As the image above would indicate, today’s history news postings are very Star Wars centered. But before we turn to such frivolous stuff, the big history news today comes from New Orleans, where after a very contentious debate they have voted to remove the city’s Confederate monuments. I have mixed feelings about this, as I have made clear elsewhere that I favor contextualization, not removal. Still, I think communities have to decide these things for themselves and we’re talking about some rather large monuments here. Further, previous attempts at contextualization have been pretty ineffective there. Apparently, the monuments will be stored until they can be displayed somewhere within an appropriate context. I hope that actually gets done. I’m afraid this divisive fight is not over, however. Man, what a year it has been for dismantling the Lost Cause’s most visible symbols. Kevin Levin has a good piece today in The Atlantic that serves well for putting today’s news in New Orleans into the larger context of the rise of the Lost Cause and its recent and high profile defeats.
And now on to something a bit less weighty, but still on the subject of the glorification of “rebels”:
We all know that the new Star Wars movie will be out on Friday (yes, I have my ticket already for the 1 PM showing), so Christian McWhirter has a little fun on Civil War Pop contemplating how much Civil War history is in Star Wars. On his discussion board, I agree with his assessment and then get a little silly with it. All in good fun!
And then there is this: is a Union Civi War veteran named Howard Bass Cushing the original inspiration for Luke Skywalker? It is a stretch, but one local historian makes a pretty interesting case for it. At the least, it makes for interesting reading. Check it out.
Of course Lucas has previously acknowledged that there are historical influences in the original trilogies, but limits them to the Nazis, Nixon, Vietnam, Rome, and the Cold War (clearly there are a lot of political statements about the war on terror too).
And while we are on Star Wars, did you know that the engine sounds for the Millennium Falcon were originally a mix of sounds that leaned heavily on P-51 Mustang fighters from WWII?
Perhaps we should also look back to the release of the first one back in 1977, and how it seemed to sneak up on everyone to become a cultural phenomenon. (I vividly recall seeing it in the theater back then, hanging on my wall the movie poster that I colored myself, and playing with my plastic lightsaber toy.)
And speaking of Star Wars and our youth, here Professor Paul Ringel places the tales within a long context of stories designed to entertain and teach moral lessons to children. “Core thematic, character, and plot elements in both trilogies,” he argues, “borrow from formulas constructed for children’s literature in the United States during the mid-nineteenth century.”
Ok, let’s get off Star Wars . . . . Remember that story about how someone broke the beard off King Tut’s mask? Well, it has now been painstakingly restored (after a previous botched job) and is back on display.
And lastly, for my holiday season posting: how about a history of Christmas gift giving? This one provides a pretty good summation, but also includes one author that has called for us to stop the madness, pointing out that “one-third of holiday spending still isn’t paid off two months after Christmas. Worse, most of us don’t even like many of the presents we receive.” Furthermore, he contends, “it goes against the very spirit of Christmas.”