Vikki Bynum Acknowledges Civil War Bloggers

I have been looking forward to Vikki Bynum’s new study, The Long Shadow of the Civil War: Southern Dissent and Its Legacies, for quite some time.  That anticipation has been fueled, in part, by her ever growing presence in the blogosphere at Renegade South, which is one of my favorite sites.  It’s just the kind of site that I hoped would come out of a talk I gave last year at the annual meeting of the Society for Civil War Historians.

As I was perusing the acknowledgments section I was pleasantly surprised to find an entire paragraph devoted to some of her new friends in the Civil War blogosphere:

Besides introducing me to the thoughtful comments of folks who revere the craft of history, various internet blogsites have brought cyberspace debates about race, the Civil War, and the Myth of the Lost Cause right to my desktop.  Wading into discussions on Frank Sweet and A.G. Powell’s “Study of Racialism” or Kevin M. Levin’s “Civil War Memory” is not for the faint of heart but always stimulating!  My thanks to Robert Moore of “Cenantua” for inviting me to post on his special blogsite “Southern Unionist Chronicles.”  Serious bloggers, I have learned, are among the hardest-working and most intellectually astute members of the history profession.

It’s nice to be singled out in an academic study written by a historian of Vikki’s caliber.  More importantly, it’s a sign that blogging has a place in the profession and that it can help to advance serious study of the past and bring those debates to the attention of a wide audience.  While more scholars are acknowledging the benefits of blogging and other forms of social media it has yet to be accepted as part of the academic mainstream.  That will happen as more scholars openly acknowledge its role in their research and professional lives.

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

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14 comments… add one
  • matttyrrell Feb 24, 2010 @ 5:10

    The thing keeping blogging as a whole from being legitimized on a wide scale is for every respectable blog such as this there are just too many people who, despite lack of understanding or knowledge or tact, still have a forum to proounce ignorance on a large scale. Certainly, the strides made are evident; my Civil War seminar instructor, a published historian, has required this blog as part of our participation in his course. So certainly the movement of the blogosphere into academics is inevitable along with learning and technology's fusion, but many will still be weary of the term “blog.”

    • Kevin Levin Feb 24, 2010 @ 10:39

      I think that is definitely part of it. The majority of blogs on the Web are abandoned after 1-2 months and are not very interesting. That's part of the territory since blogging is free and open to be handled as the individual sees fit. As I said in a previous comment, even with all of the changes it is going to take some time as junior faculty member rise to positions of power and are able to rethink how the technology fits into evaluations/promotion and scholarship.

  • heidic Feb 24, 2010 @ 1:25

    I personally had never cared much for blogs, believing that most of them are simply places for people with nothing better to do than air grievances; however, under an “academic” light I see how blogs can be useful tools for information and debate. Blogs can certainly help one judge what issues spark more debate than others, and which debates can be supported by academic research more so than others, for instance, the black Confederate issue that has sparked so many an interest.

  • Harry Feb 24, 2010 @ 0:00

    Kevin, I stay with so I don't have to – or rather CAN'T – deal with plug-ins. I try to be aware of my limitiations.

    • Kevin Levin Feb 24, 2010 @ 0:23 is great for people who want to be able to blog without any hassle. Of course, there are limitations on what you can do with the blog, but that is not an issue with many. The problem with plugins is that WordPress has gone through a number of updates and many of the plugins have not been updated.

      Disqus has a committed staff and overall the product is solid, though there are a few issues as you mentioned. WordPress recently bought Intense Debate which is another third party comments service, but I wasn't impressed.

  • Harry Feb 23, 2010 @ 23:09

    What got me into blogging over 3 years ago was an aborted attempt to write an article about how the academic community was addressing the challenges and opportunities of the digital age. After interviewing six academic historians, it became pretty clear that the academe was simply not addressing it in any systematic or coherent fashion. I really haven't seen any evidence of a change in this approach – or lack thereof – in the intervening period. Of course, I'm an outsider in short pants, looking in – what do I know.

    • Kevin Levin Feb 23, 2010 @ 23:17

      “I really haven't seen any evidence of a change in this approach – or lack thereof – in the intervening period.”

      Take another look. There has been dramatic change in the last 3 years. The field of digital history is expanding in ways that few probably anticipated three years and a growing number of schools are acknowledging its importance. Take a look at George Mason, University of Nebraska, Dartmouth, UVA. It really is an exciting time.

      • Harry Feb 23, 2010 @ 23:29

        I'm aware of George Mason – they were the exception at the time, or at least one of a very, very few. I guess where I'm not seeing a coordinated approach is in the work of individual historians. Published works roll on as if nothing has changed, kind of like network news. Even Burlingame's “experiment” is pretty tame, and doesn't seem to have elicited much comment, good or bad.

        • Kevin Levin Feb 23, 2010 @ 23:35

          I guess I just have a different view. More and more historians are, in fact, exploring the possibilities associated with social media. Clearly, it is a generational thing. Once this younger generation gets into positions of power and can rethink qualifications for promotion and tenure we may see even more dramatic change. A number of university presses are now transitioning to a digital format. Again, more can be done, but I am impressed with how the field has expanded.

          • Harry Feb 23, 2010 @ 23:44

            As I said, I'm on the outside trying to look in. I'll defer to you.

            You know, this Disqus thing is frustrating – to see knew comments I have to refresh, and everytime I refresh I get logged out!

            • Kevin Levin Feb 23, 2010 @ 23:51

              You are not the first person to express frustration re: Disqus. Supposedly they are making some changes so I am going to stick it out for a bit longer. I have thought about moving back to the default WordPress format. Plugins are a nightmare.

  • margaretdblough Feb 23, 2010 @ 22:54


    • Victoria Bynum Feb 24, 2010 @ 20:00

      Thanks, Margaret. You and I go all the back to David Woodbury's 2001 Q&A, when you were one of the historians who questioned me on The Free State of Jones. The internet–and blogs–have come so far since then! The Civil War blogs were such an important discovery for me–and their moderators all welcomed me to the blogosphere!–that there was no way I would not have acknowledged them in the new book. My sense is that they've gained a great deal of legitimacy in academia in recent years.

      Vikki Bynum

      • margaretdblough Feb 24, 2010 @ 21:33

        Victoria-I am flattered and kind of stunned that you remember me. Thank you. The CompuServe CW Forum is still alive and well, despite all of the turmoil involving CompuServe and AOL, primarily due to the dedication of David Woodbury, who, to me, is the gold standard for discussion group moderators. In fact, we're having our annual gettogether in April. This year is New Orleans. We alternate between Eastern and Western/Transmississippi battlefields. I personally pride myself in getting a friend who was very Virginia theater centric into the Transmississippi the year we did Wilson's Creek (with Bill Piston) and Pea Ridge/Prairie Grove (with Bill Shea) . I haven't missed one since we began them in 2007 despite have arthroscopic knee surgery right before one and having a total knee replacement right after one a few years later. I'm looking forward to reading your newest book.

        It's not a blog but one of the greatest online document sites is Jim Epperson's “Causes of the Civil War”. When the NPS had to do its report to Congress on interpretation at Civil War sites, this website was included in the bibliography.

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