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Reenacting wars - why some and not others?

Ash
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Reenacting wars - why some and not others?

Post by Ash » Sun October 17th, 2010, 2:27 pm

I saw this question on the Talking Point Memo site, and was intrigued. Wondered if any of you can answer it

We've seen some controversies this year with war reenacting. There's Nazi reenacting; the much more ubiquitous cult of Civil War reenacting. But in addition to touching controversy, these wars seem to fall into a relatively narrow span of time. Is there any Vietnam War reenacting? Or thinking more broadly as to time -- any time Punic War reenacting in Tunisia or Italy? Agincourt? Siege of Vienna? Crimean War? I guess suspect there might be some Napoleonic War reenacting.

In all seriousness, I'm curious which eras of conflict do draw a reenacting crowd and which ones it occurs to no one ever to relive. My hunch is that the phenomenon covers a relatively narrow band of time in which regularized uniforms and small arms played key roles. But this is pure speculation. Who can enlighten me?


http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archiv ... acting.php

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LoveHistory
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Post by LoveHistory » Sun October 17th, 2010, 4:50 pm

I imagine wars that were fought largely in formation, and with dozens of combatants involved, would be the ones of choice. Guerilla fighting and small battles would be more difficult to recreate.

Also there are fewer surviving details on the ancient battles (and those almost always from the winning side's perspective). So more recent wars would be less of a challenge to research and stage.

The more modern wars are too ripe in memory and controversy for anyone to want to go there.

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Michy
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Post by Michy » Sun October 17th, 2010, 8:32 pm

I would go along with Love History -- pre-modern wars were conducted in a more formal manner, which makes them easier to "stage", or re-enact if you will. Also, the only real equipment involved -- besides people -- were horses and canons and perhaps some other mobile artillery. Whereas modern land warfare involves tanks and airplanes and bombs -- that would be pretty difficult to re-enact.

Also, I believe WWII (perhaps Korea??) was the last war that had easily-defined "battles"; that is usually what these re-enactments revolve around, they pick a particular battle to stage. In Vietnam and the wars since it has been much more guerilla-style, which doesn't lend itself easily to re-enactments. And, as LH said, Vietnam is still probably too recent and rouses too much emotion to make a re-enactment enjoyable, should anybody even try to do one. As an illustration, if you've visited Washington, DC, think of the level of emotion felt around the Vietnam Memorial vs. the WWII Memorial. And the WWI Memorial is all but unknown.

The Civil War has a strong appeal for Americans because it was "our" war fought on our own soil. Although the Napoleonic Wars fit the criteria I've mentioned above and should therefore lend themselves well to re-enactment, I don't think most Americans know (or care) enough about the Napoleonic Wars to go watch a re-enactment should anyone ever try to stage one.

Of course, I'm speaking for Americans. I could see The Napoleonic Wars having a strong appeal for some Europeans. But is war re-enactment pretty much an "American" thing, or do other countries do this, also?
Last edited by Michy on Sun October 17th, 2010, 8:40 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Post by Ash » Mon October 18th, 2010, 12:50 am

Thanks for that. I'd agree about the type of battles fought making it difficult to reenact some wars, except I know of a lot of WWII enacters.

This is an interesting reader response to the question on TPM:

http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archiv ... ?ref=fpblg

This from the above link I found interesting:

Three things surprised me(about Vietnam reinacters): 1) Actual Vietnam combat veterans participated. For them, it's worth remembering, Vietnam was their 20s. It was horrifying, yes, but it was also a really impressive period of their lives, when they made some of their best friends. One Veteran's Day, we interviewed a bunch of veterans on the Mall in DC, and several of them talked about getting together with their buddies in the wake of the war to recreate the firebase experience. 2) The children of veterans used reenacting as a way of getting their fathers to share their experience. They treated the reenacting 'hobby' as a tribute to their fathers, and in one particularly memorable case, a father and son were able to really connect for the first time when the father was invited to be an advisor to the group of reenactors. 3) Current Veterans (of Iraq and Afghanistan) find it relaxing to participate. Non-veteran reenactors look up to them, but they also reported that experiencing these periods of heightened tactical awareness (however contrived) made their transition to regular life a little easier to bear.

And more:

We've gotten reports of everything from Vietnam War reenacting, to reenacted Roman Legions marching down the Appian Way to English Civil War reenacting down to Viking raid reenacting (curious about that last one -- who plays the raided monks?). It still seems right that it's bigger in the US than in Europe, but the disparity actually seems to be substantially less than I might have thought. And there may not be any difference at all. All told, there's a ton of reenacting going on -- and, as you'd expect, for reasons ranging from amateur history research to camaraderie and ideological nostalgia.
Last edited by Ash on Mon October 18th, 2010, 12:54 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Michy
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Post by Michy » Mon October 18th, 2010, 4:07 am

[quote=""Ash""]Thanks for that. I'd agree about the type of battles fought making it difficult to reenact some wars, except I know of a lot of WWII enacters.

[/quote] Actually, I said that WWII is one of the last - if not the last -- modern wars to have clearly defined battles, so I think it does lend itself to reenactment. Add to that the romantic nostalgia that strongly surrounds WWII (at least here in the States, I don't know about elsewhere), and it makes sense that it would have re-enactment appeal for people who are into that sort of thing (I'm not!). The bombs and airplanes may present a challenge, but with today's technology they probably have a way to simulate the sound and feel of a bomb (??)

As for Vietnam, I'm surprised there are re-enactments being done on that war, I would have thought more time would need to pass. But, hey, if that helps people heal and cope then I say go for it!

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Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Mon October 18th, 2010, 5:00 am

My boys used to re-enact any war they heard about. Now they're grown they like paintball. What is it with guys and projectile weapons?

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Post by LoveHistory » Mon October 18th, 2010, 7:10 am

[quote=""MLE""]My boys used to re-enact any war they heard about. Now they're grown they like paintball. What is it with guys and projectile weapons?[/quote]

They never seem to outgrow that, do they? I can't remember where I heard/read it but someone once said that the two strongest male drives are to create and to destroy.

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Post by sweetpotatoboy » Mon October 18th, 2010, 10:05 am

[quote=""LoveHistory""]...someone once said that the two strongest male drives are to create and to destroy.[/quote]

Interesting that you said that given that, this past week, we've been hearing more about the behaviour of the 7/7 bombers in London in 2005. They apparently postponed the attack by a day because one of them was concerned about his pregnant wife and took her into hospital for a checkup.

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Post by Ludmilla » Mon October 18th, 2010, 1:06 pm

[quote=""MLE""]My boys used to re-enact any war they heard about. Now they're grown they like paintball. What is it with guys and projectile weapons?[/quote]

They also like to blow things up. My husband made his own mini-canon from scratch.

One of the themes Karl Marlantes touches on in his novel about Vietnam is the addictive nature of combat and the shared brotherhood that develops with those you serve with. There is something about that shared experience, compounded by the trauma, that makes civilian life particularly hard to return to.

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Post by Ash » Mon October 18th, 2010, 1:25 pm

My preschoolers regularly will make guns out of the oddest things. A toy blow dryer isn't so odd, but a random puzzle piece that happens to be shaped like a gun? Natch! I had an aid who was horrified by this, wanted me to call the principal, something must be happening at home, etc. I just shrug. It doesn't help that they see it all the time in movies, on tv, and on video games, but it does seem to be prewired into kids when they are born. Best way to deal with it is to guide them into other play, but ultimately it doesn't stop them.

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