Reading Response


‘The Melting Pot’, Home of the Immigrant’, ‘Land of the Free’, there are a number of ways to refer to America and its history as a nation of immigrants. During the 20th century many were trying to redefine themselves as immigrants and look into their own past for a connection to a place they never knew. While their immigrant parents tried hard to assimilate, as in take on all characteristics of American life and society, it was their children and grandchildren who wanted to know about and reconnect to their past ancestors. This brought on the rise of ethnic definition, multiculturalism, pluralism, and an anti-modernist movement amongst other things.

Starting with the 1960s, then president John F. Kennedy’s ‘return’ to Ireland, home of his forefathers. This was an early high point for the romanticism of ethnicity and heritage. Kennedy’s return to Ireland could be seen as the final assimilation for those watching. His ancestors left Ireland to make a place in America and the return of Kennedy shows they were able to make something of themselves to return triumph. The following trend in later years, of white Americans tracing their ancestors and connecting links between America and their homelands. This was reflected in the literature, movies, and tourism of the time. Most literature of the time about ethnicity was on the ‘white ethnic’ showing a distinguish from other whites and people of color. Films, television shows, and TV movies include The Sopranos, The Godfather, and revivals like Fiddler on the Roof and Zorbra the Greek. Heritage tourism, when people including some celebrities, would go to the ‘homeland’ to look into their past. It was also an advertisement ploy by airlines with tag lines like “All of us came from someplace else” (46). These trips were largely for the personal reasons of self-discovery and less education in learning about the history of the area and culture.

The Civil Rights movement brought out this phenomena. This political movement brought out a way to define whiteness, as the movement and plight of people of color was moved aside. In the past, ethnic European whites were different to American born whites who saw them as white, but not enough. Which is what the grandparents and parents of the ethnic European were trying to accomplish when they reached America because they saw how horrible you were treated for not being white and the reason behind the Civil Rights Movement for people of color. The ethnic whites sought ways to distinguish themselves from their American white counterparts and their crimes in America. They too sought images of oppression, as solidarity towards the Movement, to show that the “nations crimes are not our own” (21) and a separation of the privilege their whiteness did grant their forefathers and does grant them now. Instead of trying to define and distant their whiteness they could have used it in conjunction of the Civil Rights Movement and help the cause. Though it would have been hard because they were not seen as totally white by American whites. The roots movement also stems from the popular book series and later television series ‘Roots’ by author Alex Haley on his families slave history into the present. This work spoke to everyone but not for everyone. Meaning it was felt by all who had come from another place and wanted to look at their families past, but not for everyone because not everyone had a story like Haley’s. It was a narrative on assimilation through the generations.

Finally, through the rise in these heritage hunts and self-discovery tours, was a more public and political response of saving heritage sites. Ellis Island had not been used in decades until then president Lyndon B. Johnson designated the station as part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument in 1965, a state sponsorship and insolvent in ethnic revival. After years of renovation and preservation the island was opened to the public in 1990. The opening of the island was like a shorthand trip for those who could not make it back to their families ‘homeland’ and instead wanted to at least walk where they did in entering the country. The biggest problem for Ellis Island though was what message to send, who’s stories were allowed to be told for the museum was more of a “white man’s museum” and less inclusive for today immigrants. In the end the ethnic revival showed the difference in the white European immigrant, the forced migration of slaves, and the new immigrant for removed from places like Ellis Island. It was a geographical movement versus legal standing, citizenship, and civic incorporation.

Reading Response

The Uprooted to Transplanted

Rethinking immigration as a village means seeing the village as the country of origin and those who leave it as starting a new life with difficulties. The peasant class in Europe were the leading emigrants from Europe. Emigrant, not immigrants because to emigrate is to still take with you the traditions and customs of your old home to the new one and influence that place. The village is a fixed point and how the peasants identity themselves. It is from this village that the peasants learn of relationships and ties to each other. The rules and obligations of the village may include not being alone because to be alone is to not function within the village. Within the village it is usually better for things to stay the same than change because change means a departure from traditions. Traditions are what uphold the village way and are in place for the peasants to look back on in difficult times. Unless those traditions are not helpful then they will look elsewhere.

Another way to re-imagine emigration is as transplantation. Transplantation is the movement or transfer of someone or something to another place or situation. The relationship between immigrants and capitalism is divided into two groups. One group, the larger of the two works menial jobs while the other smaller group had pursued person gain and leadership. These are the working class and the middle class. The middle class possess relatively more power, places high value on individual freedom, looks for personal gain accompanied by political power and an improved future. Working class immigrants aren’t able to indulge in the same pursuits, whether public or private, for long. The separation of public and private life also is seen in the working class because the focus on the work is so large. The mentality for both groups is a combination of past and present and the attainable and just out of reach.

Reading Response

Military Histories

History writing early on was either military or writing on the monarch to legitimize their reign. The change in which military history is written can be divided into three sections. The first being the old way of writing on military history. These historians only wrote about the battles. They did not focus on the reasons they were fighting but on the formations. A change happened later when historians started to look at the social aspects of war and the technological advances of war and weapons.

The writing on wars changed with the Civil War and the change from looking at soldiers and the formations. The first change was looking at inclusion of those who are not usually talked about in war writing. The first were the black slave soldiers who fought on both sides and how what they were fighting for was different than what the white soldiers were fighting for. The black slave were fighting for their own definition of manhood, “black soldiers not only had to fight to get into the war, they then had to fight to get into the history of the war.” (1073) the stories of race in the army, women in and off the field, and civilian life were starting to emerge as part of the narrative. Another not talked about narrative was the soldiers themselves. Those before the battle, during, and after whether they survived, died, or captured.

Those who wrote for the earlier military history though were already writing further than just the battles that took place. Medieval historians were looking at the technical advances of the time and how those effected the outcomes of battles. Early war historians were also able to write in-depth about the acts of war that happened too. Going in-depth on the memories of war while looking at other sources allowed them to wring fully about the battles from all viewpoints.

Military history today should best be defined as a social history of what brought the war on and how this affected those involved while also looking at the battles themselves. Focusing too much on the battle and campaigns is not bad, but when you forget the people fighting in them and only focus on the movements it makes it harder to understand the war itself.

Military History Old and New

Reading Response

Mapping the Discipline and Historical Consciousness

“Power and the proper utilization of it to achieve personal advantage formed his [Niccolo Machiaveli] great theme(32).” This was the beginnings of the study of history. Unlike mathematics to study history was unheard of because it was hard to show the relevance of it unless to show legitimacy to your position. Or used against it as Martin Luther had done to question the church. This shows the difference to ‘sacred and secular’ versions of history. Early scholars had trouble seeing the past the same as the people who lived it. “That which deserves the attention of all time, which paints the spirit and the customs of men, which may serve for instruction and to counsel the love of virtue, of the ares and of the fatherland, (38)”. Voltaire asked questions of history but only looked for answers with no factual evidence but personal sources or filled in the missing spaces himself. In doing this he did not give the past a chance to explain itself. Giambattista Vico brought up the idea of context and looking at history as the people who lived would have compared to Voltaire’s method.

Historical sources can vary and the methods of examining these sources are important to note for historians. Source material can better help to define eras and how the people of that time thought. History variations include periods or the time frame in which events are assigned to, this is important because it makes up the basic foundations for history. Others include methods, theories, places or setting, type of human history or anything that is not male Eurocentric, institutions deal with specific areas like churches or public welfare. While these are markers in history the three most basic and important areas of history are social, political, and economic. Economic and political history are wide spread and make up a large portion of the study of history, not so much for the social aspects of history. To study and look more into the social aspect of history means looking more into holistic methods of study to get to the personal interactions in history. This includes using new methods or approaches to get to those stories.

Historical Consciousness

Mapping the Discipline

Reading Response

Historical Awareness and the Use of History

Historical awareness is more than knowing what happened in the past, it is about being able to separate the falsehoods from fact. This can be tricky when certain moments are accepted as fact or the collective memory is distorted over time. This type of memory is known as the ‘social memory’, it is more narrative than fact and one that is passed down from generations before. Social memory can include speech, television, books, and music. Though these can sometimes not be true, the importance of social memory is no less than another. Difference, context,and process are three fundamental aspects of historical awareness. Difference is the historian noticing the differences in age and time between then and now. Context is realizing the difference and taking that into account for the actions and thoughts of the past. Process is the relationship between these moments. Recurring features of social memory are tradition, propaganda, and progress. Tradition in history can be used to show and demand respect. With tradition though, it relates to nostalgia and a want for a past that you did not live. And being against change. Propaganda stands against progress because it can be used to stop progress and encourage tradition.

Everything can be learned from history because it is the written knowledge and memories of the past. Many look towards the past for answers and advice on making decisions in the present. For some, nothing can be learned from history because it did happen in the past and any decisions made then only are effective for that time and does not take into account the changing time and ideas of different ages.

Historical Awareness

Uses of History