Jenny Thompson





Jenny Thompson is a historian whose work focuses on 20th century American cultural history. She is the Director of Education at the Evanston History Center in Evanston, IL and is founder of History and Company, a history consulting firm that helps individuals and non-profits make use of their history. (www.historyandcompany.com)

Jenny has an MA in American Studies from the George Washington University and a PhD in American Studies from the University of Maryland. Her books include, War Games: Inside the World of 20th Century War Reenactors (2004, 2010), My Hut: A Memoir of a YMCA Volunteer in World War One, (editor, 2006), Evanston: A Tour Through the City's History (editor, 2013), and The First Fifty Years: A History of Alpha Phi Fraternity, 1872-1922 (2013). Her essays and articles have appeared in anthologies and journals, including the New York Times.

Her current research focuses on a visual history of World War One and a portrait of New York City combining both biography and geography. Along with Rodger C. Birt, she writes about New York City at: americanpast@​blogspot.com






Why do thousands of Americans spend their leisure time waging mock combat? How does America's long history of warfare impact its citizens? What does it mean to reenact war "authentically"? War Games explores these and many other questions as it takes readers into the heart of an American subculture whose thousands of members dress as GIs, Nazis, and the grunts of Vietnam and fight with each other over the many meanings of American wars.

D-Day Reenactment, Virginia

It might come as a surprise to some people to learn that on any given weekend there are thousands of Americans who dress in uniforms, join their units, and come together to fight the wars of the past. While American Civil War reenactments are well known, reenactments of more recent wars, including World War II and Vietnam, are far less known to the public. In War Games, author Jenny Thompson takes readers on a hilarious, strange, and thought-provoking journey into this unique subculture.

Based on Thompson's interviews with reenactors, survey data, and seven years of fieldwork--Thompson donned uniforms and joined up with several units to find out for herself what reenacting was all about--War Games tells the stories of thousands of ordinary Americans, mostly men, who make war their hobby. From engaging in trench warfare in Pennsylvania to reenacting D-Day on Virginia Beach, Virginia, these reenactors celebrate, remember, and represent war by meticulously recreating the experiences of the common soldiers of World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War.


**Starred Review** in BOOKLIST


“Thompson writes with the eye of an ethnographer, the ear of a novelist, and the voice of a pop singer with a feel for a groove. War Games showcases a bona fide democratic approach to history--with all that implies. Along the way, we're reminded how much our notions of the past inform the way we live now.”
-- JIM CULLEN, author of The Civil War in Popular Culture and The American Dream.

"It’s a subculture hell-bent on making a spectacle of itself, so there’s plenty of surface entertainment in Thompson’s engaging and sympathetic study." --Publishers Weekly

World War One Reenactment, Pennsylvania

“This strange, enthralling book on 20th-century war re-enactors becomes a wonderful case study on the power of history in our lives: history as a sort of Grail quest, history as fetish, history as reality itself. Thompson's reporting on these quarrelsome and oddly self-loathing people is exhaustive. Her analyses of the meaning of memory to them and, ultimately, to all of us, can have a meta-leveled precision that recalls the methodology of Proust.”

--Henry Allen, Author of What It Felt Like: Living in the American Century and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for criticism.