While scrolling through Twitter the other day, a certain hashtag — #HATM — caught my eye. It stands for “Historians at the Movies” and is used by “twitterstorians” who come together online to watch their favourite films and then tweet about their accuracy.
While it’s all in fun, the tweeting historians actually serve an important purpose in helping to clear the fog of false narratives that can cloud our understandings of the past.
Take, for instance, the movie version of our feature story, Lawrence of Arabia. The 1962 epic film about a British officer’s role in helping to defeat the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East during the First World War is today considered one of the greatest movies ever made. However, the story of Lieutenant Colonel T.E. Lawrence and the “Arab revolt” of 1916–18 was greatly torqued by an American journalist, promoter, and showman.
I first encountered Lawrence of Arabia on CBC television decades ago. Watching it as a young person, I never once questioned the story’s veracity. I certainly didn’t know that many aspects of the larger-than-life tale were crafted and honed in Canada.
In this issue, writer Ted Glenn reveals the Canadian contribution to the Lawrence legend and reminds us of the importance of questioning the history that is presented to us via popular media.
Elsewhere in this issue, Janice Forsyth explores sports and Indigenous reconciliation, Nathan M. Greenfield recounts the story of war artist Molly Lamb Bobak, and contributing editor Christopher Moore examines the troubling legacy of the 1876 Indian Act.
As Canadians, we are constantly bombarded by American television shows and films, but Hollywood’s version of history often differs greatly from reality. While I appreciate a rousing historical epic as much as the next person, real-life events are often just as compelling without the hyperbole.
Consider Canada’s role in the D-Day invasion of June 1944. By day’s end, Canadian troops had pushed farther inland than any of the other Allies — but you will never see that mentioned in, say, Saving Private Ryan.
Maybe what we really need is a new hashtag; let’s call it #CHATM — Canadian Historians at the Movies. We could use it to help to ensure that Canada’s stories get the attention they deserve.