Stephanie McCurry on Power and Politics in the Civil War South

One of the most important books published last year was Stephanie McCurry’s Confederate Reckoning: Power and Politics in the Civil War South (Harvard University Press, 2010).  This talk was given at Duke University and I highly recommend it if you have not had an opportunity to read the book.  McCurry spends a great deal of time laying out her hemispheric explanation of the Confederate slave enlistment debate.

5 comments… add one
  • Mel Jenkins Jan 31, 2011 @ 14:02

    Robert Penn Warren was exactly right when he said, “the Civil War is our only ‘felt’ history–
    history lived in the national imagination.” (Thanks to the David Blight video for that.)
    However, for many, today, even in many parts of the United States, the events of the early- and mid-nineteenth-century, there are non-existent or very different “felt” connections. In the North, victory and the smaller percentages of damages and deaths made for different memories. For those whose ancestors were slaves, yet another set of memories. For white Southerners, it is often more complex and also different.
    As we approached the current observances of the Civil War, I was afraid it would turn into more blank-musket firing and superficial history. I think/hope I was wrong. It looks like we may be finally starting realistic reviews of the causes and events that led to and happened during the short independence of the Confederacy.
    As an Upper-South Southerner, currently in South Carolina, I often find my head twisting around as if I was in a bad horror movie. However, I am certain of one thing; the “felt histories” are all real. Some are accurate. Some are not. Most are a mix. Still, they all need to be treated with respect. If we can do that, we may be able to move a bit further ahead.
    I am even willing to try to understand those people who wonder why so many of us think all of this is so very important!

    • Kevin Levin Jan 31, 2011 @ 14:10

      Hi Mel,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. I think the difference this time around, as compared with the Civil War Centennial in the 1960s, is that the playing field is much wider. There is room for multiple narratives of the Civil War and some of these threads directly challenge one another in terms of how Americans ought to remember and commemorate the war. It’s a breadth of fresh air because it reflects important social, economic, and political changes that have taken place over the past few decades.

  • Jarret Ruminski Jan 10, 2011 @ 17:59

    This was a great book and a great talk. I think historians of Brazil, however, would quibble with the amount of uniqueness McCurry attaches to the Confederacy as an unprecedented pro-slavery nation.

    • Kevin Levin Jan 10, 2011 @ 18:00

      I was also surprised in her emphasis on Emory Thomas’s study within the historiography of the Confederacy that she overlooked George Rable’s more recent book.

Leave a Reply to Kevin LevinCancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *