Friday, March 30, 2018

Booknotes: Rethinking the Civil War Era

New Arrival:
Rethinking the Civil War Era: Directions for Research by Paul D. Escott
(UP of Kentucky, 2018).

Paul Escott's Rethinking the Civil War Era seeks to insert a contemplative pause amid the publishing world's continuing stream of Civil War releases, offering one historian's view on where we are at and where we might (and should) go in the future. His book "surveys the current state of Civil War studies and explores the latest developments in research and interpretation."

The volume is organized into big theme chapters (ex. causes of the war, war and society, military history, etc.), and these focus on "specific issues where promising work is yet to be done, highlighting subjects such as the deep roots of the war, the role of African Americans, and environmental history, among others." The book "also identifies digital tools which have only recently become available and which allow researchers to take advantage of information in ways that were never before possible."

I'm quite a ways into it, and it does appear primarily aimed at the graduate student audience, those seeking ideas for thesis and dissertation topics. More from the description: "Rethinking the Civil War Era is poised to guide young historians in much the way that James M. McPherson and William J. Cooper Jr.'s Writing the Civil War: The Quest to Understand did for a previous generation. Escott eloquently charts new ways forward for scholars, offering ideas, questions, and challenges. His work will not only illuminate emerging research but will also provide inspiration for future research in a field that continues to adapt and change."

1 comment:

  1. Besides the obvious 21st century social history concerns (i.e. writing more about experiences other than those of white males), I would say there are three main Civil War topics that could use attention:

    1. Reconstruction. It's possibly the most poorly understood periods in US History.

    2. Biographies of Civil War figures who have never had biographies. Enough ink has been spilled on people like Lincoln. Besides generals worth writing about, there are surely a number of officers who had smaller roles in the Civil War but long careers afterwards.

    3. Not on the graduate student level, but we desperately need a good biography of Robert E. Lee. The most recent major attempt by Michael Korda stumbled badly. Maybe since Grant has been such a popular biography topic in the last decade someone will properly tackle Lee.

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