The latest History Carnival is up at Rob McDougall’s Old is the New New. Two recent posts made the cut, including Virginians Desolate, Virginians Free and Chandra Manning on Civil War Soldiers and Slavery. Rob singled out the latter post with a criticism that I would like to address:
A comment on Kevin’s latter post accuses Manning of reductionism, in her insistence that ideas about slavery were fundamental to the worldview of soldiers on both sides. To which I reply: Chandra is a good and brilliant friend of mine, the one in grad school who put all the rest of us to shame. I’ve seen the size of her dissertation, to be published by Knopf next year, and I assure you it is not reductive about anything.
Perhaps I couched my critique in the wrong terms, but my comment was not meant as a slight against Manning’s research. Her argument suggests (if I’ve read it correctly) that a range of motivating factors offered by white Southerners for joining and staying in the ranks can be understood as connecting or “reducing” to slavery. I find it to be a very interesting analysis of the primary sources. It obviously did not mean to suggest that she had simplified what is a complex and highly debated question.