Historians and the Civil War Era. Historiography and the quest for scholarly understanding. General Areas of Scholarly Inquiry. Why did Secession and the Civil War occur? What led to the triumph of the Union/the failure of the Confederacy?
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Historians and the Civil War Era Historiography and the quest for scholarly understanding
General Areas of Scholarly Inquiry • Why did Secession and the Civil War occur? • What led to the triumph of the Union/the failure of the Confederacy? • Was Reconstruction a success or failure and who’s to blame?
Causation • Contending Civilizations. • Fracture of the political system over slavery in the territories.
Contending Civilizations • Materialist School: Charles A. Beard, The Rise of American Civilization; Frank L. Owsley, The Irrepressible Conflict. (industrial north v. agrarian South). • Antagonistic Societies: Eugene Genovese, The Political Economy of Slavery; Eric Foner, Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men.
Critique • Struggles to account for the “timing” of secession and the “decision” to challenge South Carolina over Fort Sumter. • Leads to a reductionism that the Union couldn’t “permanently endure half-slave and half-free.” • Tends to create a binary of slave states and free states, which ignores how free states became free, how free they actually were, and mutes the tensions in the slave states about the future of slavery.
Fractured National Politics • Avery O. Craven, The Coming of the Civil War; Michael F. Holt, The Political Crisis of the 1850s. • James G. Randall, “The Blundering Generation,” MVHR. • David Potter, The Impending Crisis. • Michael F. Holt, The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party: Jacksonian Politics and the Onset of the Civil War. • Michael Morrison, Slavery and the American West: The Eclipse of Manifest Destiny.
Craven-1885-1980 Michael Fitzgibbon Holt
Critique Suggests that war was a tragedy to be avoided through compromise. Fails to account for how to end slavery. Ignores white racism
Triumph of Union/Failure of CSA • Bruce Catton, The Army of the Potomac; • Hattaway and Jones, Why the North Won; • Gary Gallagher, The Confederate War; • Russell Weigley, A Great Civil War; • Frank L. Owsley, States Rights in the Confederacy; • Paul Escott, Jefferson Davis and the Failure of Confederate Nationalism; • William W. Freehling, The South versus the South.
Catton-1899-1978 Gallagher Gallagher w/ J. W.
Other War Years issues • Lincoln as Emancipator: LaWanda Cox v. Armstead Robinson, Vincent Harding • Lincoln and habeas corpus—Mark Neeley • Guerilla war strategy—Peter Berringer • Who was the best general? (everybody has an opinion, but only mine is correct: Grant, Grant, and Grant, but Lee was good, too.) • “Rich Man’s War, poor man’s fight”—Not. See Joseph Glatthaar, General Lee’s Army: From Victory to Collapse. • Homefront studies (Gender, ethnic and class issues, and relationship between homefront and battlefield)
Reconstruction • Dunning School • Progressives • Revisionists • Post-Revisionists
Dunning School • William A. Dunning, Reconstruction, Political and Economic; • Walter L. Fleming, The Sequel of Appomattox; • E. Merton Coulter, The South During Reconstruction.
Progressive • George F. Milton, The Age of Hate: Andrew Johnson and the Radicals; • Howard K. Beale, The Critical Year: A Study of Andrew Johnson and the Radicals.
Revisionists W. E. B. DuBois, Black Reconstruction in America; Eric L. McKitric, Andrew Johnson and Reconstruction; James M. McPherson, The Struggle for Equality; Willie Lee Rose, Rehearsal for Reconstruction; Kenneth M. Stampp, The Era of Reconstruction.
Post Revisionists • Leon Litwack, Been in the Storm So Long; • Eric Foner, Nothing But Freedom: Emancipation and Its Legacy. Foner—1943-
Critique • Reconstruction historiography is question driven and determined by the times of the questioner than the “realities” of Reconstruction. • No contemporary consensus—how to link national policy with biographies of southern whites and blacks. • Best single volume: Foner, Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution (1988—which should tell you something!)