For much of my teaching career I have worked to achieve some level of gender equity in the books and articles that I assign my students to read. This has been especially the case in the many elective classes that I have taught on the Civil War era. My overall goal has been to challenge both the tendency to see the Civil War as a masculine subject and the historians and enthusiasts that it attracts as overwhelmingly male. This goes far in tearing down some of the barriers that prevent female students from fully embracing the subject as their own and one that is worthy of serious study.
It should come as no surprise that this outlook helped to shape the reading list for my research seminar at the AAS, which begins next week. Of the six books that I ordered three are authored by women. This past spring Joseph Adelman reflected on similar concerns regarding his reading list for a course on the American Revolution, only he took it a step further. He wondered whether the reading list for an entire undergraduate course on the Revolution could be filled with books by female authors. I didn’t find the results particularly shocking, but it was certainly worth the effort if only to visualize it for the sake of discussion.
Given my earlier point regarding the gender assumptions about the field of Civil War history it might be worth the time to see if a similar list can be achieved. Let me emphasize that this is just a first pass at a list. I fully expect that you will offer your own suggestions in the comments section below.
- Brenda Wineapple, Ecstatic Nation: Confidence, Crisis, and Compromise, 1848-1877
- Elizabeth Varon, Disunion!: The Coming of the American Civil War, 1789-1859
- Manisha Sinha, The Counterrevolution of Slavery: Politics and Ideology in Antebellum South Carolina
- Victoria Bynum, The Free State of Jones: Mississippi’s Longest Civil War
- Megan Kate Nelson, Ruin Nation: Destruction and the American Civil War
- Nina Silber, Daughters of the Union: Northern Women Fight the Civil War
- Susannah Ural, Don’t Hurry Me Down to Hades: Soldiers and Families in America’s Civil War
- Chandra Manning, What This Cruel War Was Over: Soldiers, Slavery, and the Civil War
- Lesley Gordon, A Broken Regiment: The 16th Connecticut’s Civil War
- Elizabeth Brown Pryor, Reading the Man: A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters
- Stephanie McCurry, Confederate Reckoning: Power and Politics in the Civil War South
- Margaret Creighton, The Colors of Courage: Gettysburg’s Forgotten History: Immigrants, Women, and African Americans in the Civil War’s Defining Battle
- Jacqueline G. Campbell, When Sherman Marched North from the Sea: Resistance on the Confederate Home Front
- Drew G. Faust, This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War
- Heather Cox Richardson, The Death of Reconstruction: Race, Labor, and Politics in the Post-Civil War North, 1865-1901
- Barbara Gannon, The Won Cause: Black and White Comradeship in the Grand Army of the Republic
- Caroline Janney, Remembering the Civil War: Reunion and the Limits of Reconciliation
It goes without saying that no undergraduate class could read this many books. My goal is to cover as much ground as possible in a reading course on the Civil War from a broad narrative of the Civil War era to more narrow military, cultural and memory studies.
There are a few noticeable gaps. I had trouble with biographies of Lincoln as well as with locating a traditional battle/campaign study and a study of United States Colored Troops. I am not all that surprised by some of the gaps in the literature, which I believe are negligible at best. How much this matters, of course, depends on the focus of your particular course.
What, if anything, this list reflects within the field of Civil War historians I leave to you.