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Star Wars and History 1st Edition

4.0 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0470602003
ISBN-10: 0470602007
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Due Date: Dec 17, 2016 Rental Details
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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

Not so long ago, in our very own galaxy, George Lucas created the most successful and acclaimed film series of all time. The Star Wars saga transports us to exotic new worlds and the farthest reaches of space, where humans and hundreds of alien species fight for their freedom against the immensely powerful and heartless Galactic Empire. Star Wars delivers all of the ingredients that delight moviegoers—but another, less obvious, ingredient makes the stories both extremely compelling and, at times, oddly familiar: history.

From Ancient Egypt and the Roman Empire to the French Revolution and the Vietnam War, Star Wars and History explores the major turning points, heroes, and villains in human history that inspired the stories, cultures, and characters of the Star Wars galaxy. Written in close collaboration with George Lucas, Star Wars and History is the first book devoted to analyzing the actual historical events in our past that influenced the creation of his space fantasy saga.

This fascinating book reveals how Princess Leia's leadership in the Rebel Alliance parallels the daring work of intrepid women in the French Resistance during World War II and the Mexican Revolution, as well as the astounding exploits of Joan of Arc. It also points out historical connections between the Jedi Code and Bushido, along with distinct similarities between Jedi culture and those of the Knights Templar and other warrior monks.

Have you ever wondered whether the rebellion against the Empire bears any resemblance to the American Revolution or the Vietnam War? Has it occurred to you that such characters as Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Emperor Palpatine, and other Star Wars favorites might have been inspired by actual historical figures? Could the Death Star be the ultimate extension of nuclear weapons?

You will also read about how our own civilization's civil wars, slavery, corporate empire-building, and teenage queens were transformed into epic Star Wars history, and you'll discover how Tatooine reflects the lawless seaports of the past and Coruscant embodies our more recent history of glittering, greedy capitalism.

Packed with stunning photos from the Lucasfilm Archives as well as historical illustrations and photos that demonstrate the parallels between film and historical reality, Star Wars and History is the perfect companion for Star Wars fans, history buffs, and anyone who wants to get the most out of every film in the Star Wars saga.

From the Back Cover

A fascinating tour through the true history that underlies the storyline of the Star Wars saga

"A timely, insightful collection that honors Star Wars fandom by acknowledging its intelligence. Even readers who've always assumed history is a dull, stale subject will be captivated by these scholarly meditations upon the links between our world and a galaxy far, far away . . ."
—Dr. Andrea Cremer, author of the New York Times bestselling Nightshade series

"A brilliant illumination of how the remembrance of things past shapes the popular representation of the future. This top-notch cast of scholars embarks on this mind-bending mission with all the requisite wit, erudition and, yes, courage."
—Dr. Mark C. Carnes, Professor of History, Barnard College, Columbia University, and author of Past Imperfect: History According to the Movies

"This is the way to become fascinated with history. Discover current analyses of major events and trends from the Roman and Meiji Empires to Vietnam and modern urban culture through the intergalactic adventures of queens, princesses, Ewoks, the Sith, and their heroic rivals, the Jedi Knights."
—Dr. Judith P. Zinsser, Professor Emerita of History, Miami University, Ohio

"Star Wars has been so successful precisely because it has spoken to myths, legends, and, above all, historical episodes and types familiar to its fans. The well-written and highly readable chapters cover everything from political intrigue and the role of women as leaders, to the ability of rebels to achieve victory against overwhelming odds, and the capacity of an individual to ride the forces of history—or in this case, the Force—to success."
—Dr. Daniel Woolf, Professor of History, Queen's University, Ontario, Canada

"Attention, Jedi warriors! The thrill lives on through this fascinating volume, packed with highly imaginative and distinguished scholarship, and boasting rareaccess to the filmmakers. Highly readable and richly illustrated, Star Wars and History will deepen the enjoyment of fans—and bring startling illumination to students of popular culture."
—Dr. Belinda Davis, Professor of History and Vice Chair for Graduate Education, Rutgers University

"Star Wars fans will love the way this book connects events in our world to those that took place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. History geeks will love the way this book makes the patterns of real-world history visible in the Star Wars universe, too. For those of us who are both, I can't imagine a more satisfying read. And as a history teacher, I can see how useful this book will be in supplementing more standard texts in world history classes."
—Dr. Anne Rubenstein, Associate Professor of History, York University, United Kingdom

"Star Wars and History isn't only a nod to the old adage 'history repeats itself'; rather, by examining such themes as political power and rebellion, diplomacy, slavery and civil rights, and more, this book reminds us that historical people and events have influenced how George Lucas fashioned those moments and how much Star Wars in turn has informed our understanding of these universal themes."
—Dr. Erica L. Fraser, Assistant Professor of History and Historic Preservation, Goucher College

"Crafted by diehard Star Wars fans with deep historical expertise, this book not only teases out the Nazi and Imperial Roman imagery of the Empire, but also draws out startling parallels between Jabba the Hutt's machinations and early modern pirates on the South China Seas. The dramatic historical images and film stills enhance nearly every page, and help readers see a beloved film epic in a whole new light."
—Dr. Krista O'Donnell, Associate Professor of History, William Paterson University

"This collection of engaging essays reveals the many historical models that inspired the culture and histories contained in the Star Wars galaxy. The similarities between Palpatine's seizure of power and the rise of Adolf Hitler are laid out in convincing detail, and the visual historical influences—shown in side-by-side images—are chilling."
Dr. Marion Kaplan, Skirball Professor of Modern Jewish History, New York University, and author of Between Dignity and Despair: Jewish Life in Nazi Germany


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (November 13, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470602007
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470602003
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #645,709 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Arnold VINE VOICE on November 15, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I eagerly anticipated this book, being both a Star Wars fan and a scholar of politics. I've always felt there was a lot of potential for scholarship about the historical/political influences on Star Wars. Upon reading the book, I find myself coming away with mixed feelings.


I suspect the book was aimed towards younger audiences or readers with only a passing familiarity with history. In some ways, this book is a great way to encourage wider interest in history. The authors universally convey their passion for history and placing Star Wars side by side with real history shows how exciting reality can be. If George Lucas wants to encourage education, I think this book will go a long way.

One thing I really appreciate about the book is that the authors are clearly fans of the Star Wars movies. The refer to characters, events, and aliens with ease and no hint of a patronizing tone. There's no attempt to explain the basics of Star Wars to readers. Some authors even refer to characters from the EU and the Clone Wars TV series, such as Ashoka Tano. At the least, the book doesn't waste time or space introducing the saga.

The book is organized by topic, not by chronology or Star Wars movies. So authors write about insurgencies, cities, corporations, etc. Organizing the material this way allows for more focused comparisons between Star Wars and history.


Where I felt the book fell short was in analyzing those historical influences and whether and how they influenced Star Wars. There are three strains of analysis that would have made the book more interesting.

First, most of the authors seem satisfied simply showing a correlation between history and Star Wars.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a great history book to learn how where the scenes in Star Wars originate in real history.
This book is not for all ages. I glued a few pages together that weren't appropriate for my young Star Wars loving children to learn about yet.
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Format: Hardcover
Star Wars and History is an interesting departure from the typical literary works in the Star Wars franchise. Rather than being another guide book, or a piece of fiction, this work is a collection of essays illustrating the parallels between history and Star Wars. The book covers a large chunk of history, as wells as a large chunk of the Star Wars franchise. But the real question is whether it's worth buying?

First off, let's take a look at the scope of the book. The 332 page hardcover book includes eleven essays written primarily by professors and teachers. Those essays cover a diversity of topics including comparisons between the Jedi and samurai, female French resistance operatives and Padmé Amidala, and dictators in the real world and in Star Wars. There are essays that explore how resistance groups and rebellions have worked historically, and how Star Wars has mirrored those aspects. The book also includes a few direct examples that were used by George Lucas. For instance, they reveal that George had the Viet Cong in mind when developing the Ewoks.

Outside of the historical scope, the essays cover a decent amount of ground in the Star Wars franchise. Various elements from all of the movies are explored, as might be expected. However the essays also draw upon The Clone Wars television show and characters like Asajj Ventress and Ahsoka Tano. Duchess Satine and the bounty hunter Sugi are both held in comparison to different French resistance operatives. Even Zam Wesell is mentioned in regards to the famous French assassin Charlotte Corday. On balance, though, there is more historical content than Star Wars content in the book.

While the essays do cover a lot of interesting characters and subjects, they weren't the most entertaining reads.
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Format: Hardcover
There is no shortage of Star Wars-related books on the market, from graphic novels to fiction for young adults to scholarly examinations of the themes of George Lucas' universe. Star Wars and History, edited by Nancy R. Reagin and Janice Liedl, certainly falls into the latter category. The editors recruited several professors of history and philosophy to contribute to this treatise. Their various articles demonstrate the parallels that connect Emperor Palpatine to Adolf Hitler, the Atomic Bomb to the Death Star, and Ahsoka Tano to Joan of Arc, among others.

History buffs who are also Star Wars fans will enjoy this volume to a much greater degree than those who struggled with their history courses in college. While well-written, it is certainly aimed at those who already possess an affinity for historical knowledge and find a scholarly focus on pop culture institutions interesting.

Star Wars is not the only fictional franchise to receive this treatment; the editors have also assembled historical essays for Harry Potter and Twilight, and Reagin has a volume for Star Trek scheduled for release in April; the publisher also has long-running series examining pop culture works to philosophy and psychology.
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Format: Hardcover
A previous reviewer was right on the money when he wrote, "there's relatively little discussion of whether and when history actually influenced Lucas' scripts for Star Wars. Some authors mention the obvious cases, such as Lucas drawing on the model of the Viet Cong for the Ewoks, but by and large the authors don't actually try to make a case that these historical events actually helped shape the Star Wars saga..." Some chapters contain little discussion of alternative interpretations of historical events and historical agents' actions and motives.

I can shed a bit of light on the book's weaknesses in this regard -- the editors and authors were under pressure by Lucasfilm to write exactly as they did. I am a historian and Star Wars fan who sent in a proposal for the book collection, and had a lengthy and illuminating conversation with the editors. Basically Lucasfilm told them what specific topics to write about, which historical parallels to cover and which ones were not acceptable to Lucas's sensibilities or not to Lucas's interests, the parameters in which their criticism of the films could and would not be allowed to fall, etc. The project would have been so much more interesting and would no doubt have had richer analyses had the editors and authors had freedom to write the best essays possible. (One essay Lucas wanted was for Leia and Padme to be favorably compared to left-wing female guerrillas or partisans such as Soviet women fighting the Nazis in World War II, or women of the Spanish Repubic fighting Franco's forces. The parallels just weren't there.
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