Edward Countryman explores the relationship between cinematic images and the American history.
The popular culture of the modern world is permeated with historical consciousness, but by and large that consciousness has not been shaped by historians. From Shakespeare's dramatic versions of the lives of medieval English monarchs to Alex Haley's Roots , artists have posed in historical terms the questions of their people's identity and of what made them whatever they are. And over an equally long period, people have turned far more to artists and writers than to self-conscious practicioners of the historian's craft for answers to those questions. Questions and answers alike might be simplistic or they might be sophisticated; the story in which a work of fiction presents them might be verifiable or it might not. What counts is the importance of the part that artists and writers have in shaping people's historical imagination.