Thanks to those of you who offered suggestions on how to go about indexing a book. Yesterday I finished with a first pass over the manuscript. While I certainly have a clearer appreciation of those of you who suggested I hire a professional indexer, I can’t tell you how happy I am that I decided to do it myself. The decision was made easier by the fact that right now I simply can’t afford such a service.
Yes, it is back-breaking work, but I now see it as an essential part of the process. The indexing of key terms is pretty straightforward, but it’s the indexing of concepts that requires careful thought. One reader encouraged me to construct the index as a road map of the book or to ask what I want the reader to be able to easily find. While I could certainly offer suggestions to an independent indexer as to what headings and sub-headings to use, it goes without saying that no one has a better handle on the overall structure and argument of a book than its author. This same reader also encouraged me to make it possible to find information under different headings and even shared that he first looks at the index to get a sense of the book’s focus. To be honest, I’ve never thought of an index in such a way. Again, thanks for all the suggestions.
In the end, I am not sure that what I came up with is superior to what a professional could produce. Still, I am glad that I took a shot at it. The plan is to sit on it for a few days, review what I’ve done and send it to the publisher on Wednesday. Hopefully, the next time I hear from them will be in the form of a box of books.
If I could do it all over again I would earn a degree in public history and work for the National Park Service at a historic site. Over the past ten years I’ve had a number of opportunities to help out with various NPS projects and the work is always rewarding. It has given me the opportunity to work with some incredibly talented historians and passionate educators. On moving to Boston I decided to explore opportunities beyond the classroom and the NPS was high on that list. Over the past few weeks I’ve made some wonderful new friends in the NPS here in Boston and it looks like I will be involved in organizing events over the course of the next year for the Civil War sesquicentennial.
As for more permanent work, the response has been less than enthusiastic. It’s not that my new contacts don’t believe that I am qualified for most of their positions as an interpreter/educator; in fact, I’ve been told numerous times that I am over-qualified. The problem is with the hiring process and what comes up more than anything else is the veteran’s preference. If I understand it correctly the federal government gives preference to candidates who have served in the military. If a veteran meets the minimum qualifications for a position he/she is given preference. I recently came up against this wall when I decided to apply for an entry-level position as an interpreter (GS-05).
I wonder if the Confederate Heritage folks will rally around Thomas Buhls, who earlier today tried to celebrate Confederate heritage in Indiana with a sign that read, “CELEBRATE YOUR WHITE HERITAGE.” I have no idea whether Mr. Buhls is a native southerner, but of course that shouldn’t matter much. Confederate heritage transcends race, gender, and region. Like Hunter Wallace, Buhls seems to embrace a narrative of the Confederacy that actually conforms to its history. That’s right, the Confederacy was organized as a slaveholding republic built on white supremacy that was forced to fight for its independence and failed. Buhls and Wallace are much closer to the views of Alexander Stephens and other pro-Confederate nationalists than most heritage types today who water down and distort this history and fantasize that the Confederacy was some kind of experiment in civil rights. While I find their embrace of white supremacy to be utterly appalling, at least it is grounded in something that reflects Confederate history.
I was hoping that yesterday’s post would not turn into another round of the same old back and forth over the cause of the war, but that is exactly what happened. Unfortunately, most of what is usually offered in such discussions lacks any serious analysis and/or context. I was hoping to encourage readers to share those books that have informed their understanding of the coming of secession and war. For what it’s worth, here are a few of my favorites, though I could just as easily have chosen five others.
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"Levin is both superb scholar and public historian, showing us a piece of the real war that does now get into the books, as well as into site interpretation.” –David W. Blight, Yale University