Here is my presentation, using a Prezi, of the White Rose.
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Here is the video of my 10 minute presentation on the White Rose.
The Return of Martin Guerre, by Natalie Zemon Davis, publicizes the story of Martin Guerre, a 16th century peasant who’s identity and life was stolen by Arnaud du Tilh after Guerre left for war and essentially disappeared. In her book, Davis looks mainly into the book “Arrest Memorable” by Jean de Coras, a judge who presided over the ensuing court case. To create a motivational background within the book, Davis looked into anthropological information on 16th century France as well as general history’s of the regions involved.
Robert Finlay, in his criticism of Davis, makes the observation that in the book, Davis breaks from the accepted story of Martin Guerre in many ways. The traditional narrative is derived from Coras’s “Arrest Memorable.” Coras makes it known that while he deplored the actions of Tilh and yet admired his skill in deception. Finlay also points out that Coras’s story focuses on Arnaud’s deception and the many retellings of the story. In Davis’s story, however, the focus is mainly on Bertrande de Rols, Guerre’s wife, and her deception. According to Finlay, the problem lies in the fact that Davis’s version is simply a reevaluation of information recorded in Coras’s original evaluation. In Finlay’s opinion, Coras’s book is the best source for the story of Martin Guerre.
Davis later wrote a response to Finlay’s deep criticism. In this response, Davis claims that Finlay gave little to no credit to her information regarding Basque customs and the historical information which would have led to the story. Davis basically defends the importance of the way in which she presented the story. The basis of her response is to explain her research methods and their importance to the overall narrative. Just the same, she argues that Finlay’s opinion of her story being so different from the accepted narrative is almost pointless. She points to the fact that the book itself contains a disclaimer that the story is half historical fact half her own creation.
In general, it is interesting to see how on story can have so many interpretations and to see the criticisms of those interpretations. It gives great insight into the role of history and the role of historians in presenting historic events.
In his article, Thompson looks at how the telling of time evolved throughout history. Thompson was a Marxist and believed that history was not created or influenced by individuals but rather by changing trends. In this case, Thompson examines the way that time was told before the invention of electricity. In societies which were run mainly by farming or trading, time was measured by such things as how long it took for an egg to cook or the various stages of daily routines. In a time before capitalism, such measurements were acceptable because the working day of individuals was generally not grouped with others. With the start of the industrial revolution, however, standard periods of time measurement were needed. In relation to time being related to money, Thompson claims that the “time is money” idea begins in such small roles as “the family economy of a small farmer.” Thus, it appears that the telling of time is strongly tied in to the idea of capitalism and wage-earning. Thompson’s view is interesting because it is not a concept which is generally given much thought. Time in relation to history is especially unusual to think about. Overall, Thompson’s article is one of the more interesting that I have seen.
In his article, Anthony Grafton takes an in depth look at the footnote and its roll in historical writing; or rather, its reluctant roll. Grafton claims that while the footnote is constantly being forced out of the spotlight of writing, thrown into the back of the books, it can often be the most important part of historical literature. One way of showing this was to look at the footnote’s roll around the world and throughout time. Footnotes both in the academic and professional spheres of historical writing are often seen as annoying, time consuming and in many ways unimportant. After all, the only real reason footnotes are needed is to prove that your information and research is sound and to prove that you aren’t simply plagiarizing the work of other writers. Grafton, however, is able to shed light on the importance of the footnote and its usefulness in writing in a way that is interesting to read. As a history major myself, I find it interesting to see a writer who defends the use of the footnote in terms other than that you need them to show that you aren’t copying some else’s work.
The French Revolution is an event which is seen both as the emergence of liberty and capitalism in France and as a force of execution and terror against the enemies of the Revolution. Both of these viewpoints are represented by Soboul and Furet, respectively.
In his article, Soboul centers his argument around the fact that the French Revolution was a needed cause which brought an end to feudalism and led to the rise of a capitalist democratic system. He argues that the revolution ended the horrible institution of a feudal system which oppressed the many peasants of France and kept them trapped under the burden of taxes and ever rising food costs which were hardly matched by a slowly rising average wage. Further, he states that the revolution was key to bringing about ideas of religious freedom; an idea which had been ignored after the English Revolution.
Furet, on the other hand, seemingly ignores the positive after-effects of the French Revolution by arguing that, while it did bring about some positives, it cannot be ignored that the revolution led to the deaths of thousands. The Terror, he claims, was an embarrassment to all who supported the revolution. In fact, he claims that the year of 1793, the height of the terror, is generally ignored among the events of the Revolution as a whole.
These two historians show the two sides of one of the most well-known events in history. Through the eyes of one historian, the war brought peace and capitalism to a land which was once ruled by rich tyrants while the vast majority were left to starve and die. Through the eyes of the other can be seen the grave horror of the Revolution: a group of what may arguably be called murders were attempting the overthrow of a government which had led to the deaths of thousands, a sort of life-for-a-life paradox which is more often than not overlooked or is viewed as an inevitable consequence of war.
In his article, “Homosexuality in Classical Athens”, Cohen argues the traditional views of homosexual relations in ancient Greece and the difference between the reality and the “supposed” reality. In other words, he points out the difference between the expected opinion and the real position of homosexual relations. In doing so, Cohen also manages to uncover various holes in the explanation on Greek acceptance of these relationships. He references several laws concerning homoerotic relationships and yet raises questions surrounding what might be seen as loopholes within them. For example, he points out an absence of specific age laws.
What is interesting about this article is the idea that there can be a separation between what is the intended meaning and the supposed meaning. This is no revelation by any means; here in the U.S. there is a separation between what was intended and interpreted by the Founding Fathers when they created the second amendment (while this is a fairly overused example, it is one of the best for this case). While this idea can be applied to virtually all areas of history, this example is interesting for the fact that it is one of those areas of history which is generally believed to be completely understood. To realize that something as trivial as homosexuality (a topic which even today is highly contested) cannot be completely defended or explained shows that there can never be a single side to history. While Greek lawmakers may have had a definitive purpose behind their someone complex laws, they still could not escape the paradox of the intended purpose and the implied or interpreted meaning.
The chapter “History and the Social Sciences” in Fernand Braudel’s book On History gives a great insight not only into the importance of all of the social sciences as a whole, but how they are interconnected. Braudel states that while each of these studies in connected, they harm themselves in their need to advance more rapidly than the others and also in their unwillingness to accept the connection between the others. At the same time, Braudel stresses that fact that amid these disciplines, history is gradually losing ground in its importance. Though it is at the forefront of the social sciences, it has nevertheless lost ground as other disciplines have increased in importance and attention throughout the years. Despite this, however, Braudel also stresses the fact that all other disciplines can, in their own ways, be used to create spans of time. He gives examples of fluctuating economic markets. In this way, there in a link between the studies which cannot, or at least should not, be ignored. In virtually every area of study, patterns can be traced upon which the scholars of these fields base their work. These patters are in themselves history.
It is interesting to note the strong connection between such opposite fields of study as say history and psychology. These studies are generally thought of as completely separated and yet advancements in knowledge of psychology can be used to trace periods of time. Just the same, periods of economic growth and decline, advancements in geographic knowledge, new theories in anthropology, can all be used to create periods of historical time. The social sciences are all linked together despite their differences. At the same time, it is interesting to note this as a way of preserving the interest in the field of history throughout time in spite of its weakening interest. While it seems as though more and more people are pursuing careers in mathematics and science, the field of history will always hold a special place among the social sciences and for this reason will never lose its importance.