Pictures from Twentieth Century History: The World Since 1900
(Tony Howarth. 1979: Longman Group Ltd. Essex U.K.)
Pg. 217: Conclusions in the far east
“The city of Hiroshima after “little boy” had called.”
This was the same History 12 textbook I used in 2008. Two pages of this textbook were dedicated to the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the only time in history atomic bombs have ever been used on a population. The accompanying image of the disaster of the atomic bomb features a desolate, destroyed town. This picture, without context, could be the result of any of the firebombings of major cities in World War II. There are no distinguishable traits that link it to Hiroshima. Furthermore, it tells little about the massive suffering of the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the dropping of the bomb.
In order for students to better understand the excruciating and fatal effects of the bomb, including third degree burns and radiation sickness that hundreds of thousands suffered, there are many artists’ works available that have touched upon the human side of the subject of the bombings. For example, there is an illustration book by Toshi Makuri available at the Uvic Curriculum Library called “Hiroshima No Pika”. It narrates the tribulations young Mii and her family suffered through after the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima, with vivid watercolor paintings depicting bodies of the dead, fires, and the suffering people they encounter along their days-long journey to safety. Toshi Makuri’s loose, expressive watercolour paintings with both vibrant and murky hues vividly depict the agony of the suffering people of Hiroshima in the aftermath of the bomb.
Toshi Makuri, along with her husband Iri, spent thirty years creating artful panels depicting different scenes of the Hiroshima bombing for public display. Both partners witnessed the aftermath of “Little Boy” first-hand and vowed to create these panels for remembrance of the event and display a message of world peace to all nations.
Under the shattered structures amidst the excruciating flames.
Parent left child, child left parent,
husband left wife, wife left husband.
Nowhere to escape to.
Figures fleeing in all directions.
This was the Atomic Bomb.
In the midst of this, how eerie–
Mothers’ loving arms shielding their babies from death, dying themselves.
There were oh! so many.
（The Hiroshima Panels XI “MOTHER AND CHILD” 1959）
These artists’ life work displays the human side of the events that occurred that day and will help students see the event from both a historical military perspective and a human perspective. The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are just one example of many that articulate how history is not always about black-and-white conflicts.