15.7.12

DON'T KNOW MUCH ABOUT HISTORY.

Charlie Schroeder, who makes a living covering sports for National Public Radio, discovers the world of military reenactments, and writes about it in Man of War: My Adventures in the World of Historical Reenactment.  He admits to drawing some inspiration for his efforts from Tony Horwitz's Confederates in the Attic, reviewed here.  What he learns about deficiencies in his own historical knowledge provide the material for a brief Book Review No. 25.  By the time he's done, he's found reenactors, some performing at public events such as medieval faires or encampments, others engaging in their hobby -- craft? -- out of public sight, on private grounds, sometimes with the use rights not as well established as the participants have been led to believe.  These people present -- subject to the limitations of the modern world -- conflict spanning the years from the Roman Empire in northern Europe to the Fall of Saigon.  The Vietnam era is too recent, though, to be as uncontroversial a public reenactment as Civil War reenactments have become.  The interests of reenactors of other eras also intrigue ... the most exotic possibly being the seventeenth century Polish Winged Hussars, whose warbonnets served to confuse horses acclimated to the idea of mounted humans, even humans wielding weapons, and whose lances were longer than those carried by other warriors of the day.  Mr Schroeder's education culminates when he works out that there was a Los Angeles before the Beach Boys and the freeway, and he plans his own re-enactment based on the peregrinations of the Spanish monks.

There's probably a Deep Implication in Man of War about deficiencies in the standard school curriculum.      Here the reader encounters people who didn't always do so well in school, and who often lack the author's establishmentarian credentials, yet who grasp deep currents of world history in ways the author had no prior awareness thereof.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)

1 comment:

Jeff said...

I'm not a reenactor, but I know several, and I suspect that book would have made a bigger splash if the author hadn't taken such an outsider's approach. It's 2012; this sort of stuff isn't as fringy as he treats it.

Having written and promoted a pop-history book of my own, I've found that there is indeed a deep interest in history that's unfulfilled, and sometimes quashed, by the American school curriculum--and by journalists who treat thriving subcultures like gorillas in the mist.