Cohen’s Last Chapter

: How do Cohen’s last chapters of the book, in Part 3 “The Boxers as Myth,” answer different kinds of historical questions than those Part 1 (“Boxers as Event”) and Part 2 (“Boxers as Experience”)? What do these chapters reveal about how history itself is constructed? What questions might they raise for our own process of writing history?


  • Cohen discusses how important it is to take into account events as well as experiences.
  • How did certain events affect a movement?
  • How did the experiences of those involved play into the event?


  • Cohen mainly focuses on mythologizers.
  • Discusses what kind of mythologizers there are.
  • Covers how they use their work, often trying to mislead and leave out information.
  • Discusses why their work is wrong.
  • Cohen warns us to be careful and to make sure we know where our sources are coming from and to make sure we have an open mind.  It is important to leave ones feelings behind as well.

When it comes to constructing history, historians today should take into account all sources, and we have many of them to work from. It is important to make sure we use them all, because it is our job to bring the facts from the past to the present. We are able to bring forth an event and give readers a clear or better understanding on why things happened in the past, and are these events something we can learn from and most importantly, is this something worth repeating? After reading this book, I will now always ask myself am I using enough sources? Am I approaching this subject with an open mind? Do I have any pre-conceived notions on a topic? If so what are they and why? My final question would be am I presenting an honest, and direct piece of work that will inform, educate, and enlighten my readers?


Cohen’s Main Points

Cohen’s Main Points

  • When it comes to history, Cohen wants everyone to realize that history is more than just facts.
  • How we have been teaching and researching history has been limited, and there seems to be a reason for this as Cohen states, “that actual experience is messy, complicated, opaque, while history (or “books”) brings order and clarity into the chaos.” (Cohen, 5)
  • Therefore Cohen is pushing for people to use perspective.
  • Even though it may not paint a pretty picture, it is important to cover all sides of the story because this all plays an important role in what took place.
  • This includes diving into understanding the experience and the event.
  • The event is important because without a certain event, there would be no experience. In this case, a drought, flood, and Western “interference” lead to the Boxer Rebellion.
  • Even though the experience differs from person to person, in the end it was their experience that lead to the movement that propelled the event.
  • “The problem basically, has to do with how we go about defining the relationship between “history” (in the sense of the history that historians write) and “reality” (in the sense of the history that people make and directly experience).” (Cohen, 4)
  • Cohen is also very keen on warning us about mythologization.
  • “historians deal in (or at least are supposed to deal in) complexity, nuance, and ambiguity, mythologizers generally operate with a one-dimensional view of the past, wrenching from the past the single characteristics or traits or patterns that are then portrayed as the essence of past reality.” (Cohen, 214)

Themes that Interest Me in History

If you ask me what themes interest me I history, I find that hard to answer. History in general fascinates me, and it is hard to find just one topic that I am passionate about. I can find something fascinating about any topic in history. I have to be honest I have not focused a lot of my time on Asian history, but there is a topic I do find that is highly interesting to me and that is the subject of foot binding.

I was aware that the Chinese practiced foot binding for many years, but what really brought the subject to my attention was not necessarily a history book, but a beautiful story by Lisa See called “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.” Since then I have always wanted to learn more about the practice from when it became popular in Chinese culture, to the process of bindings one feet, the effects it had on the individual who had their feet done, to how it stopped being practiced.

Slipper for a bound foot

Van Haeften, Ashley. Woman’s Slipper for Bound Foot. 2015. Available from Flickr, (accessed September 14, 2017)


Hello! My name is Christina! I transferred over from NOVA and I am a history major. This will be my third semester here at Mary Washington. I grew up living in Latin American countries. As an adult I have been to Germany, France, England, Egypt, and have lived all over the U.S.

Gardens at Versailles

Pichota, Paul. Gardens of Versailles. 2007. Available from: Flickr, (accessed September 8, 2007)

Tower of London

Meyer, Frerk. Tower of London. 2017.  Available from Flickr, (accessed September 8, 2017)

Frida Kahlo

DollDiva67. Frida Kahlo. 2017. Available from Flickr, (accessed September 8, 2017)