overtly label “opinion pieces” so to not be taken as unalterable fact, but this blog is not about every personal whim I have! I also feel that many of the others listed above take a stance simply because everyone else is without thinking it through. They feel if they don’t, it’s some competition they’re losing out on. It’s not. I don’t like that group think mindset, of everyone else is doing this, so I have to as well. If I feel it’s appropriate to take a stance, then fine, I’m on board, but not without thinking long and hard about how it makes me look. That decision must be mine and mine alone. This is why if you know me, I have never done all those social media memes and Facebook profile pic frames related to different issues.

Lastly, I want people reading this to draw their own conclusions. It’s not for my history blog to take a stance on what is not history yet. This is not a contemporary political blog, or a humanitarian blog, or a social activism blog, but a history blog and should stick to history. I always advocate for critical thinking in all areas of life, past and present, and my views don’t need to be yours. All I ask is you have thought your stance through and have strong arguments and solid evidence to back it up and I can respect that even if we don’t agree. I’m not out to alienate people over unfounded petty squabbles. I want everyone to feel welcome to read my blog and engage with it. There are views where I do take sides, that may sound offensive or threatening, and I’m not afraid to stand firm on them and stand by my reasoning. However, this is not a blog exclusively for one group of people. There are two sides (or more!) to a debate. So my stance will be this one:

Think for yourself!!! 

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Posted in Helping Make History More Interesting, Humor, Modern History, Opinion Piece | 1 Comment

Sharpe Series Passes Muster :)

Recently, I discovered this TV series made in the early 90’s about this Napoleonic war era officer named Richard Sharpe. It is based off a series of novels by Bernard Cornwell about an officer who was raised from the ranks of common soldiers, a rare practice at the time as most officers were gentlemen. Sharpe was born in one of the slums of Related imageEngland to a prostitute who died when he was only 3 years old. His father was unknown. He spent his childhood in the workhouse doing things like picking oakum and trained as a chimney sweep. Fearing an early demise from that, he ran away and was taken under the care of another prostitute/bartender and taught how to steal. As a young man, he joined the army to avoid going to prison for killing a man over a local girl. He was promoted to sergeant and then to lieutenant for saving Lord Wellington from three French dragoons. The first episode deals with his first experiences of being an officer. The men don’t like him since he’s not a “proper officer” nor do the snooty other officers from the upper classes. Eventually, he wins the respect of his men who become fiercely loyal to him and of most other officers, save a few.

Sharpe is best known for his valor in combat and his “down to earth” attitude towards his men since he knows what it was like to be in their shoes. He also has more practical combat experience and insights than most of the other officers, who are more 20945466_674582356072364_868283406_obureaucrats than soldiers. I like that about him since he’s assertive and can be firm, but also has a softer side for his men and genuinely cares for their well being. I think he exemplifies what a good leader and authority figure should be like, disciplined and assertive, able to “take the reins”, but also humble and willing to listen to his subordinates and focuses on them and the task at hand, rather than cushioning his own ego and authority.

I find most of the episodes pretty well-written, with several amusing scenes and funny side stories in each episode! I think the character development of most of the characters 20960985_674582696072330_1764369651_ois well rounded with people like Sharpe and Harper being multidimensional. Most of the plots are engaging too, although I have episodes I like more than others, as usual. I particularly like “Sharpe’s Regiment”, where he has to disguise himself as a private soldier again to see why his regiment is being disbanded. It turns out corrupt officers were illegally selling men to other regiments out of greed. Some of the antics in there were funny, as well as an eye opening insight into the abusive training methods used to train the common soldiers. The drill sergeants would handle the men very roughly and scream “Filth!” at them as well as other abuses. The officer, Col. Girdwood was the worst, and was a complete tyrant! It was great to see Sharpe come back as an officer and put Girdwood in his place!

Another favorite episode was “Sharpe’s Eagle” where he had to train this unskilled South Essex Regiment. He retrained them in how to shoot a rifle in my favorite scene! It 20991570_674590679404865_669666745_oshowed how Sharpe was more in tune with his men and actually was willing to teach the men what they didn’t know rather than always resorting to punishment. The other officers thought very low of the men and one said “He is a brute beast in a red coat, he needs the lash!” when another officer objected to a soldier being flogged for collapsing from heat exhaustion on parade. That same man was able to fire 4 shots a minute even after his flogging.  Sharpe had to teach them to fire 3 shots a minute or they all would be flogged! Sharpe is against flogging since he faced the brutality of it as a common soldier.

Individual scenes form other episodes are also favorites of mine, such as sick parade being inspected and a man openly itching his crotch on parade due to the “pox” in 20945465_674582419405691_1322266735_o“Sharpe’s Siege” and Sharpe and his men getting in trouble for playing football together by a superior officer! Another is when Sharpe first meets his men who are all dead asleep and shouting “Get up you lazy bastards!” or meets Fredrickson, an officer of the 60th Rifles in “Sharpe’s Enemy” who has a rough face from prior trauma. I also like the conflict between Sharpe and Lieutenant Ayres, the Provost, in “Sharpe’s Gold” who hangs one of his men for killing a chicken, and is forced to go on a mission with him. Overall, I like Sharpe as a great historical fiction series. I like the authentic period costumes and the battle field tactics and soldier’s everyday lives. I think it’s a great way to get interested in the Napoleonic era!

 

(More screenshots I took of some of my favorite scenes!)

 

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