Musketeers of Pig Alley as a Historical Source on Gangsters

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Films have proven to have significant impact on the ways in which we perceive or make sense of the society in which we live in. In an increasingly post-literate society, where aliteracy is becoming commonplace, there is no doubt that film is considered to be a major medium in the ways in which people inform and educate themselves. The use of film as a tool to understand history is becoming a popular approach and is a much-debated topic among historians who question the legitimacy of using films as a historical source. This essay will argue that film can be used effectively as a historical source in relation to studying ideas about gangsters. This will be demonstrated through examining the representations of gangsters in films and will also attempt to address to what extent these portrayals of gangsters can be considered accurate or realistic. Finally, this paper will conclude with a discussion on the inherent challenges and opportunities, which prevail when using film as a historical tool.

Gangsters are integral parts of history and have emerged as iconic figures of the industrial twentieth century and represent a culture of mobility, urban space, access and individual life. The gangster is also regarded as an anti-social figure as he is the focus for liberation from hierarchy and the past that society and ideology wish to repress. Therefore we can see that the film gangster represents a seminal figure in the history of twentieth-century culture and forms the focus for a range of tensions that have dominated the discourses of industrialized society. Gangsters are prominent characters in popular culture such as the genre of film with movies that often feature the glorification of their criminal actions and lawlessness often in ...

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...ocess of examining films should also involve the process of the careful selection of evidence and weighing of value.

In conclusion, film can portray the general ideas and attitudes towards gangsters at the time and can act as a good representation. Film can serve as a good reflection of the period in which they were made. Hence, as historians, we need to extricate the historical value from films and distinguish these facts with other historical evidence. Good films such as D.W. Griffith’s Musketeers of Pig Alley can make valuable contributions to our historical understanding. However, merely watching a film is not enough and it is up to us to develop from these general ideas about gangsters and use other historical documents from the time in which these events occurred and use primary sources such as print media to construct an accurate understanding of gangsters.
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