I am getting close to finalizing the reading list for my research seminar at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, which I will teach this coming fall semester. The seminar will focus specifically on how Northerners understood Union and emancipation over the course of the war. We meet once a week and our time will be divided between discussion of readings and learning how to interpret the AAS’s rich collection of primary sources in preparation for a major research paper, which each student will complete. Check out the course description, though I will likely tweak it in the coming weeks.
As for assigned books, I have managed to narrow it down to six. Of course, they will be supplemented by articles and book chapters, which I will make available to students throughout the semester. I tried to find well written books that will keep my students’ attention, allow us to talk a little historiography and that will cover a good deal of topical ground. Finally, I tried to choose books that are right around 200 pages.
Since I have no idea how much background knowledge my students will arrive with I decided to begin the class by reading Louis Masur’s The Civil War: A Concise History. I’ve used this book numerous times for my high school level elective on the Civil War. It’s accessible and will put all of us on the same page as we move forward. From there we will move to Gary Gallagher’s The Union War. Gallagher devotes a good deal of attention to the key concepts of Union and emancipation, which will be our primary focus in this class. On Civil War soldiers we will read James McPherson’s For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War. It’s still a must read and the focus on Confederate soldiers should make for an interesting comparative discussion.
Since we are in Worcester I was hoping to find a local study that touched on at least some of the seminar’s topics. Janette T. Greenwood’s First Fruits of Freedom: The Migration of Former Slaves and Their Search for Equality in Worcester, Massachusetts, 1862-1900 fits perfectly. We will look at the extent to which Worcester reflected some of the broader themes discussed in the other books. The other nice thing about this book is that it moves us into the postwar period, which we will not cover in any great detail. From there we read Drew G. Faust’s This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War . What can I say, it’s a powerful book. We can focus in on how the war altered Northerners’ understanding of death. How they mourned and how the scale of death impacted lives on the local level as well as its political impact. Brian Jordan’s new book, Marching Home: Union Veterans and Their Unending Civil War rounds out the list on Union veterans and their readjustment to civilian life.
Please feel free to critique my list and offer your own suggestions. I am especially interested in essays that might help to supplement these titles. Please consider readability as this is an undergraduate seminar made up of students from at least five different schools. No doubt, there are numerous gaps in this list. The one that jumps out is in the area of Northern women. I could probably also use something specifically about Lincoln. Thanks.