“While European scholars were endlessly debating theology, the Arabs in Spain possessed a knowledge of the heavens, geography and mathematics that Europeans could only envy.” He handed the instrument to Giuseppe as his son turned the astrolabe over in his hands. “Let this be a reminder that all cultures have contributed to your world, whether you know it or not.”
Our culture’s most powerful ideas about the past come, not from books written by professional historians, but from popular images and mythologies, including those that come from films written by screenwriters. Screenwriters write Civil War movies for mass audiences, who tend to believe what they see. And films, unlike books, don’t get relegated to the back shelves of libraries.
Movies profiled in this book:
“Time with his mother and brothers didn’t last. Soon Giuseppe, like all young men from the newly-created middle class, was sent to boarding school in Genoa, over 120 miles from his home in Nice. Nicoletta hoped he would study medicine or law but a short year into his time at school, when the teachers would not give lessons on navigation, Giuseppe and a small group of friends decided to test themselves.”
My newest book The Civil War on Film (co-written with my colleague Peg Lamphier as part of ABC-Clio’s Hollywood History series) was published today.
Peg and I discuss 10 Civil War films based on their accuracy and cultural context. It is no surprise that we agree with a collection of historians that the most accurate of all the films of the Civil War is Glory (written by Kevin Jarre), though even that film makes the ‘mistake’ of omitting the fact that Harriet Tubman served as a spy for the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment.
As we say about many of the films, one film can’t encapsulate the entirety of a historical event (though Free State of Jones (written by Gary Ross) does try, and here we admit that that attempt to do it all makes for a long and plodding film, which is sad since it is a thorough portrait of Reconstruction, which is nearly never covered in films as they all prefer ending when the war ends).
As always it was a pleasure to work with Peg. We’re in the middle of our second book for this series – chronicling how Women’s History is covered in films coming sometime in 2021.
Want to use The Civil War On Film as a classroom text?
Contact ABC-CLIO for more information
The Civil War on Film will inform high school and college readers interested in Civil War film history on issues that arise when film viewers confuse entertainment with historical accuracy.
The nation’s years of civil war were painful, destructive, and unpleasant. Yet war films tend to embrace mythologies that erase that historical reality, romanticizing the Civil War. The editors of this volume have little patience for any argument that implies race-based slavery isn’t an entirely repugnant economic, political, and cultural institution and that the people who fought to preserve slavery were fighting for a glorious and admirable cause
To that end, The Civil War on Film will open with a timeline and introduction and then explore ten films across decades of cinema history in ten chapters, from Birth of a Nation, which debuted in 1915, to The Free State of Jones, which debuted one hundred and one years later. It will also analyze and critique the myriad of mythologies and ideologies which appear in American Civil War films, including Lost Cause ideation, Black Confederate fictions, Northern Aggression mythologies, and White Savior tropes. It will also suggest the way particular films mirror the time in which they were written and filmed. Further resources will close the volume.
- Makes clear that depictions of the Civil War on film are often mythologized
- Analyzes films in a manner that shows students the historical context in which the films were made and viewed
- Goes beyond just synopses and historical facts, helping students to develop critical thinking skills
- Stimulates debate over the various ways the war was interpreted and experienced
Film discussed include:
- Gone with the Wind (1939)
- Friendly Persuasion (1957)
- The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
- Glory (1989)
- Gettysburg (1993)
- Andersonville (1996)
- Ride with the Devil (1999)
- Gangs of New York (2002)
- Lincoln (2012)
- Free State of Jones (2016)
* A portion of each sale from Amazon.com directly supports our blogs
** Many of these books may be available from your local library. Check it out!
More books from Dr. Rosanne Welch
““I miss Papa,” Giuseppe admitted. His father, Giovanni, known to friends by his middle name, Domenico, often left the family for months at a time to sail his ship, the Santa Reparata. On his rare nights at home, Domenico dazzled his sons with stories of his adventures at sea, from meeting pirates to speaking the exotic languages of the many ports where his ship docked.”
“Garibaldi rode off, no longer only a child of French-held Nice, no longer the failed leader of the South American rebels of Rio Grande do Sul, no longer merely a candle-makers apprentice in the turbulent times in the far off United States. So much loss, yet so much gained in what still seemed so little time. He could barely believe it all himself.”
“A tree is judged by the quality of the fruit it bears, and individuals are judged by the benefits they can bestow on their fellow human beings.” – Giuseppe Garibaldi
I’m happy to announce that the historical novel I wrote about the life of Giuseppe Garibaldi is about to be published on October 1st, 2020.
I took on this story because I wanted to learn more about the history of the country of my grandparents’ birth but I gained so much more in researching the man who united the country, which I thought would be a largely white male-centered story.
I discovered a cast list of other brilliant characters beginning with Garibaldi’s amazing Brazilian bride, Anita. She helped plan military strategy and rode into battle beside him while pregnant.
I discovered Andrea Aguyar, a formerly enslaved man who fought for freedom alongside Giuseppe and Anita so bravely they named him godfather to their children.
I discovered Cristina Trivulzio, a noblewoman from Milan who had had a child out of wedlock, an act that scandalized her upper-class society who found herself offering battlefield nursing assistance wherever needed.
And I rediscovered my favorite (and the only major female) Transcendentalist, Margaret Fuller, the American journalist sent to Italy by the New York Tribune in 1846 as its first foreign correspondent – male or female – who with Anita and Cristina witnessed the ongoing carnage caused by the siege of Rome in the makeshift hospital they helped create.
I deeply enjoyed discovering all these people and writing their story as it’s a story of struggle for a greater good that gives me the chance to wonder why I never learned all this in school…