Civil War Historiography 101

A quick perusal of my fellow Civil War bloggers finds that Dimitri has issued some sweeping comments about the state of Civil War historiography:

Can his field be worse off than Civil War history? We read binary nonfiction:
North vs. South. Military vs. Political. Social vs. Economic. Democrat vs.
Republican. Land vs. Sea. It seems as if in order to transcend the binary
pairing of topics in one book, a second or third book must be read.

Now I know that some of my readers will be disappointed that I am taking the time to respond, but I simply can’t resist. Given that I am responding let’s at least make it interesting. The comment above as stated reflects very little if no understanding of the evolution of the field over the past few decades. I guess if you continue to repeat the mantra that everything reduces to a “centennial interpretation” long enough you will come to believe that it is true. And if you include relatively simplistic examples that are couched in a fairly sophisticated language inevitably others will start to believe that it is true. I agree with a recent comment on my blog that this is indeed the great danger of the blogosphere.

I am sitting at my school office computer which means that I have no access to my Civil War library. How about I time myself for 1 minute and type down as many historians whose work over the years clearly defies this “binary” oversimplification mentioned above and you can look them up on Amazon for their books. O.K. GO: William Freehling, Edward Hagerman, Daniel Crofts, Mark Neely, Ken Noe, William Blair, Nina Silber, Peter Carmichael, Matt Gallman, Bertram W. Brown, Eric Foner, Eugene Genovese, Ed Ayers, Gary Gallagher, James McPherson — TIME. That’s a pretty good start and should leave you plenty of reading. Good luck.

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