Additional Reflections on North and South Magazine
Now that I’ve had some time to reflect on yesterday’s post I wanted to take a few minutes to share a few thoughts that I probably should have included in the original entry. I want it to be crystal clear that my comments are a function of my long-standing support and admiration for Keith Poulter’s work with North and South since its inception back in 1997. I remember the excitement I felt when the first issue hit the newsstand, which included articles by Stephen Sears, Geoffrey Perret as well as an interview with Shelby Foote. Poulter laid out the goals for the magazine in his first editorial:
The articles in North and South will be fresh because they will be based in most cases on ongoing research. In these pages you will get a preview of what will be in next year’s books, not a rehash of what was in last year’s. You will get accurate history because our writers are in most cases professional historians, rather than professional writers with little background in history. (Issue #1, 1997, p. 5)
Issues to follow included articles by Charles Dew, James McPherson, William Freehling, Gary Gallagher, as well as other top-notch professional historians. I never paid much attention to the other Civil War magazines as they tended to tell the same tired stories about the same battles and leaders. N&S offered non-traditional topics without losing the focus on the military; perhaps it would be more accurate to suggest that the social history served to reinforce and render the military even more intelligible for a readership that probably tends to steer clear of non-military topics. I wrote numerous book reviews between 1998 and 2002 and appreciated the chance to try my hand at writing. When I began teaching American history and the Civil War N&S proved to be an ideal source and one which I continue to utilize on a regular basis. There is no better way to introduce high school students to the latest interpretations within the field. I even wrote an article about this for the Organization of American Historians publication, Magazine of History titled "Using North and South Magazine in the Classroom."
What I value most about the magazine is that it functions as a bridge between academic historians and more general Civil War enthusiasts. Academics constantly tout the virtues of making connections with the general public and Poulter has provided an ideal format. His success and influence can be seen in the recent changes that both America’s Civil War and Civil War Times have made in terms of content. Simply put, there is way too much crap out there on the internet that poses as serious Civil War scholarship; somewhere out there in that pile is where Bradley’s piece belongs. I would like to believe that the Bradley publication is a fluke and that N&S will maintain its high standards and continue to offer solid analytical history that is both well written and entertaining.