Historical Revisionism

Between correcting rough drafts and grading exams, the fabulous purple pen had a busy week (well, technically purple pens, as three of them ran dry).  In between, I saw a class discussion in HST 2202, showed photos from historic sites related to the American Revolution in HST 3303, and watched documentaries in all three classes, along with observing two student teachers—one who taught about Politics in the Gilded Age and one who taught the Spanish words for various family members using characters in the television program The Simpsons.  The latter also provided me with an opportunity to see a student teacher cope with classroom management issues; her cooperating teacher told me that she is doing a fine job and that he has even learned from her (which I consider to be high praise).

Sometimes, when grading and correcting these papers, I become a bit amused at the various interpretations of the past presented by my students, such as the following examples from research papers in the American Revolution class:

Thomas Hutchinson was Massachusetts Gov. and had been attacked by a violent mob because the colonists thought you supported the Stamp Act.  His wife was Anne Hutchinson and they were both driven out of Boston to Rhode Island known in her days as “the island of errors.”

British military personal were matching uniforms and often held dinners and balls throughout the Revolutionary war.

Finally, Howe’s most enticing point to his higher-ups was that if this was successful enough, he may be able to draw much, if not all, of Washington’s forces away from Burgoyne’s area and free up space for any pushes that the gentlemen may have had in store.  This last point depended solely on the probability of if Washington would take the bait or not and move his forces to defend Philadelphia.  If he was unsuccessful, Washington could overrun Burgoyne, which would spell disaster for Howe’s command and threaten any maneuvers he might have for the future.

Occasionally, too, geographic illiteracy is a bit evident:

General Washington did eventually cross the state border when he had learnt that more British troops were on their way to Philadelphia, and stationed his troops in Morristown, New Jersey to protect Philadelphia from invading forces coming from New Jersey.

Brandywine Creek would have not been flooded, in fact in General Washington’s notes the last day that rain was recorded was on August 26 and was a few hundred miles east of the Brandywine Creek.

Book reviews, too, include a bit of humor (and I’m sure it’s unintentional):

Some of the sources are unpublished and so the validity of such a source is questionable, because it was not peer-reviewed or anything.

However, despite how concise and nearly historically accurate that the narrative is, it really is a good read and does indeed show this authors’ excitement of this point in history.

Although the book is a total of 434 pages, only 323 pages of it are actually content, the rest is merely endnotes.

And now (drum roll, please)…historical revisionism on the take home exams.

From HST 3303:  History of the American Revolution

The alliance between the Oneida and the colonists took place because the gradual Europeanization of the Oneida, this helped in making a stronger bond between the neighbors.  Many of the Iroquoian Confederacy supported the decision and this was a very big help to the Colonists because it was a big factor in the defeat in New York.

I am not real sure how Britain responded to the actions of the First Continental Congress.  It seems like we talked about that so long ago.

Common Sense was a book written by Thomas Pain.  It dealt with the lack of thinking that went on during the Revolution.

The Old North Bridge in Concord, Massachusetts was where a battle between minutemen and British Regulars occurred during a minutemen retreat back to Boston.

The Second Continental Congress reconvened in May, 1775 and, this time it was much different than before.  British loyalists like that of Representative John Dickinson of Pennsylvania wanted to keep friendly relations with England and avoid any more bloodshed of either side in the current disputes.  Dickinson, who had a very good way of convincing people with his words, was able to convince many of the colonial representatives early on to stay with England.  By the end of the convention, he and all other colonies decided for the Constitution, essentially freeing the American colonies from English tyranny.

Old North Bridge:  Bridge in Lexington, Connecticut where American militiamen fended off British soldiers.  This was a pivotal moment in the opening events of the American Revolution.

From HST 2202:  United States History Since 1877

The NRA wasn’t the best thing, but it helped bust the morale of people.

William Jennings Bryan, a defender of the Christian faith, was on the team of prosecutors to try to convict Darwin.

The United States would also intervene during the Mexican revolution because they did not want U.S. owned businesses to be taken out of their territory, the United States would arm poncho villa and his men to help take out the government to put a new man into power.

Helping the British in their time of need was on behalf of the Good Neighbor Policy, where the United States stayed neutral but they did not want to see Britain defeated because of lack of arms.

The scopes trial was simply about a man teaching human evolution and breaking the laws doing it.  The major argument is between reason and faith.  In the end Mr. William Jennings Bryant was fined one hundred dollars.  This was all in a small town in the state of Tennessee.  I personally thought this case was interesting and very different from today’s court cases due to the fact that the judge was smoking in the middle of the case inside the court house.

The works progress administrations also known as the WPA.  This was for the unskilled workers which accounted for about 8.7 million compared to the 750 thousand skilled workers in the PWA as discussed in class on 3/22/2012.  Aircraft carriers were running lines for companies.  I feel as though this program was very effective and helped out the unskilled Americans get a job and make money.

Also, three students seem to think Daffy Duck was a Disney cartoon character.  As a former employee of Time Warner, personally I thought the students should automatically fail the exam for that error, but, as it turned out, all three students did earn failing grades.  Moral of the story:  you have a better chance of passing my exams if you can keep the cartoon characters straight (although having historically accurate content and completely answering the questions helps, too).

This week will include discussion in HST 2202 and HST 3303, The Long Walk Home in HST 2202, Diplomacy and the American Revolution in HST 3303, and the rise of organized labor in HST 4401 (focusing on the Molly Maguires).

This  week’s photo is from the Memorial Day walk at Valley Forge National Historical Park from May 2010.  Students in the American Revolution class are reading Joseph Plumb Martin’s autobiography Ordinary Courage to get an understanding of the experiences of the common soldier in the war (and I’m particularly partial to this version of Martin’s story, as I compiled the index and have an essay on the portrayal of the common soldier on film in the upcoming 4th edition).

Without a doubt, the Continental Army camped at Valley Forge in the winter of 1777-1778 would have enjoyed skateboarding and rollerblading, but it was prohibited.


About Karen

History Professor. Baseball fan. Author of two books, one of which I force my students to buy and read. You want me on your Trivial Pursuit team.
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