History Carnival XL

The latest History Carnival is up at Rob McDougall’s Old is the New New.  Two recent posts made the cut, including Virginians Desolate, Virginians Free and Chandra Manning on Civil War Soldiers and Slavery.  Rob singled out the latter post with a criticism that I would like to address:

A comment on Kevin’s latter post accuses Manning of reductionism, in her insistence that ideas about slavery were fundamental to the worldview of soldiers on both sides. To which I reply: Chandra is a good and brilliant friend of mine, the one in grad school who put all the rest of us to shame. I’ve seen the size of her dissertation, to be published by Knopf next year, and I assure you it is not reductive about anything.

Perhaps I couched my critique in the wrong terms, but my comment was not meant as a slight against Manning’s research.  Her argument suggests (if I’ve read it correctly) that a range of motivating factors offered by white Southerners for joining and staying in the ranks can be understood as connecting or “reducing” to slavery.  I find it to be a very interesting analysis of the primary sources.  It obviously did not mean to suggest that she had simplified what is a complex and highly debated question.

Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth

“Levin’s study is the first of its kind to blueprint and then debunk the mythology of enslaved African Americans who allegedly served voluntarily in behalf of the Confederacy.”–Journal of Southern History

Purchase your copy today!

3 comments… add one
  • Ken Noe Oct 2, 2006 @ 14:22

    Kevin and Rob:

    I’ve read Manning’s dissertation, and it’s a “big” work in every sense: length, depth of research, and importance. The book will win prizes. That said, I agree with Kevin that at least in regard to Confederates–the focus of my current research–she does end up finding the defense of slavery at the root of most of Johnny Reb’s talk of “home” and “liberty.” My sense is that she’s on the right path but goes farther than I would in that regard. That’s why I printed off Kevin’s original post, so that I could quote the magic word “reductive” in my manuscript.


  • Kevin Levin Oct 2, 2006 @ 12:45

    Rob, — Thanks for responding and clarifying. You’ve done a great job with this Carnival and by the number of entries have obviously spent some time putting it together. Thanks again for taking the time to do it and for writing to me. I can’t wait to read Channing’s book.

  • Rob MacD Oct 2, 2006 @ 12:32

    Hi Kevin: Oh, yes, I knew that’s what you were saying, and I’m sorry if the telegraphed nature of my mention in the History Carnival was unclear. I was replying more to one of your commenters (elektratig) who I believe said it sounded like Manning was oversimplifying. You replied with a nice restatement of Manning’s work which I think is fair and generous. I was trying to cram so much in there I didn’t have space to be as clear as I should be on each point. Plus I couldn’t resist a half-joke about the size of Chandra’s dissertation – it was enormous, and filled me with envy and insecurity when I was writing mine.

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