Star Wars and History

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 On balance, though, there is more historical content than Star Wars content in the book.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. All of the essays read…well, like college essays. They each cover a broad topic, like the essay entitled “Why Rebels Triumph” which covers how insignificant rebellions can change history. The thirty page essay is broken down into smaller parts which examine various aspects of rebellions. In this case it looks at the causes for rebel success, the phases of a rebellion, why empires lose, the rebel cause and evil leaders, and a closing look at the United States’ involvement in Iran and Afghanistan. There are comparisons to the American Revolution, the Vietnam War, Mao Zedong, Nixon and other relevant examples. But when reading the essay, it quickly becomes apparent that the format of the book’s content is severely flawed. The problem is that essays are not very entertaining.

As a Star Wars fan and a history buff, the book had two different ways it could satisfy a reader like myself. On one hand, there’s the entertainment value of illustrating how history formed the Star Wars films and the television show. We know George Lucas had a lot of influences in crafting the story. Yet the book barely points out any hard facts. Rather than providing all kinds of cool trivia from George on what he drew upon and what he didn’t, the book simply looks at the familiar themes of Star Wars and how they could connect with history. If you would like to know how much George drew upon the Roman Empire for Star Wars, then you’ll be left in the dark. The book does point out similarities, but it never definitively says “Yes, George loved this idea and ran with it!” or “George liked this, but tweaked it like so.” There is also never any mention of anyone else involved with the Star Wars films or television series and how they might have been influenced. I realize George is a busy person and might not have had time to share with the writers, but it would have been nice if they could have supplemented some of George’s feedback with opinions from other members of the cast or the wide ranger of set designers and prop makers.

The other side of the coin is the history element. History can be a very fascinating subject and the book certainly has no shortage of topics. But once again, the essay format proved a hindrance. A typical book can take it’s time to fully explore historical subjects, making sure to cover all it’s intriguing angles and peculiarities in various chapters. In an essay, the author doesn’t have enough room to properly dive into any particular subject. This is especially apparent in this book. All of the essays briefly mention interesting details, but they quickly move on to cover other items. It feels like the sort of essay a typical college student would write. As a student, you’re more concerned about covering the important arguments and getting your point across for a good grade than fully exploring a topic to truly enlighten people. Each essay managed to perk my interest in different things, but none of them ever covered a subject in any kind of depth. It was like reading one teaser paragraph after another, “hey, look at this cool person from history. They did this. Wouldn’t you like to know more about them? Too, bad, we’re moving on.” Honestly, that’s what it felt like.

In the end, the book fails to appeal to the Star Wars fan in me, and it also fails to appeal to my history buff side. It points out parallels between Star Wars and history, but it does not reveal much in the way of direct insights. Nor does it explain how those historical elements influenced George Lucas and the films. The essay format lightly treads upon a lot of historical ground, but never obtains any depth. Fun topics and characters are brought up, but none are explored thoroughly. Instead the book tries to explore both history and Star Wars in a limited fashion and satisfies neither the history lover or the Star Wars fan.

That said, the book actually does a good job of drawing a lot of comparisons between history and Star Wars. It would make a great resource for students or bloggers who are looking for ideas to expand upon. While that may be a pretty narrow audience, it is the best use I can think of for the book. If you love history and Star Wars and you’re looking for an enjoyable book to read, you’re going to want to look elsewhere. If, however, you happen to be looking for a book full of ideas pertaining to Star Wars and history that are just waiting to be explored and expanded upon (with extra research), then this is the book you’re looking for. Since it’s not a complete loss, I give it a two out of five metal bikinis.

Reviewed By: Skuldren for Roqoo Depot.

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  1. […] thinking about holiday gifts, Star Wars and History might be something you’d consider. Click here to read our full review and see if Star Wars and History is worth […]


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