I just finished perusing through McFarland’s catalog which arrived today in the mail. As I was going through the Civil War section I came across this gem of a title, Did Lincoln and the Republican Party Create the Civil War? Can someone please tell me how a publisher can release a book with such a ridiculous title? Better yet, here is the brief description of the book:
The author seeks to challenge the long-held perceptions of the politics of the American Civil War. He argues that the war was fought not to preserve the Union or free the slaves but rather to establish the political power of the Republican Party within the federal government. The author argues further that Abraham Lincoln and the Republican Party manipulated events to bring about the Civil War in the first place and used the war as a pretext for the establishment of the modern central government.
I have to believe that this is not what the book is about, but the result of some marketing genius who attempted to reduce the author’s thesis down to three sentences. I admit that I have not read this book nor do I own a single title from this publisher. Actually, the more I think about the more I am convinced that this is exactly what the book is about.
I reviewed a book they published about NC Gov. Alexander Martin. It was absolute trash.
Ethan, — I had reserved that title to White Mane publishing.
Wait a minute, is the author saying that the establishment of the modern centralized government is a good thing? If so (although I doubt it), I could see that he has at least got one thing correct.
My impression of McFarland from the few titles I have seen is that it is basically an “if no one else will take your manuscript we will” publisher.
Kevin – This is straight from the DiLorenzo playbook, and is standard fare on Neoconfederate-oriented websites and discussion groups.
Jarret, — I was actually going to comment today on that very point. These books should be marketed and shelved as politics. They simply use the Civil War as a filter through which they can address their own political agendas. I’ve said before that I have no problem with libertarianism, but I do have a problem with using history as a means to a politicial end. I would add Mark Neely’s Southern Rights: Political Prisoners and the Myth of Confederate Constitutionalism (University of Virginia Press, 1999) to your list.
As annoying as these ridiculous libertarian rags are (all fed by King DiLorenzo and probably funded by Grover Norquist), they are also rather humorous. First of all, the guy has the phrase “An Argument” IN his title. Secondly, do any of these people even realize what a massive, centralized government the Confederacy itself was? Have they read William C. Davis’ Look Away! Emory Thomas’ The Confederate Nation? George Rable’s The Confederate Republic? Paul Escott’s After Secession? To hold the Confederacy up as a beacon of “limited government” is intellectually dishonest and factually absurd. The idea that the United States has ever had anything BUT a “big government” is also pretty dubious; for example, Adam Rothman’s excellent new book, Slave Country: American Expansion and the Origins of the Deep South, does an excellent job of revealing the massive federal government intervention and planning that helped turn Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana into the heart of the slave south. As for the ever-meddling Republican Party, I’d recommend this guy read Leonard Richards’ The Slave Power, maybe he’d see that antebellum party politics were anything but black and white, Republican vs. Democrat. Just some thoughts.
I’m sure the books by Paul Taylor and Chris Wehner are well done, but I only say that because I am familiar with both through their blogs.
To be fair, others may disagree with my comment about McFarland being “marginally academic….” They do have a large catalog and my experience with them is limited to their popular culture titles.
Thanks for the link to the table of contents. This looks like an absolute disaster. I had a feeling I would find the word “consolidation” in the table of contents. Sounds like the quality of the book has little to do with the publisher’s vetting process, but with the author’s background. In other words, it’s a crap shoot.
Check out the table of contents. Troops in 1864 were ordered to vote for Lincoln?
In running a few searches on the author I’ve noticed two things.
1. No mention of his academic background or where he works.
2. He is a member of the SCV and a re-enactor.
Not to jump to a hasty conclusion, but I suspect he’s another non-professional historian neo-confederate.
(Also, see http://civilwarcavalry.com/?p=82 on McFarland and Broadwater)
As for McFarland, I have purchased books from this publisher before at meetings of the Popular Culture Association on topics such as vaudeville. Certainly I’ve seen worse and they publish some interesting titles. On the other hand, a couple years ago I bought a book on “Blue Vaudeville” from McFarland and when I was done I wondered why it had been published. It was very poorly argued, something that should have been noticed by an editor. In other words, they’re good, but not great, and are only marginally academic publishers.