Thomas Mudsills: Reenacting and Reliving History

Lisa E. Hochhauser, The College of Wooster


This thesis examines the doing of history by a historic reenactment group through a consideration of the nature of history as a myth, whose construction is mutually dependent upon the ideologies of the past and the present, and the groups perception of their experiences in the past and present. The beginning introduces and discusses the three ways anthropology incorporates history: history in social/cultural evolution, history as an institution, and history as a myth. Following this discussion a picture of the group is presented, showing the groups method of performance, how the knowledge is gained and how the group sees these methods and knowledge as legitimate ways of learning and of teaching the public history. This information was gained through participant observations, open ended questionnaires, unstructured interviews, and an examination of the groups literature. The results of this consideration show the groups paradigms of past and present, and the process by which these unite in ideology and experience. The relationship between reenactment and ideology are seen through Geertz' theory of "model of/model for" and the effects of this are seen by Warren's discussion of validation of the present by the past, and Leone's discussion of what the tourists see. A discussion of Goffman's frame analysis shows how these perceptions are coexistant through the mediation of different frames of reference by the participants and tourists during the reenactment. The thesis concludes by showing how the other anthropological theories pertaining to history would have dealt with the topic illustrating why the theories of history as myth best suited the experience.


© Copyright 1989 Lisa E. Hochhauser