Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Booknotes: The Civil War in the Age of Nationalism

New Arrival:

The Civil War in the Age of Nationalism by Niels Eichhorn & Duncan A. Campbell (LSU Press, 2024).

The present run of scholarly study of the international dimensions of the American Civil War has certainly proved to be more than a passing fancy. If anything, there is expanded interest among professional historians in examining the similarities and differences between the ACW/Reconstruction era(s) in the United States and global "political, social, and cultural issues and events" that arose over roughly the same mid-19th century period. "(T)aking a transnational and comparative approach, with a particular focus on the period from the 1830s to the 1870s," Niels Eichhorn & Duncan A. Campbell's The Civil War in the Age of Nationalism applies that global angle to a number of topics. Content is organized by theme, and, importantly, Eichhorn and Campbell's comparisons look beyond Europe.

More from the description: The authors "examine the development of nationalism and its frequent manifestation, secession, by comparing the American experience with that of several other nations, including Germany, Hungary, and Brazil. They compare the Civil War to the Crimean and Franco-German wars to determine whether the American conflict was the first modern war. To gauge the potential of foreign intervention in the Civil War, they look to the time’s developing international debate on the legality of intercession and mediation in other nations’ insurgencies."

Other comparative themes examined in the book include issues related to expansion/empire building, approaches to national politics, emancipation, and memory. More specifically: "Using the experiences of Indigenous peoples in the Americas, Africa, and the Antipodes, Eichhorn and Campbell suggest the extent to which the United States was an imperial project. To examine realpolitik, they study four vastly different practitioners―Otto von Bismarck, Louis Napoleon, Count Cavour, and Abraham Lincoln. Finally, they compare emancipation in the United States to that in Peru and the end of forced servitude in Russia, closing with a comparison of the memorialization of the Civil War with the experiences of other post-emancipation societies and an examination of how other nations mythologized their past conflicts and ignored uncomfortable truths in the pursuit of reconciliation."

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