Saturday, February 21, 2015

Real v. "Reel" History

Real history is far more interesting
than "reel" history!
I have to confess I was really thrilled when I received the first email from the History Channel about its miniseries Sons of Liberty.  They were giving it the full-court press, promoting heavily, creating educator materials.  And then I watched it.  Beautiful, but hardly history.  Now I'm not an historian; I'm just a humble history teacher.  Sons of Liberty should have come with a "based on" disclaimer.  I'm not faulting the actors, the directors, the locations, or any other of the trades who contributed. I did enjoy watching their work, as long as I disassociated it from the actual history.

That dissatisfaction led me to my bookshelf, and, not having time to dive deeply into a biography of one of the founders, I pulled out a large volume that was digestible in small bites:  John P. Kaminski's The Founders on the Founders: Word Portraits from the American Revolutionary Era.  Kaminski is a genuine historian who, in this work, let the founders' own words speak for themselves.

To put it simply, this volume is a curated collection of excerpts from primary source documents.

With only occasional editorial comment, Kaminski serves up delicious entries by and about all the folks you've heard about and several you should have. What emerges is a far more realistic image of both the authors and their subjects which takes them out of the flat engraving and makes them human.

Far from diminishing their heroic efforts toward independence, adding this third dimension makes their accomplishment even more astonishing because so many managed to put aside, or at least work around, competing interests and feelings of intense dislike for one another. It is a lesson which could not be more timely.
The first two First Ladies are also included

What about you?  What real history books can your recommend?  Post them in the comments below!


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