The latest issue of the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography arrived this past week and it includes a very thoughtful essay by Aaron Sheehan-Dean, titled, “The Long Civil War: A Historiography of the Consequences of the Civil War.”  In September Aaron will take up a new teaching position as the Eberly Professor of Civil War History at West Virginia University.  The essay is related to his current research project, which contextualizes and compares the practices of violence in the American Civil War with other civil and national conflicts in the mid-nineteenth century.  Consider the following:

Civil War scholars need to write broader histories in both temporal and spatial terms.  For too long, Civil War historians have been justly criticized for writing within a deep but narrow and disconnected part of the larger community of scholars studying the United States.  The challenge of articulating the long-term effects of the conflict goes to the heart of what Civil War history should accomplish.  Writing histories that account for the war’s full impact offers a way to reconnect scholars of the war with those in other fields.  It will diminish the possibility of historians ignoring the war because their work concerns seemingly unrelated elements.  Beyond the disciplinary advances that such an approach might facilitate, historians have a professional obligation to address the topic more clearly.  When our nation weighs entering military conflicts, policymakers consider the costs and benefits of previous wars.  Vietnam and World War II have dominated recent discussions of American war making, for good reason, but the Civil War provides an important model as well.  It offers a window onto the most pressing questions we face: invasion, occupation, reconstruction, changing war plans, and tensions between military and political goals.

About Kevin Levin

Thanks so much for taking the time to read this post. What next? Scroll down and leave a comment if you are so inclined. Looking for more Civil War content? Join the Civil War Memory Facebook group and follow me on Twitter. Check out my book, Remembering the Battle of the Crater: War as Murder, which is an ideal introduction to the subject of Civil War memory and the 1864 battle.

3 comments add yours

  1. I’m working through it, and I see it will be very valuable as a reference and resource. Many commonly-held assumptions are challenged in the research she highlights.

      • There we go again, caught up in pre-conceived, societally-imposed gender roles and restrictions…:-) In all seriousness, it is well worth a look if one can find it.

Now that you've read the post, share your thoughts.