Constructing History

In “The Railway Journey” Wolfgang Schivelbusch compared and contrasted the forms of travel prior to the 19th century, to the railway introduced in the 19th century. Schivelbusch organized his paper around the ideas of the changing concept of “natural”, the effect of class boundaries on travel, and the evolution of a distinct European train ride experience despite American influence. Schivelbusch utilized primary sources, such as journal articles from travelers of the time, to depict the people’s reactions to the novelty of the railroad. Although as we have learned it is wise to consider the sources used by an author. These journal entries were written by the upper-middle class and wealthy who were both literate and had the leisure time to write about their experiences. This means we lack the experiences and reactions of the lower and working classes to the introduction of the railway. Schivelbusch mentioned the drastic difference between the experiences of the upper and lower class on the train due to the separated compartments, and it would be interesting to read an account of a third class travelers experience.

In “The Rites of Violence” Natalie Davis explains the potential reasons behind religious riots in sixteenth-century France and compares and contrasts the motivations and actions of the Protestant and Catholic mobs which took part in these riots. Davis refutes the popular argument of sixteenth-century religious riots as being caused by economic crises and rising bread prices. Instead Davis argues religious riots can be caused by prior acts of violence against the church by another religious group, a general feeling of the government passing inadequate judicial sentences, or a desire to “cleanse” the community. Throughout her article Davis utilizes primary sources such as, both Protestant and Catholic sermons of the time as well as a source called “Memoires” written by Claude Haton. I was curious who Claude Haton was, as Davis cites his work multiple times, and he was a Catholic who chronicled the religious issues of France during his lifetime in the sixteenth. Therefore as an article about the religious battles between Protestants and Catholics, we should be aware that Haton could have a biased point of view on the series of events as a Catholic and could affect Davis’ article. I found it interesting that Davis chose to use a table depicting the numbers of male victims killed in the 1572 massacres and included the tallies based on both city and occupation. While this data chart is most likely misrepresentative of the actual number killed, it does help to give the reader a semblance of the distribution and to further Davis’ argument.

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