This should not be read as an exercise in self-indulgence, but as some thoughts in preparation for a talk that I must present to a room full of academic historians at the annual meeting of the Society of Civil War Historians this coming October in New Orleans.
There is an ongoing conversation concerning just about every aspect of the Civil War and it is taking place with little involvement on the part of academic historians. You can find these discussions on countless message boards, listservs, blogs and privately maintained websites. Topics range from the ever popular battlefields and commanders to complex questions of secession, emancipation, the law, and the role of women. The content of these debates and discussions reaches a far larger audience than any published book or journal article and yet academic historians for the most part continue to write for one another even if a few of their titles appear on the bookshelves of the local Barnes and Noble. I don’t mean to impugn all academic historians. It is worth noting that there are individuals in the field who have made it a point to reach out in various ways, whether it is speaking at a local Civil War Roundtable, leading a battlefield tour or speaking to groups of students. It is worth pointing out that those who specialize in the Civil War and related subjects are lucky to work in a field where there is such a deep interest on the part of the general public.
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