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Ken Burns's the Civil War: Historians Respond

by Toplin, Robert B. E

  • ISBN: 9780195115819
  • ISBN10: 0195115813

Ken Burns's the Civil War: Historians Respond

by Toplin, Robert B. E

  • List Price: $13.95
  • Binding: Paperback
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publish date: 04/01/1997
  • ISBN: 9780195115819
  • ISBN10: 0195115813
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Description: "Will surely interest many moved by the phenomenal TV series". -- Booklist

Ken Burns's documentary The Civil War made television history, breaking all viewing records for a PBS series. Indeed, forty million people saw it, more than the populations of the Union and the Confederacy combined. For a generation of Americans, this documentary is the Civil War. Yet many professional historians criticized it sharply.

Ken Burns's The Civil War brings together detractors, supporters, and Ken Burns himself in a volume that will inspire readers to look again at this stunning documentary, at the way television shows history, and at the Civil War itself. For example, Catherine Clinton chides the filmmakers for the film's heavy military emphasis and the short shrift given to women. Eric Foner and Leon Litwack are even more scathing, saying that the series distorts the legacy of the war by focusing on the preservation of the union, ignoring the importance of the institution of slavery to those who fought the war, and neglecting the experiences of blacks both during and after the war.

In response, C. Vann Woodward, who served as an advisor to the series, and Ken Burns himself describe their painstaking efforts to develop a sophisticated interpretation of history in The Civil War. Woodward contends that the unique power and responsibility of art is to bring the past to life, not to engage in historical polemics. Ken Burns's own response is a defense of his art that is as well-crafted as the series itself. He discusses the unique limitations of television: unlike written history, for example, television documentaries require specific, identifiable visual images, limiting the coverage of subjectswith little pictorial documentation.

Ken Burns's The Civil War is for anyone who was intrigued and touched by that monumental series, and by the even more monumental war that it illuminated.

"A lively debate with as much to say about the series specifically as about putting history on film generally". -- Booklist

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