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Popular Culture in the study of HistoryPosted Thursday, June 30, 2011, at 5:08 PM
Cultural History is a relatively new field of study in history. It is so new that there is no widely accepted starting point for the field. Some put it sometime in the 1970s, while others pinpoint it directly to the releasing of the essay Interpreting the French Revolution by François Furet (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_history) in1978. Whenever it's actual start day was it is fast becoming a very interesting field.
There is an even more distinct field within cultural history and that is popular culture.
While most of history has been solely focused on decisions that were made by leaders and wars, and politics; cultural history looks more at the people that were affected by those decisions or living during those times.
I recently wrote a paper in which I had hypothesized that because of the popularity of the Andy Griffith Show, the town of Mayberry (where the show was set) had become America's hometown. It was actually a very fun research project that allowed me to re-watch several episodes of the show because it was apparent that the creators and writers of the show had the same sense.
When looking, for instance, at popular culture of the 1960s a very distinct pattern emerges of two different time periods of the 60s. At the start of the decade the dress of people was still very conservative in nature. Men wore suits to just about every thing they did. They wore their hair short and typically kept their faces clean shaven. Women wore mostly ankle length dresses that, for the most part, hid their natural curves.
By the end of the decade that style of dress was out. Men began wearing their hair long and usually had facial hair (whether it was a mustache or beard) and women were wearing skirts that typically ended above the knee.
The other night I happened to watch two classics, The Time Machine and Logan's Run. The Time Machine was released in 1960 and the dress for the movie was very conservative especially for the women of the future. The movie was initially set in 1899 but when the Time Traveler traveled to the future the dress remained fairly conservative for both men and women.
Logan's Run was released in the early 1970s and it was very apparent that the style of dress had changed. It was set in the future and the women wore very short dresses that left little to the imagination. The men in the movie almost all had longer hair than would have been seen had the movie been made around the same time as The Time Machine.
By looking at Popular Culture throughout history it can be easily seen what were the norms of the times. It is a very interesting and unique field to study that is for sure.
"For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don't believe, no proof is possible." - Stuart Chase
*First paragraph fixed for mistakes.
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