Tag Archives: war

This Memorial Day…

Remember those who’ve served in the US military throughout history.


Molly Pitcher (Mary Ludwig), an American Revolutionary heroine, loading a cannon at the Battle of Monmouth, NJ, June 28, 1778. Her husband has fallen from exhaustion beside the cannon. Painting by D.M. Carter, Sons of the Revolution.


“Captains of three student companies” a voluntary company at the University of Michigan trains for Civil War service, 1861.



The highly decorated 369th Infantry Regiment of World War I, an African American regiment.


Eleanor Roosevelt with soldiers on Guadalcanal in the middle of World War II.










Lincoln: The Man and the Movie

Abraham Lincoln, 1860.

The eternal teacher question: How do we get students interested in history?  Engaging with students in diverse and creative ways is something teachers work to do on a daily basis.  Taking the (let’s face it) sometimes dry facts of our textbooks and turning them into interesting and witty lessons that will inspire students, can be tiring, challenging, and downright frustrating.  Why not take advantage of popular culture moments!

From the Official “Lincoln” Website



For example, today the Steven Spielberg movie “Lincoln” appears in theaters and offers a great opportunity to take a closer look at the Civil War.  Connecting history with popular culture is an opportunity to open student’s eyes to the broader impact of historical events.  What better way than a new movie to get students thinking of history as exciting and relevant rather than boring and outdated.

Daniel Day-Lewis takes on the iconic role that depicts the last few months of Lincoln’s life, the decisions he made in regards to the South, and the difficulty of those decisions.  But, will our students appreciate what led to these important moments?  Will they understand the roots of the War before heading to the movie?  To help them get more out of their cinematic experience, turn to the late Roland Marchand for inspiration!  Over the years, Marchand created a variety of lessons based on primary documents for his university classes. Particularly useful to pair with “Lincoln” is Marchand’s lesson “Lincoln and the Outbreak of War, 1861.” In it, students analyze the events in the first weeks of Lincoln’s presidency to determine his role in the conflict.  The high school version provides a “Cast of Characters” and their voices to help students write a history of the Civil War.  For middle school, students examine a collection of documents designed to help them understand Lincoln’s role.

Union recruitment poster, April 1861.

Teachers can supplement this trove of written sources with images from the Marchand Archives.  Notices announcing the Union’s dissolution, recruitment posters, and paintings of important battles provide fodder for discussion.  For what reasons did individuals go to war and continue to fight? How did politicians express these ideas expressed to the nation?  What impact did battles have on local communities?  On the nation?

Together, the document based lessons and the images, provide students with a solid background to help them better understand the movie.  But more than that, analyzing historical sources helps students develop and hone the skills needed to become critical examiners of how history is interpreted through popular culture.

Complicating the Aztecs

Codex Telleriano-Remensis: Historical Chronicle 1383-1399, c. 1563

Title:  Codex Telleriano-Remensis: Historical Chronicle 1383-1399, c. 1563

About the image: The destruction of Colhuacan by the Aztecs and Tepanecs. Colhuacan had been founded by the Toltecs under Mixcoatl and was the first Toltec city.

Why does Professor Andrés Reséndez at U.C. Davis find this image interesting?

“In class we often present the Aztec empire as timeless: always powerful, always an empire.  Yet the Aztecs had a history too.  Their rags-to-riches story is so extraordinary that it is hard to believe (and rightfully so, for we know that they rewrote their own history!)  According to this version, the Aztecs were originally a lowly band of wanderers arriving to the valley of Mexico when it was already occupied by several other city-states.  Colhuacan was one of the dominant powers in the fourteenth century.  The leaders of Colhuacan tolerated the late-arriving Aztecs by employing them as mercenaries and giving them other menial tasks while also forcing them to live in marginal lands.

Yet, from these humble beginnings, the Aztecs rose to power by skillfully establishing alliances with other city-states of the valley.  This folio of the Codex Telleriano-Remensis shows the moment when the Aztecs allied with the Tepanecs finally defeated Colhuacan.  I find it especially interesting for what it reveals about the Aztecs’ evolving culture and identity.  Two Aztec warriors no longer clad in animal skins (as they are depicted in earlier folios of the codex) but dressed in cotton (and therefore fully assimilated to the sedentary culture of central Mexico) are battling the mighty city-state of Colhuacan and setting it on fire.  They were no longer outsiders but important players.  Undoubtedly, this victory was a turning point in the history of central Mexico, but a turning point all but ignored in a historical narrative that almost always begins much later with the Spanish arrival.”

Related Topics/Themed Collections: Ancient Mexico, Arts & Architecture, War, Religion

Lessons in the Marchand Collection:

Resources Available in the Marchand Collection:

  • Jacques Soustelle, Daily Life of Aztecs: On the Eve of the Spanish Conquest
  • David Carrasco, Daily Life of the Aztecs: People of the Sun and Earth
  • Gisele Díaz and Alan Rodgers, The Codex Borgia: A Full-Color Restoration of the Ancient Mexican Manuscript
  • Miguel Léon-Portilla, The Broken Spears: The Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico

Share your ideas! How would you use this image? Let us know here.