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, November 13, 1:30 pm, via Zoom. new member Esther Shallan 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, December 20, 2:00 pm, Monthly Program  via Zoom.
Oliver Pollak: The Arc of Our Own History, 1980-2020
B.Y.O. Holiday/anniversary party snacks & beverages
Amid 2020's procession of enormous events,the Institute commemorates and celebrates the 40th anniversary of our founding. Our own Oliver Pollak surfaces from immersion in the organization's newsletter archive, mountains of board minutes, and members’ reminiscences. His presentation illuminates our development from a small circle of young women scholars confronted by a desolate academic employment market, into the enduring forum, research and writing resource, and social hub that we know now. It’s a story of belonging, camaraderie, utility, and collaboration. Please join us in taking advantage of this opportunity to glance back and appreciate those who started the organization, why and how they did it, and how it has evolved along with its world.     Oliver B. Pollak was born to German and Austrian refugees in England in 1943. The family emigrated to the U.S. in 1952. He earned a B.A. from California State University, Los Angeles; a Ph.D.in history at UCLA; and a law degree from Creighton University, in Omaha, Neb. Oliver taught at the University of Zimbabwe in the early 1970s, was a history professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha from 1974 to 2012, and practiced law until 2016. He has written 11 books and hundreds of articles.He co-founded the Nebraska Jewish Historical Society and belongs to the Institute for Historical Study. His interests include print culture, higher education, Myanmar, Zimbabwe, and legal, food and Jewish history. Oliver and his wife, Karen, retired to Richmond in 2016. 

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. 

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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, 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.”

Members' Recent Activities:

This summer saw publication of John Graham’s Looking For Elves At Wood Creek: Hunting And Other Stories (TheBookPatch), which “follows my relationship with a ranch property that I visit in San Benito County. It covers some history of San Juan Bautista, Paicines, Tres Pinos, Highway 25 and local flora and fauna.”

Oliver Pollak’s “Downsizing Generations of Family photos,” republished from San Diego Jewish World can be found here.

Peter Stansky has just published Twenty Years On: Views and Reviews of Modern Britain (Pinehill Humanities Press). It is a selection of the pieces he has published over the last 20 years on aspects of British history and culture, notably on William Morris, the Bloomsbury Group, and George Orwell as well as other topics, introduced by an essay on how and why he became a historian of Britain. It is available as a paperback or an e-book from Amazon and other sites.

Elizabeth Thacker-Estrada completed a biographical sketch of Alice Charlotte Williams (1877-1945) for the Online Biographical Dictionary of the Woman Suffrage Movement in the United States. Williams served as the corresponding secretary of the New York State Woman Suffrage Association from 1905 to 1909. She was also a librarian. Liz appreciates the perceptive comments she received about the sketch from Institute members Joanne Lafler, Rose Marie Cleese, and Bonda Lewis.

Leslie Friedman’s play, “The Panel,” was the September offering of Play by Play, the organization presenting performance readings of new plays founded by Institute member Judith Offer. “The Panel” was originally accepted for March, but the pandemic cancelled the live event. Leslie was delighted to have The Panel read online and to receive many positive responses to it from audience members. After the reading Judith led a discussion about funding for the arts and diversity. On October 24 Leslie also presented her book The Dancer’s Garden at Stanford’s Company of Authors, an event founded and directed by Institute member and Stanford professor emeritus Peter Stansky. This program was originally slated for live presentation on May 2, but rescheduled for the Zoom format.

Bonda Lewis reports: “I’m doing my first show by Zoom on 28th October, for a Rotary meeting in Los Gatos. Is that sort of off-the-wall? I think so—but it’s an interesting challenge to perform for one camera—and that fixed—and no real audience. (Even when doing television, there are crew members and production types as sounding board.)

Ernie Hook notes that “I just finished an article on aspects of the history of therapeutic bloodletting, far I suspect from the general interests of almost all members.”

Kevin Knaus writes that he has recently started writing the biography of Amos P. Catlin, who came to California in 1849 and was active in mining, business, politics, and eventually was elected as a Sacramento County Superior Court Judge. “Catlin was a very honorable and ethical man. The drama and interest of his life comes not from personal failings, but the politics and law suits he was involved with.”

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 webmaster@instituteforhistoricalstudy.org.

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Berkeley, CA 94708
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