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Thread: The Historical Mind-Set

  1. #26
    Toughen up. gothicangel's Avatar
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    Something that irritates me in the current crop of HF who write about the Roman army, is that they are equated with the modern Army. It feels like I'm watching a re-run of MASH. I'm pretty sure Roman soldiers didn't think the same way as modern soldiers do. And this 'Our Boys' guff, it's left me not wanting to read any more of a certain authors books.

    I haven't quite decided yet whether it is down to the target audience [in reality] being teenage boys, or the author is being paid to recruit to the British Army.
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  2. #27
    knows a hawk from a handsaw Shakesbear's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gothicangel View Post
    Something that irritates me in the current crop of HF who write about the Roman army, is that they are equated with the modern Army. It feels like I'm watching a re-run of MASH. I'm pretty sure Roman soldiers didn't think the same way as modern soldiers do. And this 'Our Boys' guff, it's left me not wanting to read any more of a certain authors books.

    I haven't quite decided yet whether it is down to the target audience [in reality] being teenage boys, or the author is being paid to recruit to the British Army.
    Total agreement! The main differences being arms, communications and medicine being very different. I think the only mind set that soldiers of all times would have in common is fear being killed and also being maimed.




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  3. #28
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    Actually...

    women had very important roles.

    If you stop looking at Royalty and the Would-bes if they Could-be and look at 'ordinary' families you can see how women had to keep the family educated, clothed and fed. This being when food and clothes had to be made and education meant passing all the household knowledge like the recipes for all the medicines, and food, how to reckon how much flour would feed how many for so long etc.

    They didn't have time to waste on the woman's lot. And quite a few men appreciated the fact that without these housekeeping skills the family would not survive.

    The time spent in growing and storing enough food for winter and spinning, weaving and sewing is all the daylight hours!

    I think you'll find that in all eras there were MCPs and men who did appreciate that role their women played was vital. Although I'll grant you the Victorian men, especially those who lived in cities, would be less aware of what women could do.

  4. #29
    knows a hawk from a handsaw Shakesbear's Avatar
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    pdr you are right that women had all that work to do - but you left out that they did it all between pregnancies and giving birth.

    Not all people in the same social group and era can be bulked together and forced to fit in with a preconception of what it may have been like in the past. When I do research I am aware that I am interpreting the past in a way that will suit my wip, so my mindset influences how I represent my characters. Being aware of that I try to ensure that my characters are true to the times I have placed them in. It is not always easy and not always in keeping with the plot - but I would rather change the plot to ensure accuracy than make the plot ridiculous by using a misinterpretation of historical mindsets.




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  5. #30
    Toughen up. gothicangel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shakesbear View Post
    Total agreement! The main differences being arms, communications and medicine being very different. I think the only mind set that soldiers of all times would have in common is fear being killed and also being maimed.
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  6. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by gothicangel View Post
    Something that irritates me in the current crop of HF who write about the Roman army, is that they are equated with the modern Army. It feels like I'm watching a re-run of MASH. I'm pretty sure Roman soldiers didn't think the same way as modern soldiers do. And this 'Our Boys' guff, it's left me not wanting to read any more of a certain authors books.

    I haven't quite decided yet whether it is down to the target audience [in reality] being teenage boys, or the author is being paid to recruit to the British Army.

    I loathe the way every conflict is depicted as there were good guys and bad guys and that 'our boys' were somehow better and necessarily fought for a juster cause.

    If you ignore WWII which was a special case, very few wars have been good vs bad. Maybe one side thought they were more righteous (like say the English Civil War) but mostly the enemy was the enemy because he was French or Danish or had stuff you wanted (like when Roman towns were sacked in the 4th/5th centuries.

    Very often the soldiers lacked any form of emotional attachmemt to the cause. They'd beenforcibly recruited (an example: a while back I stumbled over a highwayman in 1762 who was sent to serve in the Army abroad instead of being hanged) or belonged to mercenary troops that fought for whoever paid (look at the 16th century Italian wars or the Thirty Years War for example).

    Anyone who thinks they were 'Our Boys' in any sense of the word needs a serious reality check...
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  7. #32
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    Now there's one I don't agree with. Even though it's not realistic, historical mindsets are obnoxious, I'd generally prefer a historical character with a more modern mindset if it's not absurdly anachronistic. Or, better, a historical fantasy world where the modern mindsets make sense within the worldbuilding.

    Obnoxious?!!!

    Why I oughtta...

    That seriously pissed me off. Pretty much everything I read is historical, either fiction or nonfiction. I don't want to read about teens or werewolves, or sparkly vampires, or dystopian worlds, just my happy little historical places with historical folks in them. And I want them authentic, dammit. Grrrrr....

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  8. #33
    Toughen up. gothicangel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flicka View Post
    Very often the soldiers lacked any form of emotional attachmemt to the cause. They'd beenforcibly recruited (an example: a while back I stumbled over a highwayman in 1762 who was sent to serve in the Army abroad instead of being hanged) or belonged to mercenary troops that fought for whoever paid (look at the 16th century Italian wars or the Thirty Years War for example).

    Anyone who thinks they were 'Our Boys' in any sense of the word needs a serious reality check...
    The way I've always viewed the Roman Army is:

    Category A: The officers clawing their way up the system, on their way to a comfy consulship and/or senatorial job, maybe even emperor.

    Category B: The foot soldiers who saw that being a soldier was better pay, and better living conditions than if they remained civilians, plus there was a generous gratuity on retirement [if he survived that long of course. ]

    So, no I don't think there was any emotional attachment to the cause, than improving their lot in life/lining their own pockets.
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  9. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flicka View Post
    I loathe the way every conflict is depicted as there were good guys and bad guys and that 'our boys' were somehow better and necessarily fought for a juster cause.
    I've always wondered how much of this is taking historical sources at face value. If history is written by the winners to gloss over what Our Side did that was bad, the accounts reflect that. I was recently thinking about this in terms of a novel I read about Brian Boru. (Okay, I couldn't read the whole thing because it was written with such a sense of inevitability!)

    In terms of who was fighting, I think we can draw parallels to today to a certain extent. Some people fight for love of country, some for the sign-on bonus and the steady income, and some don't have any other choice. I'm sure many people did have an emotional attachment to the cause while many people did not. How strongly a person would feel it and express it (volunteer for the front v. run away at first chance) I'm sure would depend on social status.
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  10. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by gothicangel View Post
    The way I've always viewed the Roman Army is:

    Category A: The officers clawing their way up the system, on their way to a comfy consulship and/or senatorial job, maybe even emperor.

    Category B: The foot soldiers who saw that being a soldier was better pay, and better living conditions than if they remained civilians, plus there was a generous gratuity on retirement [if he survived that long of course. ]

    So, no I don't think there was any emotional attachment to the cause, than improving their lot in life/lining their own pockets.
    Or surviving until the next time they could get drunk...

    I once read a book about warfare in Italy in the 15th-17th century where the author wrote very vividly about the typical "professional" soldier (in a mercenary band) who'd hate soldiering and whose wages were always late. He'd owe everyone money because of it but the moment the wages arrived, he'd spend every last dime on gambling, women and wine and then he'd be stuck in the army until he got the next wages - which he would immediately spend too (same with any loot - if the officers didn't simply take it from him). Thus he was stuck for life in an endless routine of marching, killing and, eventually, dying; either from a mundane disease or killed in action. If he made it to old age, he would likely die bitter and poverty-stricken, and not uncommonly begging in the streets. So the typical soldier would usually hate the army life and want to leave but couldn't, having sold his soul to the army, basically.*

    Cheerful prospects! They don't tell you that when you sign up, right? **


    *Not that your average 15th century soldier would likely have fared better if he hadn't signed up. The armies often got the hungry, the needy and the barrel scrape. Bet it was the same in Roman times, right?

    ** Reminds me of my old favourite Peter Drake who actually beat the system. He took part in the War of the Spanish Succession 1701-1714. He managed to always get himself recruited to new companies and then, after pocketing the recruitment bonus, simply skipped and found a new one. In one year I think he signed up for 8 different companies, in the French, the English, the Austrian and the Spanish armies. Please note that England/Austria and Spain/France were on opposing sides!
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  11. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hip-Hop-a-potamus View Post
    Now there's one I don't agree with. Even though it's not realistic, historical mindsets are obnoxious, I'd generally prefer a historical character with a more modern mindset if it's not absurdly anachronistic. Or, better, a historical fantasy world where the modern mindsets make sense within the worldbuilding.

    Obnoxious?!!!

    Why I oughtta...

    That seriously pissed me off. Pretty much everything I read is historical, either fiction or nonfiction. I don't want to read about teens or werewolves, or sparkly vampires, or dystopian worlds, just my happy little historical places with historical folks in them. And I want them authentic, dammit. Grrrrr....

    I replied on the thread in the novels forum where this was posted. I'm not sure my arguments were wonderful; I feel like murayvets made much better points.

    Unfortunately, the person who posted about "obnoxious" historical mindsets replied with an argument I didn't totally get, but which I believe boils down to, "I don't like 'historical mindsets' because they're different." I don't want to quote the post (I don't think that's allowed), but it's over in the novels section for those who care to read it.

    Let's just say that the word "historical-ish" was used. Which I think is kind of like truthiness.

    May I bang my head against a wall now, please?

    Honestly, that poster is not our audience, but it's irritating that he/she would label anything that is accurately historical as being "obnoxious".

    I plan to reply to said post, but haven't worked out quite what to say.
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  12. #37
    never mind the shorty angeliz2k's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pdr View Post
    women had very important roles.

    If you stop looking at Royalty and the Would-bes if they Could-be and look at 'ordinary' families you can see how women had to keep the family educated, clothed and fed. This being when food and clothes had to be made and education meant passing all the household knowledge like the recipes for all the medicines, and food, how to reckon how much flour would feed how many for so long etc.

    They didn't have time to waste on the woman's lot. And quite a few men appreciated the fact that without these housekeeping skills the family would not survive.

    The time spent in growing and storing enough food for winter and spinning, weaving and sewing is all the daylight hours!

    I think you'll find that in all eras there were MCPs and men who did appreciate that role their women played was vital. Although I'll grant you the Victorian men, especially those who lived in cities, would be less aware of what women could do.
    Yes, very much yes. Modern conveniences make housework much less time-consuming, which is too often forgotten. Things like laundry were hard physical work, and somebody had to do it. Is this kind of work any less important than the work done by men outside the home? I don't think so.
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  13. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by angeliz2k View Post
    It's interesting how this thread about historical mindsets has become about women's historical roles.
    I think that's 'cause the poster who stated she found historical mindsets obnoxious later clarified that she doesn't like women-hating narratives, so it was a natural first place to explore. Edit: Actually, it wasn't. It was a different poster in the other thread. So scratch that.

    Probably just as well I haven't figured out how to multi-quote yet, 'cause there's been a lot of really good points made that I want to second.

    And that cartoon: So true. Someday we'll all belong to the Days of Yore.
    Last edited by Goldbirch; 05-07-2012 at 08:31 PM.

  14. #39
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    A little OT, soldiers in the 17th c

    Quote Originally Posted by Flicka View Post
    Or surviving until the next time they could get drunk...

    I once read a book about warfare in Italy in the 15th-17th century where the author wrote very vividly about the typical "professional" soldier (in a mercenary band) who'd hate soldiering and whose wages were always late. He'd owe everyone money because of it but the moment the wages arrived, he'd spend every last dime on gambling, women and wine and then he'd be stuck in the army until he got the next wages - which he would immediately spend too (same with any loot - if the officers didn't simply take it from him). Thus he was stuck for life in an endless routine of marching, killing and, eventually, dying; either from a mundane disease or killed in action. If he made it to old age, he would likely die bitter and poverty-stricken, and not uncommonly begging in the streets. So the typical soldier would usually hate the army life and want to leave but couldn't, having sold his soul to the army, basically.*

    Cheerful prospects! They don't tell you that when you sign up, right? **


    *Not that your average 15th century soldier would likely have fared better if he hadn't signed up. The armies often got the hungry, the needy and the barrel scrape. Bet it was the same in Roman times, right?

    ** Reminds me of my old favourite Peter Drake who actually beat the system. He took part in the War of the Spanish Succession 1701-1714. He managed to always get himself recruited to new companies and then, after pocketing the recruitment bonus, simply skipped and found a new one. In one year I think he signed up for 8 different companies, in the French, the English, the Austrian and the Spanish armies. Please note that England/Austria and Spain/France were on opposing sides!
    I've read a fair bit of history of the 16th-17th century, but the writer who brought it most vividly to life was Grimmelshausen in Simplicissimus. It's a picaresque novel about an orphan in the Thirty Years War, written by a contemporary. G had quite a bit to say about soldiers, introducing his protagonist to them by way of a band of mercenaries who rape & murder his family. The tone lightens up after that.

    Grimmelshausen was by no means anti-soldier, they are in some measure victims of the nightmare world they live in. His protagonist is on both sides of the equation before it's all over.
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  15. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by Goldbirch View Post
    I think that's 'cause the poster who stated she found historical mindsets obnoxious later clarified that she doesn't like women-hating narratives, so it was a natural first place to explore.

    Probably just as well I haven't figured out how to multi-quote yet, 'cause there's been a lot of really good points made that I want to second.

    And that cartoon: So true. Someday we'll all belong to the Days of Yore.
    How to multiquote:

    You know on the right there's a blue box that says "Quote"? Just to the right of it is a little blue square with double quotes and a plus sign in it. When you check that box, it turns orange. That marks this post as something you're going to quote, but doesn't start a post yet.

    You start a post when you check the "Quote" box. You can even do this on a different thread. It will be the final quote in your post, with the orange"+quote showing up first. If you check a bunch of orange"+ boxes, those quotes will show up in the order you checked them, with the "Quote" box quote last.

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  16. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by pdr View Post
    women had very important roles.

    If you stop looking at Royalty and the Would-bes if they Could-be and look at 'ordinary' families you can see how women had to keep the family educated, clothed and fed.
    I think this is connected to to what I tried to say too; women aren't just interesting when they take on 'male' roles - the lives of women as typical women were full of emotions and events in themselves. Women don't have to be atypical to be interesting - read old letters and diaries and you'll find plenty of clever, wry and clear-sighted women who feel very contemporary. And their job was invaluable - why do you think all those widowers and bachelors in old novels had a spinster sister or similar living with them? Because household simply didn't survive without a woman. Big household or small, it was a full time job that required lots of specialized knowledge to keep everybody clothed, fed and clean.

    This is one reason I love British historian Amanda Vickery - she always describes women as if they're really interesting in themselves and there's never anything condescending in how she speaks of their toils and dreams and achievements. I remember her saying something about drawing room conversation being every bit as interesting as a battle field, and I like that. Not that she shies away from the darker side of women's lives - her first book The Gentleman's Daughter contains gruesome child births and severe abuse by husbands, but she still manages to convey that the women weren't just barefoot and preggers and helpless - she shows that they had lots of personality and opinions and quite, quite distinct voices.

    That's me coming from the world of 18th century history, but I'm certain there are plenty of other historians who do a good job describing women as something more than a grey mass of oppressed chattel. I'm happy to take recommendations!
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  17. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flicka View Post
    I think this is connected to to what I tried to say too; women aren't just interesting when they take on 'male' roles - the lives of women as typical women were full of emotions and events in themselves. Women don't have to be atypical to be interesting - read old letters and diaries and you'll find plenty of clever, wry and clear-sighted women who feel very contemporary. And their job was invaluable - why do you think all those widowers and bachelors in old novels had a spinster sister or similar living with them? Because household simply didn't survive without a woman. Big household or small, it was a full time job that required lots of specialized knowledge to keep everybody clothed, fed and clean.

    This is one reason I love British historian Amanda Vickery - she always describes women as if they're really interesting in themselves and there's never anything condescending in how she speaks of their toils and dreams and achievements. I remember her saying something about drawing room conversation being every bit as interesting as a battle field, and I like that. Not that she shies away from the darker side of women's lives - her first book The Gentleman's Daughter contains gruesome child births and severe abuse by husbands, but she still manages to convey that the women weren't just barefoot and preggers and helpless - she shows that they had lots of personality and opinions and quite, quite distinct voices.

    That's me coming from the world of 18th century history, but I'm certain there are plenty of other historians who do a good job describing women as something more than a grey mass of oppressed chattel. I'm happy to take recommendations!
    Well, there's Doris Kearns Goodwin. Her "No Ordinary Time" is sort of a joint biography of Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt during the Second World War. There are a lot of interesting women in that book.

  18. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flicka View Post
    I loathe the way every conflict is depicted as there were good guys and bad guys and that 'our boys' were somehow better and necessarily fought for a juster cause.

    If you ignore WWII which was a special case, very few wars have been good vs bad.
    I mean neither to quote out of context nor to threadjack, but ... come on!

    You don't have to an apologist for the Axis powers to point out that Stalin killed 20 million of his own people, that the US had camps of their own, dropped nuclear weapons, and firebombed Tokyo. The UK might not have been at war if not for their 19th century Imperialism. I think you'd have a hard time proving that WWII was any kind of exception to the all-wars-are-bad paradigm.

  19. #44
    Dull Old Person Flicka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ajoker View Post
    I mean neither to quote out of context nor to threadjack, but ... come on!

    You don't have to an apologist for the Axis powers to point out that Stalin killed 20 million of his own people, that the US had camps of their own, dropped nuclear weapons, and firebombed Tokyo. The UK might not have been at war if not for their 19th century Imperialism. I think you'd have a hard time proving that WWII was any kind of exception to the all-wars-are-bad paradigm.
    What I mean is that the Nazis were so obviously Bad Guys that no one can doubt they had to be defeated. Most wars aren't against self-glorifying, mass murdering, Facist uniform-fetischists who aim at enslaving or even annahilating on an industrial scale people percieved as racially inferior. Yet, if you read historical fiction, it sometimes seem as if they are.
    Last edited by Flicka; 05-07-2012 at 11:31 PM.
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  20. #45
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flicka View Post
    What I mean is that the Nazis were so obviously Bad Guys that no one can doubt they had to be defeated. Most wars aren't against self-glorifying, mass murdering, Facist uniform-fetischists who aim at enslaving or even annahilating on an industrial scale people percieved as racially inferior. Yet, if you read historical fiction, it sometimes seem as if they are.
    Again, I'm not defending Nazi Germany. But if they were so obviously "Bad Guys," why did Japan, Italy, Finland, Hungary, Thailand, and more join their side? B
    Both sides did amazingly cruel and horrible things, but the winners write history, so it's portrayed as a battle of good vs evil.
    /endrant

  21. #46
    Quote Originally Posted by ajoker View Post
    Again, I'm not defending Nazi Germany. But if they were so obviously "Bad Guys," why did Japan, Italy, Finland, Hungary, Thailand, and more join their side?
    (Speaking from what I've learned in recent history lessons & from family:)
    Italy was a fascist dictatorship itself and agreed with Hitler's philosophy -- thus also being "bad guys" (not saying that the citizens were, of course, talking about the people actually in power).
    As for Finland, I remember from my history lessons (I live and study in Finland, so we have had detailed courses on its history) that Finland had to join Germany at the point where Hitler and Stalin began being at odds. Since Finland wanted desperately to stay apart from Russia (which had ruled over it before), Germany was the only side it could choose if it wanted to fight to secure future freedom. Also remember the fact that the Soviet union was the one to attack Finland, not the other way around (Finland would have to be insane to do that).
    Hungary had similar reasons: due to being between the Axis powers and Soviet Russia, it needed to choose a side to protect it from the other one once Hitler started invading Russia. They chose Hitler, thinking that he'd win. They were, obviously, dreadfully mistaken and fell on the wrong side of the iron curtain in the end. (I've heard a lot about Hungary's history from my mother, who grew up there after World War II) So both Finland's and Hungary's main motivation to stand with Germany was that it would protect them from Russia. Japan and Thailand's motivations to join Germany are not clear to me. Perhaps somebody else could briefly explain those? :)

    All this said, I dislike Stalin almost as much as Hitler, especially after hearing what life was like in Hungary during his reign and how Hungary still struggles because of how those times put it back.

    Aaanyway, to be more on-topic: I cannot enjoy a historical novel if the people in it feel and sound completely modern. While I believe that we as humans have not changed at all during the past thousands of years (we share the same emotions, fears, desires, relationships, etc.), political views, society in general and beliefs certainly have, and I don't feel like a historical novel is being honest with me if it "shields" me from those differing views.
    I don't mean that the book has to "approve" of the thoughts of the period. A character thinking one thing and that thing being supported as "right" by the book thematically are two completely different things. For example: A victorian gentleman, the MC, thinks that women are good for nothing. This is his opinion and I'm happy that he has it - after all, there were a lot of men during the period who believed that (though there must have been tons of exceptions, naturally).
    This (IMO) is a plot supporting and even preaching his cause:
    MC goes on heroic quests, female sidekicks try to help him out, they all fail miserably because of their feminine qualities. Author expects reader to laugh at the sillyness of women.
    And this a plot which supports a modern POV, without changing his opinions:
    MC goes on heroic quests and is occasionally helped out successfully be a female character. Though he may continue to believe women useless and make all kinds of excuses for these events, the reader sees that his (and/or society's) views are at odds with reality.
    While this is not really a perfect example, I hope it helps me to illustrate my point: historical POVs are fine, but I like a book's themes to support the modern worldview.

    edit// @wandering: Yes, that sums it up pretty well :D
    Last edited by mephet; 05-08-2012 at 08:52 AM.

  22. #47
    Wandering the west wandering's Avatar
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    "The enemy of my enemy is my friend," seems to summarize it all ????

  23. #48
    Dull Old Person Flicka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ajoker View Post
    Again, I'm not defending Nazi Germany. But if they were so obviously "Bad Guys," why did Japan, Italy, Finland, Hungary, Thailand, and more join their side? B
    Both sides did amazingly cruel and horrible things, but the winners write history, so it's portrayed as a battle of good vs evil.
    /endrant
    I think you're completely missing my point. I meant that after the Holocaust was revealed, the evil (yes, evil) of the Nazis were so forcefully imprinted in people's mind that the war in our minds - generally - have turned into a just war against the Minions of Darkness. Which is understandable, given the consequences of Nazi ideology, but in most wars neither side can pat themselves on the back and say they stopped an empire who had the sort of agenda Nazi Germany did.

    I don't want to derail this thread because the core subject is very interesting, so if you want this debate to go on, feel free to start your own thread.
    The Rags of Time | Twitter | The Fear of the Blank Page

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  24. #49
    figuring it all out
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    Quote Originally Posted by mephet View Post
    ... Japan and Thailand's motivations to join Germany are not clear to me. Perhaps somebody else could briefly explain those?
    ...
    Japan was in it for the overlordship of Asia. Given that the Rising Sun had to displace Britain, France, the Netherlands and the US from what was supposed to become the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, Germany was the most natural ally.

    Thailand didn't care much for Germany, but the Kingdom of Smiles became a satellite of Japan. IIRC the Thai leadership first cut a deal where Japan was not to oppose them rushing a Vichy France colony. (The Franco-Thai War is barely remembered now, even less than the other Vichy France military engagements.) Then it was the business of picking the future winner of the Pacific War. The Thais picked the wrong one.

  25. #50
    backstab x 2! ajoker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flicka View Post

    I don't want to derail this thread because the core subject is very interesting, so if you want this debate to go on, feel free to start your own thread.
    My bad. Didn't mean to hijack this discussion, because it is interesting. I'll shut up now.

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