Category: History


The arts of Ancient Ife and the royal arts of the Yoruba peoples

Discuss the significance of the form and meanings of the arts of Ancient Ife and the royal arts of the Yoruba peoples. Discuss the different types of historic interactions and power relationships with Europeans as expressed in Afro-Portuguese ivories and the royal arts of the Benin Kingdom.

In the exhibition titled Dynasty and Divinity: Ife Art in Ancient Nigeria, we learn how Ife art tried to juxtapose misery and glory, deformity and beauty, master and slave, disease and health. Made of copper alloys and terra cottas, the royal arts of the Yoruba people were informed by the myth of Obatala, whose legend is the art of deformity or sin or illness. Royal personages were commonly immortalized through art. Ooni, the ruler of Ife, wore elaborate textiles in the fourteenth century. The buffalo horn filled with medicines is a symbol of his authority. The staff on his hand also signifies authority. He also wears a beaded collar which usually holds a pair of . . . Read More

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American writers as critics of war, women’s status & slavery: Herman Melville, Frederick Douglass and Margaret Fuller

All the authors in the title have made key contributions to American literature, culture and politics. They used their literary talent as a means to not only create art but also to transform society. The 19th century was a period of great upheavals in American history. The nation was still young and uncertain of its own identity. It is quite natural that this milieu gave rise to several undercurrents of unrest. On the political front was class struggle between the propertied and un-propertied whites. In terms of social equations, the blacks were hoping for the abolishment of slavery. Women were still thought of as ‘property’ of their fathers or husbands or sons, let alone having the right to vote. In terms of general culture, the population was highly illiterate. It is these pressing issues that writers such as Melville, Douglass and Fuller sought to address through their work. It can be claimed that their efforts were not in vain, given how much the country has progressed in . . . Read More

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The key traits of North American Indian culture which flourished before the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors in 1492

The simplistic version of history suggests a primitive/tribal way of life for indigenous Americans. Such a simplification detracts from the community a rich, ecologically informed culture, as well as an egalitarian social organization. The first chapter in the book by Roark, Johnson and team attempts to flesh out a complete picture of North American Indian culture before the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors.

One of the key characteristics of Native Americans is their unique genealogy, which derives from African and Asian populations. Although this connection is not the most intuitive, anthropological studies using genetic markers have substantiated this understanding. In the late medieval period, they were believed to have adopted a hunter-gatherer mode of life. It is an important revelation, for everywhere else in the world agriculture and urbanization has already become entrenched. Bison was a great stock prey during the time as the ecology of the Great Plains suited it . . . Read More

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‘Social Death’ and ‘Possessive Individual’ according to Grace Hong

Grace Hong’s essay titled ‘The Possessive Individual and Social Death: The Complex Bind of National Subjectivity’ offers numerous insights into historical social constructs.  Focusing on the evolution of American history since the time of the Declaration of Independence, the author charts a cogent description of how the socio-polity resisted progressive changes.  The book is focused on women of color feminism and the culture of immigrant labor. But prior to arriving at their specific discourse, a broader framework of understanding is laid out. Hereby, two important terms are introduced by the author.

Possessive individual traces its origins to the framing of the constitution, whereby, only the propertied white males of the new country were accorded citizenship.  Not only were blacks (who were slaves at the time) were excluded, but so were women and a large section of white male population. The privileged minority of propertied white men enjoyed laws that . . . Read More

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British cinema’s dialogue with Thatcherite ideas, meanings, and values during the 1980s

The eleven years of Margaret Thatcher’s reign, which spanned through the 1980s were known for the social turbulence they caused.  The right wing political ideology that has come to be called Thatcherism is deemed reactionary in many ways.  To given an example, a pub near the Underground station at Highbury and Islington in north London was forced to paint the following sign blank under Thatcher’s conservatism: An Equal Opportunities Pub Regardless of Race, Creed, Nationality, Disability Or Sexual Orientation. This illustrates the deep impact of Thatcherism in all domains of cultural life. This was a period when “the very existence of society was placed in doubt, when the belief that greed is good was promoted as a moral imperative. It was also the decade when London came to seem like another country.” (Street, 1997, p. 106)

Cinema, being a major cultural product, was especially subject to pressure from the conservatives.  Cinema as an industry suffered . . . Read More

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Discuss the contribution of Hammer Studios to the Gothic tradition in British cinema

In the decades following the Second World War, Hammer Studios produced a number of films in the horror genre. These decades were considered the ‘Golden Age’ of British Cinema (1945-1975) and filmmakers were trying to experiment and explore the medium of cinema. The period witnessed “the evolution of a radical and subversive cinema focused upon challenging the moral codes and conservative values of the British establishment.”  Hammer Studios emerged as an influential player in British cinema during the 1950s.  It marked a “direct reaction to postwar optimism and the subsequent rise of a conservative political system. It also represented alternative artistic strategies operating in opposition to the realist tendencies of classical British cinema.” (Wilson, 2007) It was in this milieu that Hammer Studios’ foray into horror films will have to be analyzed. The rest of this essay will identify Hammer Studios’ contribution to the Gothic tradition in British cinema by way . . . Read More

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Th impact of the Second World War on British Cinema

The Second World War was a pivotal event not just for Britain but also for the rest of Europe.  In the wake of the end of the war all art forms embraced questions about war in particular and human conflict in general.  One of the important British films to emerge in the Second World War milieu was The Battle of the River Plate. Though the film is largely drawn from real historical events surrounding the war, it is a feature film and meant for entertainment.  Though the story is broadly consistent with historical record, the dialogues were almost nearly invented.  The challenge for the film maker venturing the world war genre is the upkeep of historicity.  The British audience has always allowed a fair license for fiction in the genre for the imperatives of the narrative form. Even allowing room for fiction, the ultimate success depends on the degree of authenticity that the filmmaker could bring to his representation of real history.  It is for this reason that critics were . . . Read More

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How coherent was the National government’s response to mass unemployment after 1931 in Britain?

The interwar years were some of the most turbulent in the history of Britain. Given the strong trade and diplomatic links between Britain and the rest of Europe and North America, the former’s economic stability depended on several external factors. The Great Depression that struck the United States in 1929 had repercussions across Europe. The mass unemployment witnessed in Britain during this period is not merely a coincidence.  On the political front the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany gave rise to distrust and apprehensions of war.  In this respect, the social history of interwar Britain is one highly influenced by unravelling economic and geo-political conditions.  To go with widespread unemployment there were also conflicts across class lines.  The General Strike and the hunger marches that were witnessed during this period were expressions of public frustration.  Although the national government was outwardly sympathetic to public angst, and on occasion participated . . . Read More

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Did women have an impact on American political culture through nineteenth century?

In many ways, women are history’s largest minority.  Their voice was for most part suppressed under male domination. It is only in recent decades that they have attained legal and nominal equality with men. America has been a theatre for women’s rights going back to the late 18th and 19th centuries. The Catholic Church provided a semblance of political emancipation for women. This it achieved through allowing Sisters to assume high offices within the rigid hierarchy of the institution.  Though there was a degree of democracy and representation within the Church, in practice, “internal governments combined authoritarian and hierarchical structures with participatory and egalitarian elements.” This meant that Sisters were subject to the authority of officers, but in turn influenced the officers through elections and consultations.  In this somewhat compromised democratic system some members were disenfranchised to vote.  Even in the absence of a . . . Read More

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From the American Revolution to the Reconstruction era: A race & gender perspective

The time period between the American Revolution and the Reconstruction were one of uncertainly and instability in American socio-politics.  Having valiantly won its freedom from the British Crown, the fledgling nation was taking cautious first steps toward self-assertion. But even as America’s presence as a global power was taking root, its society was beset by longstanding issues.  The social issues could be broadly divided across the twin axes of race and gender. Racial discrimination of colored people and gender oppression of women were two chronic malaises.

At the time of the Declaration of Independence and the framing of the Constitution, blacks were considered as unequal to whites.  This is reflected in the early laws of the country where segregation and slavery were legally sanctioned.  The basis of these draconian laws was the prejudiced conception of blacks as only three-fifth human (whereby whites are the benchmark of full humanity).  Such unscientific . . . Read More

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