Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Booknotes: The Oxford Handbook of the American Civil War

New Arrival:
The Oxford Handbook of the American Civil War edited by Lorien Foote and Earl J. Hess (Oxford UP, 2021).

As its title reveals, The Oxford Handbook of the American Civil War is part of the Oxford Handbooks series, the installments of which "offer authoritative and up-to-date surveys of original research in a particular subject area. Specially commissioned essays from leading figures in the discipline give critical examinations of the progress and direction of debates, as well as a foundation for future research."

For this volume, editors Lorien Foote and Earl Hess have gathered together a star-studded cast of historians to pen 39 essays, all of which revolve in some way around the book's unifying theme "that operational military history is decisively linked to the social and political history of Civil War America." From the description: "Every time Union armies invaded Southern territory there were unintended consequences. Military campaigns always affected the local population -- devastating farms and towns, making refugees of the inhabitants, undermining slavery. Local conditions in turn altered the course of military events. The social effects of military campaigns resonated throughout geographic regions and across time. Campaigns and battles often had a serious impact on national politics and international affairs. Not all campaigns in the Civil War had a dramatic impact on the country, but every campaign, no matter how small, had dramatic and traumatic effects on local communities. Civil War military operations did not occur in a vacuum; there was a price to be paid on many levels of society in both North and South."

The book is almost 700 pages in length and breadth of coverage is wide. "The (39) chapters cover all three major theaters of the war and include discussions of Bleeding Kansas, the Union naval blockade, the South West, American Indians, and Reconstruction." All of the largest campaigns, east and west, are in some fashion incorporated into the anthology. The war in the trans-Mississippi, stretching to both the desert Southwest and the Great Plains is also addressed. Like all good military history books, cartography is a feature, not an afterthought, here. There are 51 maps included. Notes and bibliography are placed at the end of each chapter. While this kind of book can certainly have a wider appeal than others in the series, institutions and professionals are the target audience (and it's priced accordingly).

More from the description: "Each essay offers a particular interpretation of how one of the war's campaigns resonated in the larger world of the North and South. Taken together, these chapters illuminate how key transformations operated across national, regional, and local spheres, covering key topics such as politics, race, slavery, emancipation, gender, loyalty, and guerrilla warfare."

1 comment:

  1. You were not kidding about "priced accordingly." I will have to hope Santa brings me this book for Christmas.


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