The FrogsofWar Historical Methodology

May 2018
As many are aware, I've posted some defenses of historical figures that are not commonly liked, respected or honored. This is not because I agree with their actions, or even like them: it is because I am experimenting with a study of historical figures that mixes scholastic study with method acting.

Each individual I look at (Thus far: Mark Antony, Benedict Arnold and FitzRoy Sommerset, 1st Baron Raglan) I first familiarize myself with the facts of their life. Biographies are the first source, but artistic portrayals come second, along with historical fiction.

Mark Antony:
Charleton Heston - numerous films
James Purefoy - HBO's Rome
Marlin Brando - Julius Caesar 1953 film

Lord Raglan:
Only one available, John Geilgud in The Charge of the Light Brigade

Benedict Arnold:
Owain Yeoman - Turn, Washington's Spies

After this, I go through the method acting "meditations' as described by Lola Cohen. I do a few lines in the mirror, saying actual quotes or, when none are available, famous fictional quotes (such as Antony in Shakespeare). I try to become that individual, as though I was preparing for a role.

Once in this mood, I start writing my thoughts and taking notes.

The great and infamous men of history were not merely the sum of their biographies. They were not one-dimensional characters from a bad episode of Star Trek. Yet we often pass summary judgement upon them, positive or negative, and subsequently reinforce these perceptions with posts in the internet.

I believe such an artistic approach to history has a place in scholastic intellectual discourse: we should do more than give lip service to the concept of "understanding where they were coming from." Too often, we arrogantly declare (often times, without even consciously stating it) that WE would not make the same mistakes of Arnold, Antony or Raglan. Sometimes it is subtle: someone once mused about Arnold, "Well, other people got screwed by the Congress too."

Is the story of your own life merely the sum of facts, or is there another element? If a biography of your own life listed only the dates, times and specific actions, would that tell the whole story? We have all done things that, absent both physical and emotional context, could tell a very different story.
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Feb 2011
It's imaginative and fun. Reminds me of the old 'balloon debate' which used to be a popular school exercise for analysis and prioritising facts.

Now adopted by 'reality TV' in almost every other programme!!