December 2011

Great History by Ken Burns

Documentary 'Prohibition' Brings History to Life

If you've followed my posts on this blog, you know that one of my favorite periods in history is the 1920s.  On a recommendation from my mom, I started watching Prohibition, a 3-part documentary by Ken Burns.  So far I've only watched the first part, which does an excellent job of setting the stage for Prohibition.  This part is about the 70 years or so leading up to the passing of the 18th Amendment, explaining what the drinking culture in the United States was like -- why it was so bad that so many people thought trying to ban alcohol was a good idea.

Randy Robert's "A Team for America"

The 1944 Army-Navy Game.

I got my grandfather a book for Christmas called A Team for America: The Army-Navy Game that Rallied a Nation by Randy Roberts. The book details the perhaps most important game in the history the legendary match-up, which took place on December 2, 1944, right in the middle of World War II. Simultaneously, the country suffered shortages of turkey and pie for Thanksgiving, and President Roosevelt was only a few months away from death. During West Point's quest to win the national championship, Americans were also reading about the military's march to Berlin and Tokyo, forever linking these two conquering battles in their minds.

History Through a Horse's Eyes

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo

With the movie War Horse coming out tomorrow, I decided to finally read the book earlier in the week.  I've had this one on my to-be-read list since I first heard about the movie and downloaded the ebook, but I finally decided to read it when I started thinking about getting the book as a Christmas present for a little horse-crazy girl I babysit for.  Since War Horse is about a horse that ends up on the front during World War I, I wanted to make sure there wasn't anything inappropriate for her.

The book is, of course, excellent -- a story told in the style of Black Beauty, from the horse's point of view and starting from his early days as a colt.  It also has something of a message -- not just how horses should or shouldn't be treated, as Anna Sewall was trying to do, but how terrible and pointless war is.

History, with an Emphasis on "Story"

Death in the City of Light by David King

There seem to be two kinds of history books -- those that are fairly dry and difficult for all but the most dedicated readers to follow, and those that are written so that they have a natural flow, even in some cases so that they tell a story, like a novel.  Probably one of the most well-known examples of the latter is Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City.

I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked up Death in the City of Light -- it looked a lot like The Devil in the White City, even with a similar title, so I was hoping it was another example of creative historical nonfiction.

The History of Language

Flappers 2 Rappers by Tom Dalzell

One thing that fascinates me just as much as history as we typically think of it, is the history of language.  For example, did you know that sayings such as "Beat it," "A cup of joe," and "Knocked up" all originated in the 1920s?

Flappers 2 Rappers is a great book, chock full of information on the slange of each decade of the 20th century.  I got interested in this book because I was doing some research on the 1920s, and found this guide to jazz age slang.  The authors of this website have put together a great list of 1920s slang, but they do say that there is even more contained in one of their primary sources, Flappers 2 Rappers.