I recently picked up Aaron Sheehan-Dean’s new edited collection Struggle for a Vast Future. It is one of the best edited volumes to appear in some time. There are twelve essays from some of the leading historians in the field. The book is well illustrated which gives it a less scholarly feel. This is one of those unusual books that includes high quality essays that are accessible to a general audience. Contributors include Willam Blair on slavery and the orgin of the war, Bob Krick on battlefield leadership, and Gerald Prokopowicz on Civil War soldiers. Fellow blogger Mark Grimsley contributed a chapter on the evolution of the war. In addition, Michael Vorenberg contributed an essay on emancipation, Jeffrey Prushankin on the war in the West, and Victoria Bynum on the home front. Aaron Sheehan-Dean tops all of this off with an analysis of how the Civil War has been remembered and portrayed in popular culture. Every aspect of the war is covered in this volume. As I’ve argued over and over on this blog, we don’t really understand the importance of the Civil War if we fail to take both a broad and focused view.
Over the past few years I’ve used America’s Civil War (Harlan Davidson, 1996) by Brooks Simpson as my basic narrative of the war. This year I plan to add Sheehan-Dean’s book to their reading list. I think my students will enjoy reading it.