18th century, authenticity, interpretation, living history, Reenacting, Research, resources, Revolutionary War
Historiann has an interesting take on the scholarly study of the American Revolution:
I think it will take a fresh generation with no memories of the 1970s to revolutionize studies of the American Revolution. What do the rest of you think, those of you who remember the 1970s as well as those of you who don’t?
Historiann is riffing on a piece over at the Junto, on whether cultural historians have lost the American Revolution.
You know what this reminds me of?
Why, yes: The Progressive Movement and Various Backlashes in Revolutionary War Reenacting. (Supply caps and fonts as you like).
Now, Drunk Tailor is not specifically saying the same thing here but he is making a generational point.
They are half my age and already exceed me in sewing skill. They find new cultural nuggets I have never seen before.
And that– younger people are finding new things–reminds me of Historiann’s post.
I could say we’re all standing on the shoulders of giants, but it is more about perspective, different ways of looking, and openness. The schisms are not just generational, but philosophical.
None of these breaks fall neatly, of course, but crack and splinter along desires and motivations. As long as you are willing to keep learning and changing (i.e. researching and making) then you’ll keep pushing at the edge of the interpretive envelope and that can only help push understanding of all kinds forward.
Comparing us now to the 1970s, I think we’re also looking at so many different things–and that stems from breaks in the study of “big H” History from mid-century on. Focus on common people, influence and impact of non-white, non-male populations, feminist history, African diaspora…the list is endless. I think that we in our reenacting corner of the discipline are influenced by this–the story isn’t just a political-military, big-name one. And so the focus shifts to an inclusive view in which determining the things we need/want to explore is actually *important* rather than marginalized. I think that’s a huge psychological shift toward valuing new things and therefore investing in and looking for them–and finding new things.
I had a conversation recently from someone who had only been reenacting for a couple of years, saying how it as so easy to find the right wool, and find period correct patterns, and sew everything by hand. She did not believe that those of us who have been doing it for a while might have struggled to find those sources, patterns, and stitches that she now used.
Sam B said:
Those of us who remember the 1970’s (even if we were to young to get ourselves to reenactments) also remember trying to find relevant books in a library with only a card-catalog for help, or if we were extremely lucky, the assistance of a like-minded librarian. Most libraries had only a few books approaching relevancy, when it comes to costuming, unless you lived in a major reenacting zone. Past Patterns and Folkwear were the best you could get, ready-to-sew, and they didn’t run adds in super-market magazines. Even mail-order fabric retailers didn’t carry much that could be used for past centuries (my mother looked!)…everything was geared towards current fashion, why would anyone outside of Hollywood spend good money on costumes? For three years, over two decades ago, I lived barely 30 minutes away from Colonial Williamsburg. Since I couldn’t afford parking, let alone admission to anything, the most I ever did was drive thru the shopping district and peer down the rows of “real” houses. Now, via internet and bloggers, I learn that, theoretically, I could have been a participant instead of just another tourist. It’s wonderful how much we can find, learn and share on the Web, but it’s frustrating to deal with a generation that can’t imagine life without instant information…ironic when they’re reenacting pre-industrial eras.
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