On Prebble and micro-history was Re: "Zulu"

Gary Maclennan g.maclennan at qut.edu.au
Mon Feb 18 19:47:35 MST 2002

Very interesting as always Lou.  I have a special interest in Prebble
because he wrote the script basically for Peter Watkins Great documentary
Culloden (1966).

Prebble was a micro historian.  He knew the name of the men lying on the
moor and how long they had been lying there bleeding.  He know who cut
whose throat and when and where.

Watkins film style with his penchant for the close up mirrors Prebble micro
history perfectly.

Marxist criticism of Culloden suggested that the documentary did not give
one the meta concepts to draw the analogy with the Vietnam war.
Specifically mentioned here is combined and uneven development and imperialism.

There is a lot of truth in this criticism but Culloden is unmatched in its
imaginative re-creation of the clash between modernity and
pre-modernity.  Also built into the film is a consciousness of the cruel
and arbitrary nature of power within a pre-modern society.

If one wants to see micro-history carried to its extreme one has only to
watch Ken Burns' Civil War.  At the end of that series of films we know
exactly what Elijah Hunt Rhodes had for breakfast whenever.  What we do not
know is the why and the wherefore of the Civil War.
I will try and dig out what I have written on micro-history and documentary
if there is any interest.



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