What Passes For Civil War History at Liberty University

Three history professors from Liberty University in Virginia share their thoughts about the causes and legacies of our civil war. According to the department chair the Civil War is best understood as a “civilizational conflict” or “culture war.” Professor Jones acknowledges the centrality of slavery as a cause of the war and highlights its destruction,  but cautions the viewer that Americans are fast becoming “slaves” of the federal government. Finally, Professor Ritchie reduces the war down to sectional differences and the importance of money to social advancement in the North. Yeah, someone should give him a copy of Edward Baptist’s new book. Turns out that plenty of people in the South cared a great deal about money.

This is just all around really bad.

[Uploaded to Vimeo on October 28, 2014]

27 comments… add one
  • James Harrigan Oct 28, 2014

    what would you expect from Liberty “University”? The whole mission of the place is culture war, not education.

    • Kevin Levin Oct 28, 2014

      I am not willing to criticize the content of this video with such a generalization. Let’s keep the focus on the content as a reflection of good history.

      • Right Reverend Jerry Falwell Oct 28, 2014

        I see.

        Does that mean you disagree with Professor Jones when he says in the video (at around two minutes and twenty seconds into the video) that if it had not been for “slavery being an ongoing unresolved factor… there wouldn’t have been a Civil War?”

        • Kevin Levin Oct 28, 2014

          Nice to hear from you Rev. Falwell. 🙂 I acknowledged the reference in the post, but it sits somewhat uncomfortably with some of his other comments in the video as well as that vague reference to some recent poll about whether black and white Americans believe slavery was relevant to the war. Taken together the commentary is a complete mess. Like I said, it’s really bad history.

  • Meg Thompson Oct 28, 2014

    This seems to reduce the Civil War to something similar to tribal warfare in Africa or the Middle East. I am uncomfortable with that notion.

    • Kevin Levin Oct 28, 2014

      They make it impossible to understand why secession and war happened when it did.

  • Al Mackey Oct 28, 2014

    Another perfect example of allowing a political agenda to influence one’s interpretation of historical events.

    • Jimmy Dick Oct 28, 2014

      Instead of allowing history to set the tone for political ideology they make history according to their political ideology. I really would not like to say political ideology, but at this point in time one cannot separate political ideology from religious beliefs in the case of some people. They are for all practical purposes one and the same for Liberty University.

      • Kevin Levin Oct 28, 2014

        They are for all practical purposes one and the same for Liberty University.

        But does it have to be? Steven Woodworth is listed as Distinguished Adjunct Faculty on the department’s website. Woodworth is a practicing Christian and he is a top-notch Civil War historian. Why do we have to explain the historical interpretation presented in this video as the result of religious or political influence? Why can’t we just call it for what it is, which is bad history.

        • James Harrigan Oct 28, 2014

          Why can’t we just call it for what it is, which is bad history.
          Because that is incomplete, Kevin. It is not just bad history by accident, it is bad history motivated by and in the service of a political ideology, just as surely as the Weary Cliburn travesty is.

          • Kevin Levin Oct 28, 2014

            My point is that this particular historical interpretation doesn’t necessarily follow from the political ideology. It might be common, but I am sure we can find people who subscribe to such an ideology, but are well versed in the relevant historiography. It seems to me that Steven Woodworth is a good example.

            • Jimmy Dick Oct 28, 2014

              I like Steven Woodworth’s work if we are talking about Steven E. Woodworth of TCU. It is very good. I don’t think he subscribes to the bad history aspect that others do because I’ve taken a class with him as the professor and read his work. There is no way to pigeonhole how everyone things regarding history, political ideology, and religion. So to say all professors teaching history at Liberty are teaching bad history because they use their religion to shape their political ideology and then their history from those two areas is probably stretching it.

              However, to say that some are doing so is not a stretch at all. Let’s be honest. How many times have we seen bad history presented as such due to political ideology and or religion? We bring up the role of religion in historiography and will probably be doing so for many years as it impacts historical interpretation. We see this today with creationists ignoring factual history in favor of beliefs that fall well short of any factual basis in reality. We’ve seen the providential aspect of history on full display and unfortunately there are those who want that aspect to be the way it is interpreted right now.

    • EK Oct 28, 2014

      Yes, this video might be titled, “Clyde Wilson’s War.”

      That said, I’ve known good, meticulous historians to come out of Liberty’s B.A. and M.A. history program.

  • Vic Oct 28, 2014

    You should hear what they teach in science class.

    • Kevin Levin Oct 28, 2014

      Do you know what they teach in science classes?

      • James Harrigan Oct 28, 2014

        They certainly don’t teach evolution or climate change.

        • Kevin Levin Oct 28, 2014

          Again, do you know this for a fact?

          • James Harrigan Oct 28, 2014

            Yes, I do know this for a fact. Kevin, this is Liberty “University” we’re talking about here, not an actual university. Founded by Jerry Falwell, now run by his son. They make no secret about their mission and approach.

          • James Harrigan Oct 28, 2014

            In fact, you can even minor in “Creation Studies” at LU:
            http://www.liberty.edu/academics/arts-sciences/creation/index.cfm?PID=28352

          • Rob Baker Oct 28, 2014

            Well, it’s my understanding that they do teach evolution, but it is built around this type of system.

            http://www.liberty.edu/academics/arts-sciences/creation/

            The purpose of the Center for Creation Studies is to promote the development of a consistent biblical view of origins in our students. The center seeks to equip students to defend their faith in the creation account in Genesis using science, reason and the Scriptures.
            Liberty is known for working with and giving out scholarships with groups like Answers in Genesis and the Discovery Institute. They have their own creationism museum. Every single student is required to take “Creationism Studies,” whatever in the hell that might be. According to a lot of different articles and stories, although evolution is taught, it is taught as an inferior explanation for the origin of life among other things. The agenda is driven towards young earth creationism.

  • Tracy Potter Oct 28, 2014

    Who put that annoying music behind this discussion? I can’t make it through the seven minutes.

  • Rob Baker Oct 28, 2014

    This really isn’t that surprising. There were a few Liberty University “professors” and graduates involved in the Texas state history standards revision a few years back. You know, the one that said the church and Christianity provided stunning examples of democracy….

    Specifically that psychopath Cynthia Dunbar.

  • Well, Liberty had at least one outstanding young professor teaching master’s courses in Sports Management!!!!

    http://www.liberty.edu/academics/education/sport/?PID=23224

    LOL.

    One of my sons, and a Civil War buff.

    And now back to your regular programming.

    • Kevin Levin Oct 28, 2014

      They probably could use him in the history department.

  • Pat Young Oct 30, 2014

    Anyone have a link to that “major magazine” poll on secession? 90% of black Southerners want secession?

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