Losing World War One was Germ… the Bolshevik’s and Jew’s Fault.

As we have discussed in past post, historiography can take many forms. The most basic of which simply being a different perspective of an established narrative. Historical negationism falls under the rather large umbrella of historiography. Negationism particularly refers the the denial, or negating, of a particular event, usually an atrocity or war crime, in history. The narratives produced when the lens of negation is applied help the audience better understand the culture of the antagonizing group that has perpetrated the historical sanctity of objectivity. These narratives are many times highly intriguing as they deliver a completely different record than the average history book. One such prolific example of negation is Germany’s stab-in-the-back account of the World War I era.

Political cartoon from 1919 depicting a jew stabbing a german soldier on the front line in the back.

Entangling alliances, trench warfare, advancements in weaponry, and the perils of a two front war generally highlight the major topics covered by conventional WWI narratives. These narratives also present the idea that Germany lost the war due to the failure of the Schlieffen Plan, the tax of a two front war, and even, if we want to throw in some American Exceptionalism in the mix, the intervention of America on behalf of the French. While the empirical evidence backs the legitimacy of this narrative, post WWI era Germany presented an entirely different narrative.

The stab-in-the-back myth first emerged in Germany during the years immediately following the end of WWI. The gist of this alternate view of WWI presents the idea that the German Army did not lose WWI on the Battlefield. Graham Goodlad defines the myth by stating, “After the war a persistent myth grew up that Germany had lost because of an internal conspiracy by socialist and liberal politicians, among whom Jewish influences were prominent. It was alleged that the so-called ‘November criminals’ had stabbed the German Army in the back by seeking an armistice from the Western Allies.” The image Goodlad’s definition paints allows for a better understanding of the German perspective towards WWI in the immediate post-WWI years.

Fast-forward to 1933. The Nazi Party just seized control of the German government. The prominence of the stab-in-the-back myth increased significantly. It played in directly with the ideology being pushed by Adolph Hitler, the charismatic new leader of the Nazis’ established Third Reich. Hitler even referenced the myth throughout his autobiographical book, Mein Kampf. The credo being pushed by the Nazis emphasized nationalism of the Aryan race while degrading certain ethnic groups such as marxists, bolsheviks, and Jews. The idea that the loss of WWI fell on the hands of these ‘dissident groups’ while the soldiers on the front did nothing wrong played to the racialized sense of nationalism the Third Reich pushed.

The stab-in-the-back myth exemplifies negation in history perfectly. It directly contrasts the conventional narratives that explain why the German military lost WWI in favor for the idea that certain cultural groups within the German nation corroded the moral fabric of the nation leading to the downfall. The Nazi Party used this prolific myth to back their ideology. As such, it keeps with the normalized opinion that negationism in history finds itself around some of history’s darker moments. The stab-in-the-back myth sought to turn the German people against “dissident groups” ultimately shepherding in the Nazis Party’s ideology by presenting an alternative story to an otherwise accepted truth regarding why Germany lost WWI.

Works Cited:


Goodlad, Graham. “Why did Germany lose the First World War? Understanding the myth of the ‘stab in the back’.” 20th Century History Review, vol. 6, no. 2, 2010, p. 16+. General OneFileezproxy.lib.vt.edu/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=ITOF&sw=w&u=viva_vpi&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CA241962376&it=r&asid=9573a3339071c9a0b44d07be23f726c9. Accessed 31 Oct. 2017.

О Cоздании Израиля

The end of World War Two saw a complex geopolitical scene develop across the globe. The United States occupied islands throughout the Pacific as well as a good portion of Western Germany and Berlin. The USSR controlled vast amounts of land that included everything from Poland and the Baltics to Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Tajikistan in the Middle East. Britain controlled part of Germany, but also a portion of land in the Middle East. After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War One, Great Britain came to control what was then known as Palestine.

The British presence in Palestine was met with general dissent from the local populace. The period right after the WWI saw a strong British presence in the region. Fast forward from the end of WWI in 1918 to the end WWII in 1945, and Britain decided that the Palestinian region was more work than it was worth. As such, they more or less pawned the issue off on the newly formed United Nations.  Long story short, on November 29, 1947 the United Nations adopted Resolution 181, or the Partition Resolution, that would divide Great Britain’s former Palestinian colony into Jewish and Arab states in May 1948 when Britain was slated to cede influence in the region (history.state.gov).

Much of the story regarding the formation of an Israeli state is well known amongst historians. It is recent history and as such bears a certain level of common understanding. As is usually the case with any significant historical occurrence there is an alternative narrative. When we think of the creation of Israel, we think of the UN, the hostilities faced by the burgeoning nation, and the implications the creation of the state have in modern day life. Very little attention is paid to the players or delegations that voted on the resolution to actually form the nation.

Israel was formed in 1947 at the height of Joseph Stalin’s control of the USSR. Stalinist Russia is infamous for its purges, iron fist absolutism, and general over zealous adherence to Stalin’s cult of personality.  Stalin himself heavily prosecuted the Jews forcing them out of work and home under the guise that they were “rootless cosmopolitans”. All this considered, Stalin’s vote in the UN regarding the formation of Israel is rather surprising. In his article, Jonathon Adelman states, “At the United Nations, where the vote on independence was going to be close, he had his Ambassador Andrei Gromyko give an impassioned speech in 1947 on the terrible fate suffered by Jews in the war and their need to have an independent state. Stalin then organized the Eastern European Communist states to vote for the creation of Israel as a the decisive bloc that provided the two-thirds majority needed for victory in the UN vote of November 29, 1947.” Thus, Stalin played a vital role in the formation of a state for a people group he openly prosecuted.

Furthermore, Adelman discusses how Moscow sent shipments of weapons from the Skoda factory in Czechoslovakia to the resource depleted Israeli Army. Stalin’s motivation was a hope that the instability in the Middle East would have a negative impact financially and socially in Great Britain as well as the United States. While it can be argued that this vision in some instances has panned out, it is still interesting to see the support given to Israel on behalf of the USSR. Israel is still a hot point politically and socially in global politics and the region continues to be a hot bed of conflict. Understanding how the USSR helped Israel in its infant days helps paint a clearer picture of the geopolitical landscape of such a complex region.




Юрий Гагарин

Когда мы оглядываемся назад на Советский Союз, мы часто вспоминаем о холодной войне и продолжительном напряжении между СССР и США. В то время как холодная война создавала предпосылки для второй половины 20 века, мы не должны игнорировать основные достижений нашей тогдашней соперничающей сверхдержавы.

Космическая гонка была выходом для контрастных сверхдержав, чтобы доказать свою доблесть. В течение первого десятилетия гонки СССР, казалось бы, лидировал. 12 апреля 1961 года Советы подняли свой первый шаг. В этот день Юрий Гагарин был отправлен в космос на орбиту вокруг Земли. он стал первым человеком, который вступил в последнюю великую границу. В результате Гагарин стал одной из самых известных икон советского успеха. Он был бы поднят прессой до почти легендарного статуса и был изображен в качестве ведущего примера того, кем должен был стать настоящий советский человек.

Успех Гагарина привел к тому, что коммунистическое правительство выставило ему статую в центре Москвы. Статуя была частью переустройства Москвы, которая стремилась привести город в современное время и сделать его чудом мира. Все это хорошо и хорошо, но каковы некоторые из долгосрочных последствий?

Америка признала возможности Советского Союза в отношении космических путешествий. Несмотря на усиление напряженности в период «холодной войны», две державы сначала работали вместе в 1975 году. Проект «Аполлон-Союз» экспериментировал с стыковочной системой космических аппаратов, позволяющей поддерживать длительные и длительные переговоры между двумя странами в будущем (НАСА). Сотрудничество между двумя странами заложило основу для того, что когда-нибудь станет Международной космической станцией.

К сожалению, Гагарин был убит менее чем через год после успешной орбиты Земли. Он принимал участие в регулярном тренировочном полете, когда его самолет разбился. В то время как это так, Гагарин – лицо гонки, которая, возможно, первоначально стремилась определить, кто лучшая нация была технологически, но в конечном итоге закончила создание будущего космических путешествий и сделала такие прорывы, как МКС.


When we look back on the Soviet Union, we often think of the Cold War and the extended period of tension between the USSR and the U.S.A. While the cold war set the backdrop for the back half of the 20th century, we must not ignore the major accomplishments of our then rival superpower.

The space race was an outlet for the contrasting superpowers to prove their prowess. For the first decade of the race, the USSR was seemingly in the lead. The Soviets took their lead one step further on April 12, 1961. On this day, Yuri Gagarin was sent into space to orbit around the earth. he became the first man to enter the last great frontier.

As a result, Gagarin became one of the most famous icons of Soviet success. He would be elevated by the press to near legend status, and was portrayed as the leading example of what a true soviet man was meant to be.

Gagarin’s success led to the communist government to sculpt a statue of him in the center of Moscow. The statue was part of the re-inventing of Moscow that sought to bring the city into modern times and make it a marvel of the world. All of this is well and good, but what are some of the long term implications?

America recognized the Soviet’s capabilities regarding space travel. Despite the heightened tensions of the cold war, the two powers first worked together in 1975. The Apollo-Soyuz project experimented with the docking system of spacecraft allowing for sustained and prolonged ventures between the two nations in the future (NASA). The collaboration between the two nations laid the groundwork for what would one day become the International Space Station.

Gagarin was unfortunately killed less than a year after his successful orbit of earth. He was partaking in a routine training flight when his jet crashed. While this is the case, Gagarin is the face of a race that may have initially sought to determine who the better nation was technologically, but ultimately ended up setting up the future of space travel and made breakthroughs such as the ISS possible.





“Mighty Mouse”

The Cold War is marked with high tensions and anxieties centered around the east vs. west hysteria that drove the cultural conflict. Throughout the era, hallmark events such as the plethora of proxy wars, the Cuban Missile Crisis, or McCarthyism set the global stage for politics. One event, however, stands out above the rest in its effect on the American Public. The successful launch and subsequent orbit of the USSR’s first satellite Sputnik caused a sense of alarm and general paranoia the likes of which had not blanketed the United States in many years.

The above video highlights some of the frenzy surrounding the launch. In his article for PBS, Paul Dickson states, “No event since Pearl Harbor set off such repercussions in public life.” Dickson’s article focuses on the reaction the American people as a whole had to the Sputnik launch. He discusses how the launch initiated a craze publicly. The launch of the satellite resulted in a loss of faith in the American political system, the nation’s values, and our technological prowess.  Everyone wanted to listen to the satellite as it passed overhead. People crowded into public spaces at dawn and dusk to catch a fleeting glance as the small object shot across the sky. The reality that the Soviets had beaten the U.S. into space began to sink in.

The actuality that the USSR had an object emitting radio-waves flying across earth did not sit well with the American public. A general outcry commenced that accused the government of being weak and less technologically advanced than its Soviet counterparts. In his article Dickson asserts, “Politically, Sputnik created a perception of American weakness, complacency, and a “missile gap,” which led to bitter accusations, resignations of key military figures, and contributed to the election of John F. Kennedy, who emphasized the space gap and the role of the Eisenhower-Nixon administration in creating it.” Dickson’s statement captures the essence of how the American people felt towards the launch of Sputnik.

As Americans, we often times expect to be the biggest, best, and first. The launch of sputnik represents a time in our history where this was not the case. The subsequent public backlash pushed President Eisenhower into distaste and demanded a more active role be taken in the newly coined “space race”. While the initial loss created discord across the United States, it would ultimately provide the impetus for the new president, JFK, to launch the ambitious campaign to put a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s.

Dickson states in his article, “Without Sputnik, it is all but certain that there would not have been a race to the moon.” He understands the power of the American people. He lived through the event and understands first-hand the frustration and concern it incepted across the United States. The launch of Sputnik ultimately resulted in a public outcry in the United States that centered on a wounded sense of national pride and ability. As a result of the space dilemma created by Sputnik, the United States would enter into the aptly named space race.

Works Cited:



Globalize Imperialism?

Globalization. As an American, that word often carries a magnanimous connotation that is associated with America’s rise to global prominence. Globalization is an ongoing process that is continually bringing the world closer together on an economic and societal level.


Historiography is defined by Merriam Webster as, the writing of history; especially :the writing of history based on the critical examination of sources, the selection of particulars from the authentic materials, and the synthesis of particulars into a narrative that will stand the test of critical methods. We started with Globalization and then threw a fancy scholarly term in there, so what can be established through the connection of these two ideas? 

The point of doing history is to paint a complete narrative about a given person, event, ideology, etc… In order to do this in a complete and fulfilling way, multiple view points must be analyzed. We opened this post with the  generic view of globalization, followed up by a brilliant video that does a very good job at broaching the topic of globalization (part 2 here for those interested). As is the case with most broad concepts, there are many ways to view it. Growing up in a capitalist country that has greatly benefited from many aspects of globalization, scholars and students of history are not often presented with a narrative that discusses the potential drawbacks of globalization.

Henri Houben published an article in 2006 titled A Marxist Analysis of Present-Day Globalization. His article concludes that globalization is nothing more than modern day imperialism and easily parallels the themes that Vladimir Lenin wrote about in 1916. Houben believes that monopolized corporations have taken the place of dominant imperialistic powers in the 21st century.  Houben states in his article, “On the economic level, the development of financial markets cannot exceed for long developments in the real economy. An adjustment is necessary, and it risks being a brutal one.” It is interesting he makes this assessment because just barely a year-and-a-half after his article was published, the recession of 2008 hit the United States. While the parallel between the growth of an unstable housing and financial market and Houben’s proposed thesis may be vague, the reality is that the economic well-being of the capitalist juggernaut crashed. It can be related to the wars that Lenin warns and Houben discusses will be the result of capitalist tendencies in that the recession of 2008 represented millions of lost jobs, uprooted families, and general distress. All of these characteristics can be associated with large-scale war.

Houben’s article provides a unique perspective on globalization. He goes into great depth regarding the numbers that show the growth of globalized, capitalist monopolies and then discusses their subsequent consequences not only for the nations that have embraced capitalism as a way of life, but also the repercussions for those people and nations who do no necessarily buy into the norm. While the article can be reaching at times, and, as many marxist writings that air on the side of socialized communism tend to do, ends with a call for action from the proletariat. The reason this article is important to understanding globalism and modern world economics is that it provides a different aspect to an idea that is otherwise accepted as commonplace in a largely capitalistic society.


Houben, Henri. “A Marxist Analysis of Present-Day Globalization.” Nature, Society & Thought 19, no. 4 (October 2006): 447-471. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed October 9, 2017).

Electrifying the Nation

When we walk into a room and flip a light switch, we, often times, take the immediate flood of light for granted. It does not cross our minds where or how the power was generated, the manner in which it was converted into electricity, or how it is then wired into our places of living and work. It has just become an expected commodity. Electricity, however, has not always been that available commodity which most Americans, whether consciously or subconsciously, associate with everyday life. In the early 20th century, many big cities had ample electricity. As this phenomenon swept the nation, a large demographic was largely overlooked, farmers and those living in rural areas.

Morris Llewellyn Cooke was a prominent engineer in the first half of the 20th century. He served as the economic adviser to then Governor  Gifford Pinchot of New York. He was later appointed to the Power Authority of the State of New York by the new governor, Franklin Roosevelt. When Roosevelt became president of the United States, he directed Cooke to head the newly formed Rural Electrification Agency. The aim of the agency was to capitalize on the successes of the Tennessee Valley Authority. The TVA was a government controlled business that aimed to bring better infrastructure to rural Tennessee, namely electricity.

Cooke’s vision for electrification went beyond the confines of rural Tennessee. He recognized the importance that electricity was beginning to play in the lives of Americans as well as the incentives it promised farm workers. In 1934, however, there were still many farms without power. Cooke provides evidence to this in his article, The Early Days of Rural Electrification Idea: 1912-1936 when he states, “Of the six million farms in the United States, over 800,000 by that time had in some fashion been “electrified.” But only about 650,000 had high-line service. Over five million farms were entirely without electric service.” Armed with these numbers Cooke pushed for a government program to be established. He stressed the financial and societal feasibility of his plans to secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes. This, paired with his positive relationship with the President allowed the process to be expedited and on May 11, 1935, President Roosevelt signed an executive order creating the REA.

The article published about the early days of the REA is written by Cooke. With this in mind, it is important that what is read is also filtered for his personal bias towards a program he played a huge role in building. Overall though, he presents the ideas clearly and the need for electrification across the nation was apparently vital. The electrification of America allowed for a common ground of infrastructure to be reached. The REA provided the necessary groundwork by bringing power to the less accessible regions of the United States for the elaborate and inclusive system of power we have in place today.


Morris Llewellyn Cooke, “The Early Days of the Rural Electrification Idea: 1914-
1936,” 1948, in Canvas/Rural Electrification

Redefining War

When we look back at American History, we are often greeted with a lineage of war, conflict, and malcontent. There is an old Thomas Jefferson quote that says, “Every generations needs its revolution.” That statement has been twisted in modernity to “every generation has its war”. In many way, this is the reality faced by those who fought in the Vietnam War. It was a new type of war. It is a conflict shrouded  by grey. The public hated it. The soldiers who fought it dreaded it. The politicians struggled to justify its prolonged tenure. We see a new era of American Warfare ushered in with the Vietnam War.

Example of a ROE card that many soldiers are required to carry. Informs the soldier of their parameters regarding the use of force.

This “redefining” of America’s approach to war took several forms, of these, the most notable change was an increased emphasis on what are known as Rules of Engagement, or ROEs. These ROEs are standards guiding how war is conducted, for instance, what can and cannot be bombed, when the soldier is allowed to use lethal force, what weapons are considered inhumane, etc. Columnist and author, George C. Wilson published a piece in the Washington Post  in 1975 (just after the war ended) where he stated, “The objective of the rules of engagement was to keep from killing Vietnamese Civilians at a time when the United States government was trying to win them over to the Saigon government side.” We see the crux of what the Vietnam War was through this quote. It was one of several proxy wars the United States became involved in during the Cold War Era. This reality represents the shift of American military mindset in that we transitioned from a force that conquers and rebuilds to a force that appeases then leaves. This standard is still seen to this day with the United States’ prolonged involvement in the Middle East namely Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Vietnam War saw a significant shift in the way that the United States conducted war. In World War II, the U.S. pushed through southern and western Europe to Germany, and when the war ended, helped rebuild the economy and infrastructure there through the Marshall Plan. The U.S. did the same in Japan post World War II. With Vietnam, the U.S. went to “aid” the locals in instilling a democratic form of government. When this failed, the U.S. withdrew leaving the region in an unstable position. ROEs represent a product of the Vietnam era. A shift in the thinking and execution of military action that is still in practice today. Understanding where this president comes from allows for us today to better understand why we conduct war in the manner in which we have in the middle east for the past 16 years. Through the lens of history, we are offered a better perspective on the actions of today.


George C WilsonWashington Post,Staff Writer. 1975. “Vietnam War ‘Rules’ Attacked.” The Washington Post (1974-Current File), Jun 07, 1. http://login.ezproxy.lib.vt.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.vt.edu/docview/146270264?accountid=14826.

Oh Canada?

The War of 1812 is one of several American conflicts that often gets glossed over in conventional textbooks. We are all usually familiar with commonplace narrative regarding impressment and relatively obscure economic sanctions and the standout moments such as the British burning the White House, Andrew Jackson’s victory at New Orleans and Tecumseh generally causing mayhem. As Americans, we see the war, on the whole, as a victory. Territorial claims were cemented in the Treaty of Ghent, and America proved for the second time that it indeed deserved a place in the world after throwing back the British invaders in heroic fashion. Right?

As is the case with many conflicts throughout history, there are multiple perspectives, the War of 1812 is not exempt from this patter. Our neighbors to the North played a large role in the war and, chalk it up to American exceptionalism or narrative driven by the War Hawks, consider the War of 1812 to be a victory not for the United States, but for Canada. Historian Desmond Morton authored an article in 2012 entitled How Lower Canada won the War of 1812. Throughout the article, he challenges the conventional narrative and places an emphasis on the involvement and importance of the Canadian presence during the war. A cursory glance at the major battles map to the left indicates just how many battles were fought on, or north of the Canadian border.

Morton focuses on several key engagement in which Canadian militia forces served pivotal roles. He highlights the battle of Châteauguay where the Canadians, “… Against astonishing odds, killed the most dangerous American offensive of the war.” Morton emphasizes how these Candadiens (lower Canda loyalists) played no role in the operations in New Orleans, Washington D.C., or upper Canada, but instead ensured that Lower Canada was defended and free of invaders. Victories at Châteauguay, Michilimackinac and Queenston Heights emphasized their success.

Morton pushes the idea that an uniquely Canadian military front in the lower region of the country was paramount to the overall outcome of the war. It prevented the United States from gaining strategic ground in the country and maintained border integrity between the two nations. The War of 1812’s importance to Canada goes beyond these battles highlighted by Morton. It serves as a national landmark for Canadians. The war gave them a sense of identity and a common cause to rally around. To this day, Canadians still take pride in their involvement in the war; their ability to prevent the United State’s army from successfully invading; and the relationship that was forged between the two nations as a result of the treaty of Ghent. While Morton is a Canadian Historian, and his bias will naturally lean towards his nation, the perspective he brings to an otherwise relatively (on the United States’ end) unappreciated war goes a long way in showing just how much impact the conflict had.

This video goes a long way in demonstrating the significance the War of 1812 had on the Canadian people during, and directly after its onset, as well as how it is remembered and revered to this day.

“… The Women are to be Worthy of Respect…”

When asked to think about the quintessential snapshot of Americana from the 1950s and 60s, we are often greeted with the pastel, overly boyish images of a happy family sitting around a new television set; a boy casually sipping on a Coca-Cola from a glass bottle; or basically any Norman Rockwell painting. This kind of intrinsic nostalgia is, generally speaking, harmless enough; though if a we stop and take a closer look at the imagery associated with these decades, a narrative surfaces that does not necessarily align with the happy-go-lucky emotions that many of these images seek to evoke.  Pictures such as the one to the left are simple and innocent enough at a glance. Again, it carries those key traits that so many paintings and photographs did throughout the decade. The issue arrises, however, when we start looking at multiple of these pictures. Washing-machines, kitchen appliances, vacuum cleaners, sewing machines, and so on; all are essential home appliances that serve to make life that much easier. Now, there is nothing wrong with advertising your product, however, when the target audience is solely women, and the manner in which women are portrayed throughout these advertisements presents some alarming rhetoric.

The above video is a prime example of the type of sexism that was not so subtly expressed in these advertisements. Viewing these ads and pictures through a critical lens allows us the opportunity to see the birth of  what has come to be some of the more sexist ideology in the United States.

The 1950s was a time in which The United States’ commercial industry was on the rise. The emergence of a booming middle class in the post WWII era came shepherded in  an era of American suburbia which, arguably, we are still in today. The traditional role of women had been that of the family matron. As society progressed, however, new opportunities opened up for women. While the new technology and amenities seen above went a long way to reinforce gender stereotypes, these decades also saw women challenging society’s conventional view on their roles. The Second Revolt of Modern Women written by Robert Fulford in 1964 goes a long way in explaining this change in mentality. Fulford states, “The oppression that the new feminists oppose is the psychological oppression of homemaking and motherhood seen as a full time career.” While technological advancements in home appliances sought to cement gender roles, they inadvertently pushed women to pursue a more liberated mindset. These new appliances simplified homework and saved time. Gone were the days where laundry and cooking was an all day affair.

Dr. Harvey N. Davis gave his opinions on technological development and women back in 1923. While this precedes the focus era by several decades, his precedent, while still slightly sexist, stands. He states, “Women, therefore, are up against the most acute cases of technological unemployment, having been dumped out of the work that was peculiarly their own.” Again, while there are still sexist undertones in the piece, Davis goes on to express how he believes this will result in more women attending university. He was, more or less, correct. Therefore, while these technological advancements pandered towards specific gender roles, they  justifiably enraged women as seen in the Fulford article, as well as gave women the time to pursue careers beyond the home. Many of these stereotypes are still alive today however, though there have been significant advancements in thought, society, and marketing that serve to make home-keeping a more gender neutral task. This said, it is still important to understand where these stereotypes came from, how they developed, and how the progression of technology both sought to cement these ideologies while inadvertently creating the means for women to break from these sexist ideas.



Fulford, Robert. 1964. “THE SECOND REVOLT OF “MODERN” WOMEN.” Maclean’s, Jul 25, 7. http://login.ezproxy.lib.vt.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/1437752132?accountid=14826.

1923. “See Women Jobless in Mechanized Homes.” New York Times. https://canvas.vt.edu/courses/56760/files/folder/Women%20and%20Technology?preview=4499409

“Thou Shalt not Bear False Witness…”

Colonel Edward Shames. Few people know the name, and, for those who do, it does not always carry the best connotation. Col. Shames (pictured above) served in Easy Company Second Battalion 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division during World War II. In more colloquial terms, the outfit portrayed in HBO’s famous mini-series, Band of Brothers based on Stephen Ambrose’s book of the same title. In the show, then Lieutenant, Shames’ character is glossed over, barely making an appearance in episode 6 ‘Foy’. For the brief moment he is on screen, he is portrayed as a negative leader, using intimidation and force to lead his people.

Why does this matter? Well, in reality, Col. Shames was an excellent officer whose people looked up to him for his gall and fortitude; so where is the disconnect? When Stephen Ambrose conducted his interviews, and later HBO, Col. Shames refused to stand for either. As such, Ambrose wrote him as the flippant lieutenant portrayed in the film.

Having personally met Col. Shames, I asked what he thought of the min-series and his portrayal. Between sips of his cocktail he responded with a gruff, “The hell if I care. I took care of my people, and we got home.” I talk about Col. Shames not only as a reinforcement of the value of perspective, but also as a segway into the reality and pitfalls of historical revisionism.

The author Michael Kammen published The American Past Politicized: Uses and Misuses of History which first discusses how revisionism in history is not a new, or American phenomenon before going on to highlight how it has affected American history and public perception thereof. Kammen goes all the way back to the American Revolution and highlights John Adams’ explicit feelings  towards the histories that had already began to appear immediately following the conflict. Adams professed that he would much rather read a Tory (English) history of the war, than an American as he believed the American accounts had been published for money and entertainment. His viewpoint lends credence to the importance of perspective and how revisionism can completely skew our view of how history has played out.

Kammen continues in his article to discuss how government agencies have influenced the production of history. By dictating the “official” statements that are released about given events, the government can inadvertently control the amount, type, and tone of detail that gets reported as fact. We see an added layer to this with today’s media and their selective reporting bias. All of this ultimately effects the manner in which the present is documented, recorded, and remembered. While revisionism may offer refinement of argument or fact, it can also serve as a faulty foundation for an otherwise credible argument or perspective. As such it is vital to read critically, understand one’s source and present history in as objective a way as possible.




Kammen, Michael. “The American Past Politicized: Uses and Misuses of History.” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 617 (2008): 42-57. http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.lib.vt.edu/stable/25098012.