Approaches to the past with Schivelbusch and Davis

Schivelbusch gathers a handful of first hand accounts on the innovation of railway travel, some positive and some negative. He looks at the social effects and reactions of this world-changing form of transportation. Some viewed railroads as a “guarantor of democracy, harmony between nations, peace, and progress” and others viewed it as bad for health. By examining the perspectives of people and countries at the time of the train’s incorporation into society, Schivelbusch is able to hash out a depiction of railway travel which is unique to the nineteenth-century.

Davis argues that riots, contrary to their inherent chaos, were sometimes believed in the sixteenth-century to have a “kind of system or sense.” She compares views on riots in modern times with those of centuries ago, using a myriad of other writers as her evidence. By looking at the goals, causes, and “occasions” of France’s religious riots, Davis is able to categorize and define them. For example, she makes the conclusion that most religious riots occur “during the time of religious worship or ritual in the space which one or both groups were using for sacred purposes.” Davis manages to take one of the most chaotic recurring events in human nature, a riot, and categorize it through analysis and evidence.

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