The other day I was contacted by a publishing agent who was interested in purchasing space on my blog to advertise a work of Civil War fiction.  The book was written by a fellow blogger who I highly respect; however, after thinking it over I decided against it.  In this case, I felt uncomfortable agreeing to advertise a book that I have not read nor plan to read.  More to the point: I don’t read much Civil War fiction so why advertise it.  At the same time I find the idea of making a little extra cash attractive and I have to admit to thinking about contacting certain publishers to see if they are interested in purchasing space on my site.   These are, of course, publishers whose books I feel comfortable advertising even if I haven’t read every title or agreed with the arguments contained in those I have read.  One of the goals of this blog from the beginning has been to introduce more casual Civil War enthusiasts to more “scholarly” studies that take the reader beyond the battlefield.

A few weeks ago at the SHA in Richmond I ran the idea of selling space to certain publishers by a fellow historian who reads my blog  and who I highly respect.  He didn’t like the idea at all.  His concern was that by advertising I would loose my ability to judge books objectively.  While I do think this is a concern, I already have a policy which I make perfectly clear to publishers that ask me to review specific titles.  At the same time academic journals and other publications routinely include advertisements from publishers and there is no reason to think that the integrity of their book reviews are compromised.  In fact, from the perspective of the publisher it shouldn’t matter if one of their books receives a negative review since it will no doubt be linked to Amazon or one of the other book-selling outlets.  All that matters is that the book is mentioned and it is up to the reader to click on the link and make a decision as to whether to purchase it.

The last thing I want to do is clutter my blog with pointless advertisements that somehow relate to the Civil War.  Any thoughts, especially from those of you who do include online ads on your blogs, is appreciated.


Why I Love Teaching in December

My Lincoln class is reading a chapter by James McPherson titled "How Lincoln Won the War With Metaphors" from his book Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution (Oxford University Press, 1990).  Students in my two sections of regular U.S. History have just started reading William Gienapp’s Abraham Lincoln and Civil War America: A Biography.  Finally, my AP students are right in the middle of the Civil War and are preparing for a discussion based on Ira Berlin’s article "Who Freed the Slaves?". 


Virginia Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission Endorses Battlefield Preservation Initiative

I was unable to attend last week’s meeting of the Virginia Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission so I am reading this for the first time.

At its meeting last week, the Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission unanimously adopted a resolution endorsing the Civil War Preservation Trust’s (CWPT) Virginia Sesquicentennial Battlefield Initiative. Initiative encourages state funding for battlefield preservation in Virginia during prior to and during the 150th anniversary of the Civil War (2011-2015).

Read more.


A Perceptive Student

Today I showed my AP classes a short section of Ken Burns’s The Civil War.   We watched the sections between Lincoln’s election and Robert E. Lee’s resignation from the U.S. Army to take command of the Virginia state militia.  At one point Shelby Foote explains how white southerners viewed secession and Lincoln.  From "Secessionitis":

Southerners would have told you they were fighting for self government. They believed the gathering of power in Washington was against them… When they entered into that Federation they certainly would never have entered into it if they hadn’t believed it would be possible to get out. And when the time came that they wanted to get out, they thought they had every right….

Southerners saw the election of Lincoln as a sign that the Union was about to radicalized, and that they were about to be taken in directions they did not care to go. The abolitionist aspect of it was very strong, and they figured they were about to lose what they called their property and faced ruin.

Student response: "Why doesn’t he just come out and say it?"  Of course, he meant slavery.

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Historians for Obama, Clinton, and Now Paul

I have to admit to being just a bit perplexed over the recent public declarations of support for various presidential candidates by historians.  This started (as far as I can tell) over at HNN with a statement in support of Obama in which roughly fifty historians "signed".    Since then we’ve seen additional statements of support for Ron Paul and one lone historian who has come out against Obama.  I assume we should expect additional statements in support of other candidates and perhaps even a few retractions as the primaries get under way.  That’s fine with me, but I would like to know why I should care about any of this.  To be more specific, I would like to know why the respective allegiances of any of the individuals who have signed these declarations as historians ought to matter.  For example, I noticed that James McPherson signed the Obama statement.  I’ve never met McPherson nor do I know anything about his voting history or specific political beliefs and I have to admit that I don’t really care.  The same holds true for all the signers.  The statement is fairly clear as to why these historians are casting their lot with Obama and I actually agree with a few of the points.  That said, there is nothing beyond a few references to previous presidents that distinguishes this statement from other public declarations of support. 

Beyond the fact that all of the signers make a living from teaching and writing about the past I don’t see anything that renders their identification as historians salient.  So I am left with the question of why I should care about any of these statements.