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The Mission and Historical Missions: Film and the Writing of History

  • James Schofield Saeger (a1)

Because of the power of film, movies with historical themes affect public perceptions of the past more deeply than do scholarly reconstructions. Film makers and historians search for meaning in separate ways, but their quests can converge. Examples of different approaches to similar destinations are found in a newer film and older historical views of Catholic missions in South America. Released in 1986, The Mission, directed by Roland Joffé with a screenplay by Robert Bolt, displays paternalistic attitudes like those of an earlier generation of North American academic historians. The film's voice is a white European distortion of Native American reality. This essay will examine that voice, offer alternative explanations of historical events, and suggest a research agenda for future study of the Guarani missions of Paraguay, often mentioned in surveys but seldom studied by North American historians.

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James Schofield Saeger , “Survival and Abolition: The Eighteenth Century Paraguayan Encomienda,” The Americas, vol. 38 (July, 1981), 5985.

Calvin Martin , “Ethnohistory: A Better Way to Write Indian History,” Western Historical Quarterly, 9 (January, 1978), 4156.

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The Americas
  • ISSN: 0003-1615
  • EISSN: 1533-6247
  • URL: /core/journals/americas
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