Examining Images AS Primary Sources Dr. John R. Murnane

The images below are from the Frank Capra film, "Why We Fight," episode one, "Prelude to War." Sometimes information that is included accidentally can provide clues about the accuracy of a source or the fairness of the argument being made.

This is a freeze-frame from a section of the film about Italy's invasion of Ethiopia in 1935. It is a map of Ethiopia and some of the adjacent area. The narrator mentions Italian Somaliland briefly while explaining the invasion. It is a little bit hard to see, but at the top of the screen the map is labeled British Somaliland. The narrator does not mention this area at all. What is that about? Did the British invade countries in Africa prior to World War II? If so, how did they subdue these regions? Does this contradict the characterization of the Allies as representing the "free world"?
In 1932, Japan invaded Shanghai in China. The film focused on that. But there was a curious scene: this image of a sign in China, written in English. Why was that sign there? Were there other such signs in China at the time? Why? What history is being left out? Is this similar to the situation in Africa at the time?
In a section on book burning in Germany under the Nazis, the narrator says that Americans can read whatever they want as the camera pans across the book selection above. Anything peculiar here? The book selection? Or the claim?

Can you find similar images in the Frank Capra film?

Credits:

Images from Frank Capra, "Why We Fight," U.S. Government film (1942). 

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