Of course not.
Today I spent a little time preparing for a discussion tomorrow with students in Amsterdam who have been reading various explanations for Confederate defeat and Union victory. I quickly realized that I haven’t given much thought to this question in quite some time. It also got me wondering about the state of the field.
When is the last time you cracked open your copy of Why the South Lost the Civil War or How the North Won? The question of whether an “internal” or “external” framework explained Confederate defeat and Union victory once preoccupied historians like Gary Gallagher, David Williams, Paul Escott, Perry Jamieson, George Rable, William Freehling, Joseph Glatthaar, Steven Newton, Edward Bonekemper, and a host of other historians.
It seems like this specific framing of the debate crested around 2010.
I may certainly be wrong about this, but the last major book-length treatment of this subject was Stephanie McCurry’s Confederate Reckoning, published in 2010, which offered a compelling explanation of Confederate defeat that focused on a number of internal factors.
The debate seems to have petered out, though I am not sure if one side can claim a decisive victory. I’ve always been partial to understanding the impact that military events had on the home front, enslaved populations, as well as state and national politics. I guess that makes me partial to an external explanation.
So, how would you characterize the interpretive landscape around this question of Confederate defeat and Union victory since roughly 2010. Have historians coalesced around a new set of questions?