Cover image for War and American popular culture : a historical encyclopedia
War and American popular culture : a historical encyclopedia
Holsinger, M. Paul, 1938-
Publication Information:
Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
x, 479 pages : illustrations ; 25
Reading Level:
1290 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E181 .W26 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Non circulating

On Order



Spanning more than 400 years of America's past, this book brings together, for the first time, entries on the ways Americans have mythologized both the many wars the nation has fought and the men and women connected with those conflicts. Focusing on significant representations in popular culture, it provides information on fiction, drama, poems, songs, film and television, art, memorials, photographs, documentaries, and cartoons. From the colonial wars before 1775 to our 1997 peacekeeper role in Bosnia, the work briefly explores the historical background of each war period, enabling the reader to place the almost 500 entries into their proper context.

The book includes particularly large sections dealing with the popular culture of the American Revolution, the Civil War, the Indian Wars West of the Mississippi, World War II, and Vietnam. It has been designed to be a useful reference tool for anyone interested in America's many wars, to provide answers, to teach, to inspire, and most of all, to be enjoyed.

Author Notes

M. PAUL HOLSINGER is professor of history at Illinois State University. He is also the founder of the World War II area of the Popular Culture Association and organizes annual sessions about that war and its cultural representations. He has authored and edited a number of works about America's wars and popular culture, including Visions of War: World War II in Popular Literature and Culture (1992) and The Ways of War: The Era of World War II in Children's and Young Adult Fiction (1995).

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Holsinger, a professor of history at Illinois State University, has attempted to pull together in one volume "many of the most significant representations in popular culture that deal with this nation's various wars." He admits that though entries span American history from about 1565, his book is "undeniably tilted" toward the past 60 years. The popular culture forms he examines include novels, short stories, poems, songs, plays, movies, radio and television, paintings, photographs, cartoons, toys, comic books, dime novels, slogans, and posters. The book is arranged chronologically, in chapters from "Colonial Wars, 1565^-1765" to "The United States Military Since 1975." A generally clear and cogent historical summary of the issues surrounding each war forms an introduction to each chapter, after which appears an alphabetical list of signed entries. Numbers of entries in each chapter range from five for "Indian Wars East of the Mississippi" to more than 130 for "World War II." Treatment length runs from around a half-page to more than a page. The level of writing, analysis, and readability is high. Examples of topics include: from the Civil War, the autobiography Mary Chestnut's Civil War, the song "Maryland, My Maryland," Matthew Brady Studios, Herman Melville, and Memorial Day; and from World War II, G.I. Joe cartoons, the song "God Bless America," the books Gravity's Rainbow and Guadalcanal Diary, the television series Hogan's Heroes, Bob Hope, Randall Jarrell, the Jeep, and the slogan "Kilroy Was Here." Bibliographic references appear at the end of each entry as well as after chapter introductions, but their numbers have been limited by space considerations. A black-and-white "photo essay" contains examples of paintings, postage stamps, and posters. The volume concludes with an index. The study of popular culture is growing. Besides the advantages of its browsability and nostalgic subject matter, this book will serve as an important starting point for those who wish to begin exploration of this interdisciplinary field. Although titles such as Encyclopedia of American Social History (Scribner's, 1993) and Encyclopedia of Social History [RBB My 15 94] include discussions on popular culture, only War and American Popular Culture provides detailed examinations of representations of war. Recommended for academic and large public library collections.

School Library Journal Review

Gr 9 Up-This book covers an eclectic mass of material, examining contributions to our popular culture that range from folk songs and poetry ("Paul Revere's Ride") to TV movies, toys (G.I. Joe dolls), and controversial war memorials. The volume is organized by periods of war from Colonial America to the present. Within these sections entries are alphabetical. The articles are clear, easy to read, and resplendent with tidbits of trivia. Some of the topics are a bit off the wall, such as the inclusion of outdoor dramas of Unto These Hills and Tecumseh!, and there seems to be no reason why certain figures like Randall Jarrell were profiled, as opposed to Norman Mailer and James Jones, who were not. There are some minor editing errors: while the index indicates Mailer is mentioned on page 237, he isn't, and Beatles is misspelled in the entry under "Give Peace a Chance." Eight pages of average-quality black-and-white photographs and reproductions are grouped together in the center of the book. Despite some flaws, the many articles on folk and pop songs, novels, and films are of immense interest and make this a valuable resource.-Herman Sutter, Saint Pius X High School, Houston, TX (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

It seems evident that the American character is inextricably linked to war, and popular culture makes this plain. Holsinger classifies the American war experience into 13 chapters, ranging from "Colonial American Wars, 1565-1765" to "The United States Military since 1975." Each chapter features an introductory essay followed by brief descriptions of significant popular persons, events, and artifacts, among which are television programs, sculpture, songs, comic books, films, novels, and theatrical productions. A brief bibliography for further reading follows each introduction and entry. (The brevity of the bibliographies is the book's chief weakness.) Eight pages of black-and-white captioned images (from Emanuel Leutze's "Washington Crossing the Delaware" to the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial) complete the volume. Holsinger admits a modernist bias, emphasizing WW II to the present "because Americans today are far more attuned to the modern era than they are to the past." Newer materials are chosen for inclusion since they will be more accessible. This could easily have been a massive, multivolume work, but Holsinger deliberately chose a lower profile. His selections and omissions can be challenged, but he accomplishes his goal of offering a practical, readable, basic reference tool. A. Ellis Northern Kentucky University

Table of Contents

Colonial American Wars, 1565-1765
The American Revolution The War of 1812
Indian Wars East of the Mississippi, 1783-1845
The Texas Revolution and the War with Mexico, 1836-1848
The Civil War Indian Wars West of Mississippi, 1862-1890
The Spanish-American War and the Philippine Insurrection World War I and the 1920s World War II
The Korean War
The War in Vietnam
The United States Military since 1975