Reporting from the SHA: Northern Civilians and the Occupied Wartime Confederacy

Reporting from the SHA: Northern Civilians and the Occupied Wartime Confederacy

In this panel presented at the 2018 Southern Historical Association meeting in Birmingham, AL the panelists focused on the experiences of northern civilians who traveled south into the Confederacy during the Civil War. The panelists were Paul E. Teed (Saginaw Valley State University) and Frank J. Cirillo (New-York Historical Society) with Caroline E. Janney (University of Virginia) presiding. Comments were provided by Michael T. Bernath (University of Miami) ad Paul A. Cimbala (Fordham University).

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Reporting from the SHA: Defining Defeat—Three Approaches to Making Sense of Loss and the Confederate Experience

Reporting from the SHA: Defining Defeat—Three Approaches to Making Sense of Loss and the Confederate Experience

Historians had long analyzed the context of Confederate defeat during Reconstruction and the creation of the Lost Cause in the years after Reconstruction ended. This panel at the 2018 Southern Historical Association demonstrated that there are more avenues for historians to unpack the meanings of Confederate defeat and the building of the Lost Cause. The panelists were Amy L. Fluker (University of Mississippi), Ann L. Tucker (University of North Georgia), and Sarah K. Bowman (Columbus State University).

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Reporting from the SHA: Animal Studies in the Civil War Era

Reporting from the SHA: Animal Studies in the Civil War Era

As moderator Megan Kate Nelson (Writer) suggested, there are many ways to utilize animal studies to further the study of the Civil War Era, including as means of transportation, food, and on the battlefields of the war. In fact, any historians that starts to look at the logistics of the conflict automatically needs to be interested in animals. This session was set up as a roundtable with Joan E. Cashin (Ohio State University), Kenneth Noe (Auburn University), and Paula Tarankow (Indiana University) as panelists.

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Thoughts on a Year of Adjunct Teaching

Thoughts on a Year of Adjunct Teaching

Historians have held many conversations over the past months about the state of the profession, particularly in academia, as scholars wrestle with an increasingly difficult job market and a prominent role in public debates about the place of history in our modern world. In addition, conversations about the role of adjuncts in academia are happening in the larger university setting, whether over the job market, the transition of colleges using adjuncts rather than full time faculty, or the situation of adjuncts lacking proper pay and benefits.

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Reporting from the SCWH: Plenary Session on Monuments and Memory at Gettysburg NMP

Reporting from the SCWH: Plenary Session on Monuments and Memory at Gettysburg NMP

Using Gettysburg as a focus, these five historians engaged in the complicated question of what to do with Confederate memory and the role historians must play in the conversations happening all over the country. The answer to the question of Confederate monuments and commemoration is not clear. The fact that there have been several plenary sessions at conferences over the past few years, all of which asked a lot of questions and posed a lot of suggestions but could not offer clear solutions, reflects how complex the conversation can be.

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Reporting from the OAH: The Future of Civil War Scholarship Outside US Borders

Reporting from the OAH: The Future of Civil War Scholarship Outside US Borders

Recent scholarship starts to reimagine the boundaries of Civil War scholarship in continental or international terms and reexamines the role of the West in both the antebellum and wartime periods. The opportunities of this new scholarship were evident in two panels presented at the Organization of American Historians conference in April 2018.

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Heading to Chattanooga! The 2016 Society of Civil War Historians Conference

Heading to Chattanooga! The 2016 Society of Civil War Historians Conference

The Society of Civil War Historians hosts their biennial conference in historic Chattanooga, Tennessee this week, and starting Thursday (June 2), Civil War historians from around the country will converge on Chattanooga to "talk shop," if you will. This includes Civil Discourse's Katie Thompson, Zac Cowsert, and Chuck Welsko, and we hope to bring you all with us as we poke around Chickamauga, take ourselves to the cutting edge of scholarship, present our own research, and generally have a damn good time in Tennessee.

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The Changing Face of Reconstruction

The Changing Face of Reconstruction

As we enter into the sesquicentennial of Reconstruction many historians are questioning how to re-interpret the period and present it to the public. From a lay perspective history is often seen as stagnant, made up of names, dates, and facts to be learned and recited. But in reality, the understanding of history shifts and changes as new evidence is uncovered or a new interpretation is adopted. In historian lingo this is called historiography, essentially the history of how history has been understood and presented in the past. In terms of Reconstruction, there has been a wide swing of scholarship in the last century.

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Confederate Iconography, The Next Steps: On Shared Authority, Historical Stewardship, and the Role of the Public Historian

Confederate Iconography, The Next Steps: On Shared Authority, Historical Stewardship, and the Role of the Public Historian

As the debate over the purpose and future of Confederate monuments and iconography in public culture continues, discussions concerning the role of the public historian in these debates have similarly intensified.  Central to these debates has been the question of the proper role of the public historian in community-based, emotionally and politically charged discussions about historical memory and contemporary society...it is hardly inappropriate or overstepping for public historians to make suggestions to communities as to what to do with their public memorial landscapes, nor is it at all intrusive and imposing to try to help communities learn about the educational value of their historic monuments and memorials or about the complexities of historical memory.  Additionally, pointing out to communities who are in the midst of debates about the future of memorial landscapes all that is gained AND lost if such landscapes were to be destroyed or removed is hardly “historian-centric” or merely “historians doing historian things.”  Is this not the very nature of our jobs as public historians?

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Reporting from the Southern Historical Association: The Boundaries of Reconstruction

Reporting from the Southern Historical Association: The Boundaries of Reconstruction

What are the boundaries of Reconstruction and how can historians redefine them? This was the subject of a roundtable session at the Southern featuring Stephen Hahn, Stacy L. Smith, Elliott West, and Heather C. Richardson as panelists. Historians usually define the period of Reconstruction as 1865-1877 where Americans rebuilt the country and racial relations after the Civil War and most equate the end of Reconstruction with the destruction of black civil rights in the south. These historians challenged the audience to rethink the meanings of Reconstruction. 

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Reporting from the Southern Historical Association: Teaching Civil Rights

Reporting from the Southern Historical Association: Teaching Civil Rights

The Southern hosted a very unique type of session this year. Participants went to Little Rock Central High School, famous for the Little Rock Nine, to hear a panel on how to teach civil rights. I think most of us expected a panel presentation and discussion on teaching civil rights in high school and college history classes, but instead we participated in a workshop and presentation led by students of Central High School’s Memory Project. 

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Roundtable: What Civil War Topics Deserve Greater Attention?

Roundtable: What Civil War Topics Deserve Greater Attention?

In our first-ever Roundtable this summer, we asked Civil Discourse's scholars what event most influenced the outcome of the Civil War. Our answers were wide-ranging, but they would have been familiar to many of our readers: the Emancipation Proclamation, the Battle of Antietam, the fall of Atlanta, and more. Today, we shift our attention to areas overlooked or left behind by scholars, asking our panel:

What Civil War topics deserve greater attention from historians and scholars?

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Slavery? States Rights? Secession.

Slavery? States Rights? Secession.

However, if you listen to the public slavery is one of a variety of answers, and it is not always the answer that comes first or most often.  States’ rights is most often put forward as the cause of secession with Lincoln’s election, economic and cultural factors, and the settlement of the west also earning some votes.  Scholars and historians may but forward a (mostly) unified answer that slavery was the cause of secession, but the public will not.  And Civil War sites have to find ways to work through this divide, because no matter what you interpret at your site or how visitors will always ask the question: “What caused the Civil War?”

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Approaching Appomattox: Evaluating the Future of the Civil War at the Close of the Sesquicentennial

Approaching Appomattox: Evaluating the Future of the Civil War at the Close of the Sesquicentennial

The 150th anniversary of the surrender at Appomattox is less than a month away.

If you have spent any time around a battlefield or related Civil War historic sites, you have probably heard people musing about what these commemorative landscapes will look like after the sesquicentennial closes. In short, many (most) people presume: they won’t look like much. Even die-hard Civil War buffs are predicting a sharp decline in visitation, interest, and enthusiasm once Appomattox passes.

I find that deeply troubling.

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Historical Context: A Response to Gordon Wood

Historical Context: A Response to Gordon Wood

Recently a friend provided me with an article from February 23, by Gordon Wood in The Weekly Standard.  Throughout that piece, “History in Context: The American Vision of Bernard Bailyn,” Wood praised his mentor for seeing the large themes and movements in American history without being waylaid by minutia, while simultaneously criticizing the current state of the history profession. It seems that Bailyn’s Peopling of British North America series, originated in 1986 has received a fair amount of criticism because it relegates the experiences of Native and African Americans to the sidelines. Criticism that Wood asserts is unjustified, but is also telling on the state of the historical profession. Namely that “[i]t’s as if academics have given up trying to recover an honest picture of the past and have decided that their history-writing should become simply an instrument of moral hand-wringing.” Wood goes on to argue that the academic focus on “inequality and white privilege in America society” via the proliferating studies of race and gender history has distracted the historical community. As a result, many readers lack the ability to gain from historians the full narrative of American history. Wood believes that the attention to African-American slaves, women, and Native Americans has fragmented the study of history in such a way that the attention to contemporary moral standards has anachronistically distorted the study of the past, taking it out of context.

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"Coming to Terms with Civil War Military History": A Response

"Coming to Terms with Civil War Military History": A Response

The December issue of the Journal of the Civil War Era questions the state and direction of military history as a field.  In their foreword to this special issue of the journal, historians Gary Gallagher and Kathryn Shively Meier offer their comments on military history and its important role in understanding and studying the Civil War.  Many of their points deserve close attention, for they offer good suggestions for the direction of the field; other comments pointedly object to a rising set of scholarship which I argue follows the cycle of historical interpretation.

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