Public Program: World War I Films

All QuietA series of major films about World War I begins in January and continues into May. Showings will be on Sunday afternoons, at the San Francisco Main Library on the dates indicated below. Each film will be introduced by an Institute member, and there will be time for discussion afterwards. The series is co-sponsored by The Institute and by Friends of the San Francisco Public Library. Mark these dates in your calendars!

January 4, 2015 1:00 p.m.
“All Quiet on the Western Front” (1930; 130 minutes)

Based on the novel of the same name by German author Erich Maria Remarque, “All Quiet on the Western Front” depicts the experiences of a young German recruit whose initial patriotism is severely tested by the harsh realities of trench warfare. Enormously popular in the United States, the film won Best Picture and several other awards in the 1930 Academy Awards. It was never as popular in Europe and would be banned in Nazi Germany.

February 22 1:00 p.m.
“La Grande Illusion” (1937; 117 minutes; subtitles)

Directed by Jean Renoir (son of the artist), “La Grande Illusion” is considered to be one of the great films of all time. It takes us away from trench warfare to a prisoner-of-war camp. Three French prisoners, all officers, are plotting an escape from a German prison camp. One is an aristocrat; the others are a working class Parisian and a wealthy Jew. The German director of the prison camp and the aristocratic French officer find they have much in common including family and friends, as well as a gentlemanly code of conduct.

March 8 1:00 p.m.
“Paths of Glory” (1957; 86 minutes)

The novel on which this film was based was inspired by true events in 1915, when French soldiers who refused to participate in a suicidal charge from the trenches were tried for cowardice. Directed by Stanley Kubrick and starring Kirk Douglas, “Paths of Glory” shows the indifference of commanding officers to the lives of enlisted men—a common theme in writings and films about World War I. Made at the height of our Cold War, the film was a strong anti-war statement. A critic notes that it has “lost none of its power in the years since it was made.”

April 19 12:30 p.m.
“Lawrence of Arabia” (1962; 216 minutes)

Set in the Middle East during World War I, “Lawrence of Arabia” is regarded as a great modern epic. The combat depicted is glamorous: instead of tanks, there are camels; instead of trenches, there are vast expanses of sand. The enigmatic character of T. E. Lawrence is at the center of a story of competing political interests. Arabic nationalists are in revolt against what remains of the Ottoman Empire (an ally of Germany and Austria). Western allies (Britain, France) seek to protect and control the Red Sea and the Suez Canal. After they defeat the Ottomans, they also plan to control what is now Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, and Iraq. Lawrence’s sympathies are with the Arabs, but he is also testing himself, physically and psychologically. The outstanding cast includes Peter O’Toole (as Lawrence), Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, and Omar Sharif.

May 17 1 p.m.
“Regeneration” (1997; 114 minutes)

Released in the U.S. as “Behind the Lines”, this film is based on Pat Barker’s novel of the same name. It tells the story of British officers of World War I sent to an asylum in Scotland for emotional troubles, then called “shell shock”, now known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Two of the men meeting there are Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, two of England’s most important WW I poets. The themes addressed are the meaning of masculinity, of the responsibility of officers to the men they lead into battle, and how mental disorders should be treated. In this film, as in many others, class differences play an important role.

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California and the West Events

Summer 2020: Harlem of the West: The Fillmore Jazz Era and Redevelopment, an online lecture by Elizabeth Pepin Silva, a documentary filmmaker, photographer, writer, and former day manager of the historic Fillmore Auditorium, August 16.

Fall 2019: An event-filled two-day excursion to Sacramento, a tour of Marin Civic Center, and presentation by member Bonnie Portnoy on The Man Beneath the Paint: Tilden Daken.

Summer 2019: Reading of Judith Offer's play, Scenes from the Life of Julia Morgan

Fall 2018: Public Program, "South Asians in the South Bay: The Privileged Immigrants"

Spring 2018: Excursion to Niles area of Fremont with historic train ride and silent film museum

Spring 2018: The California and the West study group initiated the two public programs on "The Future of the Past in the Digital Age" and Benjamin Madley's talk on An American GenocideThe United States and the California Indian Catastrophe, 1846–1873.

Fall 2017: Martinez Adobe Fandango; Public Program: “Siberia and California: Connections During the Russian Revolution and Civil War”

Fall 2016: Amador County

Summer 2016: San Francisco Presidio

Winter 2016: Berkeley History Center

Spring 2015: Sonoma Plaza

Winter 2015: San Francisco Public Library

Summer 2014:  Red Oak Victory and World War II Homefront National Historic Park, Richmond

Spring 2014:  Los Gatos History Museum, "American Bohemia: The Cats Estate in Los Gatos”

Winter 2014:  Tour of California Historical Society exhibition on Juana Briones, January 25

Summer 2013:  Green Gulch Farm Zen Center visit, August 15

Spring 2013: Visits to Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum and the McCune Collection at the Vallejo Public Library, April 13

Play Readers Upcoming Meeting

In the abundance of caution recommended by heath authorities, the group has decided to take a break from regular meetings.

The group welcomes new members.  If you wish to be placed on our email list and receive announcements, contact Joanne Lafler.

Writers Group Upcoming Meetings

Sunday, October 11, 1:30 pm, via Zoom. Cathy Robbins will present.


Public Programs

Saturday, September 26, 1:00 pm, Public Program  via Zoom - pre-registration required Revealing San Francisco’s Hidden 19th-Century Black History: A Tour of California Historical Society Artifacts Part of San Francisco History Days, this event is co-sponsored by the California Historical Society and the California African American Museum. Join Susan D. Anderson, history curator of the California African American Museum, for a talk and tour of artifacts that reveal the hidden history of San Francisco’s 19th-century African American past. Anderson’s talk begins with the Gold Rush and weaves the state’s raucous beginnings into the national narrative. The photographs, manuscripts, and publications in this presentation allow viewers to experience the urgency of early campaigns for civil rights and the fervent hopes of the African American community. Learn about the beloved ship’s captain who has a street named for him in West Oakland. Hear a Civil War poem by a distinguished Black poet and friend of John Brown proclaimed in public in 1864 San Francisco. See court documents of the lawsuit brought to challenge discrimination on streetcars 90 years before Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott. This presentation proves that California history is more challenging, complicated, and fascinating than we’ve been taught. Hosted and co-sponsored by the Institute for Historical Study, co-sponosred by the California Historical Society and the California African American Museum. This event is free but pre-registration is required.  
Public programs have included panel discussions, individual presentations, and film series. Programs are co-sponsored with other institutions, including public libraries, universities, museums, and archives. Read More...

Next Monthly Program

Sunday, October 18, 2 pm, Monthly Program  via Zoom. Anne Evers Hitz will present: Lost Department Stores of San Francisco: Six Bygone Stores That Defined an Era In the late nineteenth century, San Francisco's merchant princes built grand stores for a booming city, each with its niche. For the eager clientele, a trip downtown meant dressing up — hats, gloves, and stockings required — and going to Blum's for Coffee Crunch Cake, or Townsend's for creamed spinach. The I. Magnin empire catered to a selective upper-class clientele, while middle-class shoppers loved the Emporium department store, with its Bargain Basement and Santa for the kids. Gump's defined good taste; the City of Paris satisfied desires for anything French; and edgy, youth-oriented Joseph Magnin ensnared the younger shoppers with the latest trends. Drawing on the memories of former employees and native San FranciscansAnne looks back at the strong, colorful personalities who created six major stores — including Gump's (revived recently, greatly reduced) and White House — that defined shopping in San Francisco before the eras of big-box stores and the Internet.  Anne Evers Hitzis an IHS member and proud fifth-generation San Franciscan with a longstanding interest in The City's history and lore. She is the author of Emporium Department Store (Arcadia, 2014), San Francisco's Ferry Building (Arcadia, 2017), and Lost Department Stores of San Francisco: Six Bygone Stores That Defined an Era (The History Press, 2020)She is a guide at the Ferry Building for City Guides, a group of local volunteers who give free walking tours of San Francisco. A graduate of UC Berkeley, Anne is a writer, editor, and project manager who has had her own communications consulting firm in San Francisco for over 25 years. She worked as publicity director for the University of California Press and as an editorial assistant at the publishers Oxford University Press and Farrar, Straus & Giroux in New York. Anne received an IHS mini-grant to assist in the preparation of her latest book.      

About Us

The Institute for Historical Study is a community of researchers, writers, and artists. Our common bond is a devotion to history in its many forms. Through wide-ranging programs, we share research, ideas, and practical advice and provide a public forum for the discussion of history. 


We Promote:

  •  the study and discussion of history outside the traditional classroom setting
  •  research, writing, performances, exhibitions, and other expressions of historical study
  •  non-traditional and interdisciplinary areas of study as well as traditional approaches to history



Member News

Welcome to our newest members David Goldberg and Stephen Barton. Learn about them under Member Profiles. Welcome back to Paula Gillett, a founding member and first president of our board of directors. She is now professor emerita in the Humanities Department of the College of Humanities and the Arts at San Jose State.

Members' Recent Activities:

Laudatory reviews of Karen Offen’s latest volumes on The Woman Question in France have appeared in the Journal of Modern History (Vol. 92, No. 1, March 2020) and in the American Historical Review (Vol. 125, No.2, April 2020).

Tim Welsh has kept busy with updates to his website, detailing life in San Francisco during the shutdown as compared to earlier or “vintage” years.

Jody Offer's Pullman porters play (“Compared to What”) is contracted for an August 2021 run at the Masquers Theatre in Point Richmond. She continues her series of poems about “Drumpf and his cohort.” Her interview by Nina Serrano, a regular reviewer of poetry books, was broadcast on KPFA on April 14th. Under discussion was Jody’s collection of poems, The Grating of America.

Katya Miller was the featured speaker at the Cal Alumni Club in Sonoma County in February. She presented her work on the Statue of Freedom, erected on the Capital dome in 1863 in middle of the Civil War.

Joe Miller gave his talk, “Wild Women Suffragists and Their Reputation as Sex Radicals” to the Sonoma Valley Historical Society in February. “The audience laughed in the right places, and the feedback from them was encouraging.”

Maria Sakovich contributed another vignette to the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation cache of stories at the Immigrant Voices website, “The Contrasting Cases of Two Russian Choral Directors” 

Congratulations to Our 2019 Mini-Grant Recipients:

Joe Miller, for his article on “Wild Women Suffragists” 

Anne Evers Hitz, for her book, Lost Department Stores of San Francisco.

Members:  Please submit news of your history-related publications, lectures, awards, research finds, etc. to

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Institute for Historical Study
1399 Queens Road
Berkeley, CA 94708

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