Post #5: Factors that contribute to historical analysis

History is always described in a manner that is straightforward. When it comes to teaching students about historical events, there is not much time to get into all the details that surround every event that has occurred in our timeline. However, there is a silver lining to this dilemma that can help readers and students learn more about the history they read.

In recent decades, historians have expanded their view on the historiography of a variety of different subjects by researching more about women’s contributions or the effect of environmental stressors that triggered a negative reaction from a local population. While it may seem difficult to find sources that discuss these topics, this has not prevented historians from learning about history through these viewpoints.

Women’s history has always existed, but not in the manner that we think of today. Usually, a woman’s history is shrouded by an event or institute that is presumed to be more important than the individual itself. If you were to read about Catherine II the Great’s diary, you would know more about her personal life, but if you were to read about her in a history textbook, you would find that the textbook focuses more on the political and social interactions between Europe’s most powerful empires. Historians never play favorites when writing history, but they are tasked with presenting a clear message to the reader about how an event came to be and what was the end result. One thing to keep in mind is the fact the individual’s own experience contributes to a greater understanding of human society in early centuries. By learning more about individuals and their experiences, historians can create a more informative history for students and readers to learn.

While human figures in history are always debated on whether they were good or bad people, environmental history has its own take on human experience. For example, when historians discuss how western societies developed, one of the most important splits that is discussed is the development of theological and secular ideals in ancient societies such as Greece, Mesopotamia, Persia, or Rome. Theological ideas are thought to have been embedded in the Middle East as the shortage of resources led to people to develop a system of worship in hopes that conditions would improve through the intervention of a divine being. On the other hand, ancient Athens was filled with philosophers that developed their beliefs on a system that focused on the well-being of humanity, not gods nor kings alike. The fact that a shortage or abundance of resources can define a society’s goals, beliefs, and culture should not be overlooked by readers or historians too.

As new histories are written, new observations and discoveries lead to new ideas and arguments about how we learn about the past and can expect in the future.

Post #4: Reflection on Gene Luen Yang’s Boxers & Saints

In recent decades, alternate history books have become quite popular as historians wonder how history would have played out if specific events had played out differently in our timeline. In Yang’s Boxers & Saints, the audience explores the early twentieth century in China through the eyes of two characters: the first book, called Boxers, revolves around a young Chinese boy named Bao that joins the Boxers to combat foreign influence, and the second book, called Saints, focuses on a young Chinese girl named Vibiana that faces rejection from her village as she is a Christian follower.

The story depicts two fictional characters going through the Boxer Uprising; however, there are some aspects of this narrative that should not be discarded as nonsense or superstition. For example, Bao can see a spirit with a black robe, which already informs the reader that there are supernatural circumstances that take place during this story, but the key to understanding the Boxer Uprising is to understand the cultural affiliation of Chinese religious practices with the Boxer movement. However, it is not uncommon for people to think Chinese religion is not a characteristic that describes the Boxer Uprising as it is often described as a violent clash between Chinese nationalists and foreign troops sent by western powers to put down the angry population. I find this notion by Yang towards the Chinese religious affiliation of the Boxers to be a nod towards the popular culture in the latter half of the nineteenth century that allowed the Boxer Uprising to gain the momentum it did, which drew international attention from Western Europe and North America as well as China’s neighboring countries in Asia like Japan and Russia. Towards the end of the Bao’s story, he and his Boxer allies are shot to death by the expeditionary forces, signaling the end of his participation in the Boxer Uprising.

The second character is a young girl named Vibiana that is a Christian follower, but is rejected and persecuted as Christianity was seen as a negative force present in China due to the Chinese government forced to give Carte-Blanche to foreigners living in China as well as rumors of Christian churches being responsible for the natural disasters that had struck China such as the famine and droughts that left farmers starving and with no chance of recovering economically. While it may seem ridiculous to outcast this girl for supposedly betraying her fellow countryman, the fact that she is being targeted suggests that Yang is indirectly pointing towards historical artifacts that describe Boxers attacking Chinese merchants that appeared or were suspected of helping and protecting the foreigners during this emotional time in Chinese history as well as Chinese people that may have joined up with the foreigners to escape Chinese lawmen when they had broken the law. Unfortunately, Vibiana would be killed in the end of her story too.

This story by Yang should not confuse readers to believe that these characters existed or that all Chinese society shared these beliefs. The purpose of Yang’s protagonists is to inform the reader about the social interactions that the youth in China faced during the Boxer Uprising and likelihood of facing one of two options: to support the Boxers or to be suspected of helping foreigners and open oneself to attack from the Boxers too. While graphic novels may not be the best source to cite information regarding events that occurred in history, they provide insight on the emotions that were felt by the general population of a specific region when these events took place.

Post #3: Focus for Literature Review

For the past five weeks, I have been focused on trying to find sources for a topic about Japanese culture and the influence of cinema on Japan after the conclusion of World War II. However, I have also run across another topic that is just as intriguing. I have seen that there is quite a list of literary works revolving around China, and I believe that it is in my best interest to further investigate this field of study, specifically China’s reemergence as a global power and economic ambitions in controlling the markets.

One of my key sources that I will include in my literature review discusses whether China’s economic expansion into Africa is a demonstration of Sino-African fair trade or a modern day example of colonialism of East Africa by China.

I have come across this topic before, but I never considered it for a literature review. I will look further into it and hopefully develop an interesting paper that discusses this specific field of study. I would have preferred to write more about my first topic, but Chinese ambitions and economics may be a better choice for me as I have found more resources to support my paper on this topic.

Post #2: Robert Citino’s thoughts on Military History

Military History is the topic of choice in Citino’s article. Throughout the article, Citino points to key factors that have stimulated new interests and questions that help further the study of military history beyond the typical depiction of a battlefield torn to shreds by massive armies and terrifying weapons.

To start us off, Citino states that military history has recently been undergoing change in terms of content and research. “scholarly military history has developed over the past few decades,” (Citino 1070). Within this first page, Citino has asserted that military history has not changed beyond the depiction of a battle between opposing forces. Moreover, he provides examples of present-day examples of standard military history such as movies that focus only on the violence of historic battles that took place across the centuries, adding on to his point of how short-sighted the view on military history is.

It is important to note that Citino is not discrediting the hard work that past historians have presented to audiences; rather, he is discussing how modern historians are exploring the effects of conflict upon a society with each group facing one, if not many, potential consequences. For example, Citino discusses the literary work After the Glory, written by Donald Shafter, which focuses on the gender perspective during the American Civil War. “It excels not only as military and social history, but also as gender analysis,” (Citino 1073). Within that paragraph, Citino praises Shafter for his focus on two specific groups and compares their similarities and differences that are seen during the war and the post-war period. Conflict always seems to focus on men, but typically only on their presence, not their purpose, attitudes, nor contributions towards victory or defeat.

The article goes on for 21 pages, but it is clear that Citino is interested how historians are exploring alternate viewpoints of the effects of war upon societies that witness them. It could also be asked whether this development will find a way into popular culture and draw the attention of the masses that might be interested in topics such as the role of children during the war or the demographic changes that society briefly undertakes when war breaks out.

The most interesting aspect of this review was the discussion around topics that have not received much attention at all. It also made me question whether I approach military history the same way as previous historians have or if I may be a trailblazer and take the focus towards a direction other historians have not considered. Overall, the article was well organized with strong arguments backed by evidence, and the future of military history seems to be much brighter than what any person could have predicted.

Citino, Robert M. “Military Histories Old and New: A Reintroduction.” The American Historical Review 112, no. 4 (2007): 1070-090.

Post #1: Standards of History

Though I am not a expert in writing history, I can say that I have read plenty of historical documents, diaries, and depictions of history’s best and worst events throughout my academic career. Whenever I picked up a book, I always noticed that each one had a table of contents, laying out the main topics that each author would discuss in their literary work. I never gave it too much thought, but I now know that I always used their table of contents to find material to use for sources for papers. One thing I can suggest that historical writers avoid, including myself, is make opinionated narratives. Historians seem generally interested in remaining neutral in opinion when it comes to writing history. I understand that this is a key feature in composing history backed with strong evidence, not emotions nor prejudices.

When it comes to determining the difference between academic and professional history, their names somewhat give away the answer. Academic history can be, but is not limited to, a series of books that explain or focus on a list of events that occurred throughout our history, and professional history may include a person that specializes in a specific field or era of history that they have studied or researched.

There is another form of historical writing in the form of popular history. Unlike the other two styles, popular history focuses on emphasizing the daily life of historical individuals to create an experience for the reader to understand the emotions and feelings witnessed by iconic figures such as Queen Elizabeth I or Julius Caesar.

I enjoy learning about history in a variety of different outlets; however, I would probably choose academic or professional histories to source my papers as popular history may not be the best choice when it comes to the standards that historians use to rank historical works.