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

Fall 2020: Revealing San Francisco’s Hidden 19th-Century Black History: A Tour of California Historical Society Artifacts, lecture by Susan D. Anderson, SF History Days (video here)

Summer 2020: Harlem of the West: The Fillmore Jazz Era and Redevelopment, online lecture by Elizabeth Pepin Silva

Fall 2019: An event-filled two-day excursion to Sacramento

Fall 2019:  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 10, 1:30 pm, via Zoom. Jim Gasperini will present.


Public Programs

Thursday, July 22 2021,  7:00 pm, Public Program, via Zoom. Member Stephen E. Barton will introduce his new book, J. Stitt Wilson: Socialist, Christian, Mayor of Berkeley.

Steven Barton

Faced with the dramatic extremes of wealth and poverty that characterized Gilded Age America, Wilson (1868-1942) gave up a promising career in the ministry to advocate for “applied Christianity”—a democratic and socialist economy based on caring and cooperation that would embody Jesus’s message of love. His varied efforts included socialist evangelism in the Midwest, California and Great Britain; building an alliance between the Socialist Party and the labor movement in his campaigns for governor, mayor and Congress, and supporting Upton Sinclair’s End Poverty in California campaign within the Democratic Party. He and his family became an integral part of “Bohemian Berkeley,” and although his sons all died young, his daughters became socialists, feminists and stars of stage and screen. This will be an online event on Zoom; the link will be sent to those who register here. The event is cosponsored by the Berkeley Historical Study.
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, September 19,  2:00 pm, Monthly Program, via Zoom.
Taryn Edwards will present

Out of the Fog: The Surprising Origin Story of the Cable Cars

San Francisco's historic cable cars have reopened! Beloved by tourists and locals alike, the cable cars are integral to the development, character, and culture of San Francisco. Join Taryn Edwards for a peek into her research about the cable car's surprising origins and an update on the life of Andrew Smith Hallidie, the father of the cable car. Taryn Edwards is an historian and librarian for the Mechanics' Institute of San Francisco. In addition to her professional duties she spends a lot of private time digging up history of the place and people associated with it. She is working on the life of Andrew Smith Hallidie and her research interests include San Francisco's early libraries (there were lots!), industrial exhibitions and fairs, mechanics' institutes worldwide, and the technological innovations that were born in the Bay Area. Find out more at We are always looking for speakers for Monthly Programs; please consider sharing your interests, research and writing with your colleagues, promoting discussion and, perhaps, getting their feedback on your work. Also, consider hosting a meeting; contact: Louis Trager,

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

Members' Recent Activities:

Leslie Friedman’s play, “The Exhibitionist,” received three Zoom presentations. Play by Play, the organization founded and led by Institute member Judith Offer, presented it on a program that included Judith’s play, “Not Too Kosher,” on January 31. That reading/ performance led to two more, on February 3 and 11. “The Exhibitionist” is a satirical, one-act play with two characters re-meeting on what might be a date. Jonathan Clark (Leslie’s husband) played Danny and Leslie played Lily. Leslie has also been invited to give a talk about her recent book, The Story of Our Butterflies: Mourning Cloaks in Mountain View, for Stanford’s program, Company of Authors.

John Graham’s second book, The Reeducation Of A Turd Peddler, is available for purchase ( He describes it as “historic, meta-fiction, and satire” which follows Junipero Serra’s heart “stuck in a jar for two hundred years and reveals who stole it and why.”

As of March 2021, Bert Gordon is Associate Editor of the Journal of Tourism History, a peer-reviewed journal published by Taylor and Francis in England. He may be contacted with questions about the journal at: bmgordon@

Susan Nuernberg reports that she is moving back to Wisconsin, where she will continue her work on Charmian Kittrege London, transcribing and annotating her handwritten diaries (1904-1916) for publication by the University of Nebraska Press. She expects to complete her project in a year.

Welcome to our newest members, both currently residing in London, England. Laure Latham describes herself as “a blogger, storyteller and lawyer,” holding a B.A. in religious anthropology from Paris Jussieu University and a B.A. in law from La Sorbonne. She has practiced law at the Paris Bar and has taught international tax at La Sorbonne. Her writings include articles on the environment as well as children and the outdoors. Laure coauthored George-Daniel de Monfreid: Ami et confident de Gauguin and is currently working on a fictional account of Russian America and Ohlone people taking place in 1839 California.

Esther Shallan is a philosopher (PhD in Philosophy from Oxford Brookes University and Mphil in the philosophy of psychology from Kings College London) with interests and research on the problem of evil, the nature of suffering, and personality traits. She is also a psychotherapist working in North London who specializes in bereavement, depression, and anxiety disorders. Esther is currently working on a book entitled "God, Good and Evil: The Problem of Moral Evil Re-evaluated.”

Congratulations to Our 2020 Mini-Grant Recipients:

Steven Levi for expenses of a visual presentation of his poem, “The Contract," about women's suffrage.
Pam Peirce for editing of her biography of Katherine Gibson Wicks.

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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