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Closely Observed Trains

History as a record of events and dates can be a dull affair because it does not necessarily capture the dynamics of personal or even state actions as they were experienced by the people involved. Yet people are what make history and what made up the culture or cultures in which events and actions unfolded. Professional historians, if they are skilled enough, can make an account of an era or a significant set of events lively, but the life's blood of a culture, a people, a person, or a nation can often be most effectively conveyed by way of art--from architecture to the plastic arts to poetry to prose to biography. The purpose of this research is to examine a set of selected texts covering a rather sweeping cultural range--from mndern South Afriba to Central Europe to New England in America--with a view toward identifying the ways and to what extent they evoke and amplify linkages between and among world history, national history, art history, and personal history.

For centuries, the history of Africa and the Americas was really the history of Europe in Africa and the Americas. Accordingly, it seems appropriate to begin with the big picture of history in Europe, notably the Czech Republic. Until the end of World War I comprised regions known as Bohemia and Moravia, plus Slovakia, with which they would merge to form Czechoslovakia. Sayer's account of the Czech Republic is framed chiefly as a cultural history, with art being a defining feature of Czech national and indeed international identity. He cites the resonance of "Bohemia" as an exotic place name but acknowledges that Czech history "has no clear trajectory, and . . . lacks an unambiguous and unified subject" (CB 15). That owes something to geography, since the region has historically been a "crossroads" of conflict between other, more politically powerful states.

The crossroads dynamic is tellingly portrayed in the 1966 film Closely Observed Trains, set in Nazi-occupied Cze...

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Closely Observed Trains. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 20:56, June 02, 2020, from