Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Screening the Past: Films for the Second Half of the Western/World Civ Course

Randall Stephens

I've compiled a list below of films that I use for a course I'm teaching this semester, The West in the World since 1500. I usually use short selections from these. Roughly 15 minutes of film for a 1 hour and 15 minute class seems to work well.

Most of the documentaries and features included below use historians as commentators. Many contain archival photos, paintings, and prints; artful dramatizations; and vintage film footage.

A DVD search on the WorldCat site can usually yield movies on a wide range of subjects. (Though I've been surprised that there are not enough good ones on 17th-century topics: European wars, absolutism, colonial encounters, advances in science . . . I'd also like to find more history docs on Africa, Asia, and the Middle East . . .)

In the past I have included embedded video segments in the PowerPoint presentations I use for lectures. (The free software Handbrake is the best I've found for ripping DVDs onto my MacBook. It's easy from there to put them into a presentation. See also this tutorial on how to download and embed YouTube videos into a PowerPoint slide. I have not tried this, so I'm not sure how well it works.) I've not been entirely happy with the quality of ripped videos, and the size of the files makes them a little impractical. YouTube or a simple cued-up DVD works much better for me.

In the list below I've thrown in a number of DVDs that I've not been able to use in class. (Far more feature films could be added to this, too.) In chronological order:

Luther (2004).

Martin Luther (PBS, 2003).

Empires: Islam: Empire of Faith (PBS, 2001).

Conquistadors (PBS, 2001).

The Return of Martin Guerre (1984).

Classical Destinations (Sky Arts, 2006), YouTube clip of Versailles, Louis XIV, and Paris.

Versailles (2004), YouTube, multiple sections.

Vatel (2000), see trailer.

Girl with the Pearl Earring (2004).

John Adams (HBO, 2008).

The French Revolution (History Channel, 2005), entire film can be watched in sections on YouTube.

Egalité for All: Toussaint Louverture and the Haitian Revolution (PBS, 2009).

The Lost Kingdoms of Africa (2010).

Slavery and the Making of America (PBS, 2004).

Amazing Grace (2007).

Charles Dickens (Biography, 1995), watch instantly on Netflix, if you have an account.

A History of Britain (BBC, 2000), I use sections from episodes on Industrialization. See YouTube clips.

Guns, Germs, and Steel (National Geographic, 2005), I use part of the last episode, which can be watched instantly on Netflix.

The Young Victoria (2009), watch instantly on Netflix.

China's Boxer Rebellion (History Channel, 1997).

The Last Emperor (1987), watch instantly on Netflix.

East Wind, West Wind: Pearl Buck, the Woman Who Embraced the World (1993).

The Great War (PBS, 1996).

Influenza 1918 (PBS, 1998).

Matisse Picasso (2008).

Sigmund Freud: Analysis of a Mind (Biography, 1997).

The People's Century: Red Flag, 1917 (PBS, 1997),

The War of the World: A New History of the 20th Century (PBS, 2008).

The Crash of 1929 (PBS, 2009).

Nanking (2008).

Europa Europa (1990), watch instantly on Netflix.

Downfall (2005).

Frontline: Memory of the Camps (PBS, 2005).

CNN: Cold War (1998), I use an episode on the iron curtain and the red scare.

1968 with Tom Brokaw (History Channel, 2008).

About the United Nations: Decolonization (1999), not an easy one to track down.

The Road to 9/11: A Brief History of Conflict in the Middle East (PBS, 2006).

See also, "Some Films I Use for My Colonial History Course"; "Dancing about Historiography: At the Movies with a Methods Course"; and the March 2008 issue of Perspectives Online, which was devoted to film.

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