Since we both live in the Washington, D.C. area, this film based on the true story of Eugene Allen, who worked as a butler at the White House through eight presidential administrations, was especially compelling to us. Much of our research around it was on local black history, and below, we’re happy to share some further reading:
*Read the article that started it all, when a Washington Post reporter went looking for someone who could speak to the experience of a black domestic worker in the White House during the Civil Rights era. Then check out the book that goes deeper into Eugene’s Allen’s experiences as well as the making of the film.
*We leaned heavily on this book to learn more about the overall experiences of black federal employees during the time period covered by The Butler.
*Learn more about historically-black colleges and universities here.
*If you live in or plan to visit the Washington area, you can visit the house where Eugene and Helene Allen lived, as well as their grave in the historic Rock Creek Cemetery. (And if you are local, give us a shout sometime!)
We both grew up with this movie and have strong feelings about it – so it was interesting to investigate it with a historian’s eye! Below, a few resources for further reading:
*This (as always) excellent three-part Lucy Worsley documentary gave us a good overview of the Romanov dynasty.
*This article from the Migration Policy Institute outlines the challenges that Anya, Dimitri, and Vlad would have faced leaving Soviet Russia (besides their brilliant plan to walk at least halfway to Paris).
*Learn more about Rasputin’s outsized influence on the Tsar and his family – and about his ultimate end – from Smithsonian.
*Ogle the movie’s famous tiaras (or at least a replica of one) here and here.
We are closing out Spooky October with this very dark film that stars two men and an aggressive number of seagulls. Below is your further reading for this week:
*This is a great short primer on the many perils of lighthouse life. If you’re interested in a fuller story, both we and the filmmakers relied heavily on this book.
*Why do we see dead people? This article, which we quoted from in the episode, provides few explanations but lots of food for thought.
*Read Poe’s full manuscript for The Lighthouse here – seriously, it won’t take long.
*Listen to some classic sea shanties used in the film as well as this spooky song about a haunted lighthouse!
Did Abe use his famous ax for more than chopping trees? This surprisingly enjoyable film says yes. Below, find a few resources for further reading:
*The Library of Congress offers this extremely detailed timeline of Lincoln’s personal and political life.
*More about William Johnson’s life and career, as well as a record of his burial site at Arlington National Cemetery, can be found over at Find-A-Grave.
*We dug into a number of scholarly interpretations of the slavery-vampirism connection, and commend these three to all of you.
*Check out the novel on which the movie was based!
This 1996 film based on the 1953 based on the Salem Witch Trials takes some liberties with this historical record. Below, check out a selection of our sources and some further reading.
*Historian Margo Burns, associate editor of Records of the Salem Witch-Hunt (Cambridge University Press) offers her review of the inaccuracies in Arthur Miller’s original text.
*Smithsonian attempts here to unwind the mystery of Tituba, the enslaved servant whom the girls blamed for introducing them to the devil.
*Dive deeper into some of the many competing theories about what caused the village of Salem to lose their minds.
*Learn more about Virginia Beach’s own witch trial – and the 2006 pardon that finally closed the door on it.
Welcome to Spooky October at Costume Drama Rewind! All month long, we’ll be tackling historical films that have a supernatural element. We kicked it off with “The Abominable Bride,” the Sherlock episode that returns its characters to their 1890s origins.
*Learn about how the Victorians invented – or at least perfected – the modern ghost story here and here, and how they enjoyed a brief spell as a beloved Christmas tradition.
*Vincent Starret’s poem 221b is worth a read.
*Get lost in the archives of The Strand.
*Meet Dr. James Barry, the woman who passed as one of Britain’s most male celebrated doctors for half a century.
*Bonus: The Honest Trailer for Sherlock is one of their best.
It’s our first TV series! The Bletchley Circle follows the lives of a group of former code-crackers living life and solving mysteries in Austerity-era Britain. A few notes we found interesting:
*The BBC offers some resources covering the Austerity years here, and you can enjoy a history of SPAM in the UK here. You can also follow Dr. Sarah Mass of the University of Michigan, whose work provided us with a ton of material on the informal market.
*Learn a little about the Official Secrets Act here, or a lot about it here.
*Pay a virtual visit to Bletchley Park (with bonus podcast!) or the National Cryptologic Museum.
*Support the British Royal Legion (which provides vital services to current and members of the British Armed Forces and their families) and honor the women of Bletchley by treating yourself to your own Codebreakers’ Brooch.
*Interested in learning more? Pick up our book recommendations on the wartime black market or the Cambridge Five.
This week, we were off to turn-of-the-century New York with Christian Bale and friends, in a story inspired by the real-life Newboys’ Strike of 1899. A few notes and links for you:
*The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History (which now sponsors programs to help schoolkids learn history via Hamilton) provides some historical background on the strike and its key players.
*Learn more about “yellow journalism” – and about Pulitzer and Hearst, Nellie Bly, and other major figures in journalism from the era – here and here.
*Find out why Spot Conlon and friends were so defensive of their Brooklyn roots.
*The Jacobs family may not have been able to afford a rooftop garden, but they were definitely in vogue. See more of what their lives might have been like via the excellent Tenement Museum of New York.
*The classic book of the era depicting the difficulties faced by the urban poor is Jacob Riis’ “How the Other Half Lives.” Interested in fiction that provides a broader sweep of New York City’s development? Edward Rutherfurd is the master of the place-as-character subgenre.
“Captain, we’ve got whales, sir!” —Star Trek: The Voyage Home
And in this episode, we’ve got whale facts! the 2015 film In the Heart of the Sea is based on this excellent book by Nantucket-based historian Nathaniel Philbrick. Below, check out a few of our sources and some further reading:
*This poem by Herman Melville features the real Captain Pollard as a character.
*Learn more about why whale oil was considered so important – and why we stopped using it.
*The Nantucket Historical Association has tons of great material, including dozens of articles about whaling, an exploration of the town’s role in literature, and an examination of the black experience in Nantucket (including an impressive collection of oral histories). Since public history sites are struggling right now, consider throwing this outstanding organization a donation.
*This video from Ask A Mortician takes a more in-depth (and considerably more horrifying) look at the crew’s ordeal.
*There are some great museums you can also visit to learn more about the whaling industry: Mystic Seaport Museum, New Bedford Whaling Museum, The Whaling Museum and Education Center, The Sag Harbor Whaling and Historical Museum, and the Nantucket Historical Association’s Whaling Museum.
*This New York Times review has provided us with a new life motto.
*Learn more about the real Ivor Novello, “the much-better-looking Andrew Lloyd Webber of his day.”
*Read up on contemporary investigations into war profiteering (but without Laura’s 1930s radio announcer voice).
*We cited this Lucy Worsley book and highly recommend it. Lucy is the co-chief curator of Historic Royal Palaces, and her Instagram is a hoot and a half. We also recommend this book if you’re interested in the British country house system.
*Join us next time for In the Heart of the Sea!