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In Defense of Radical Responses to Civil War Monuments

I began writing on this topic several weeks ago, well before the despicable rally that took place in Charlottesville over the weekend. The controversy over Confederate monuments has been unquestionably transformed by the alliance of neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, and the so-called Alt-Right that came out “in defense” of Charlottesville’s Robert E. Lee monument. […]... Read More
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Towards a More Total War: ‘Gentlemanly Warfare’ and the Rise of the Nation-State

One of the most controversial figures in the history of the United States is William Tecumseh Sherman. For his direction of a single campaign in the fall and early winter of 1864, Sherman has been reviled by nigh-half the country while providing military historians endless fodder for debating the origins of the philosophy of ‘total war.’ Even and perhaps especially for his detractors, Sherman’s strategy of destroying (supposedly) non-military and civilian resources is seen as somehow original, a new and innovative way of waging war that would come to dominate the twentieth century. There’s only one problem with that conventional wisdom: it’s patently ridiculous.... Read More
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States’ Rights, the Slave Power Conspiracy, and the Causes of the Civil War

Recently I was reading a textbook’s account for the cause of the Civil War. This textbook was attempting to wade a middle ground between the two major arguments for the Civil War’s cause: slavery (and its extension) versus states’ rights. While the States’ Rights argument is definitively refuted by the primary document evidence of the secession crisis, this textbook made the following claim: that the issue of states’ rights was connected to the right of individuals in the states’ to own slaves. I decided that such a claim was worth some thoughtful debunking.... Read More
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Testing Whether That Nation Can Long Endure: America as a Failed State during the Civil War?

A few weeks ago, I was reading a chapter in an edited compilation (that will soon be reviewed here on Concerning History) when I came across an odd argument. As the author was introducing the concept of the United States as an overseas empire in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, he noted the similarities between America’s own independence from Great Britain and the myriad recently-decolonized countries of Africa and Asia. Chief among these was a shared struggle for economic self-sufficiency apart from the mother empire, yet the metaphor was pursued still further to claim that the United States during its civil war in 1860s was a ‘failed state.’ I immediately disagreed, and sent Francis a message gauging his reaction. What follows was his (edited) response.... Read More
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Holding the Moral High Ground: Reflections on Just War Then and Now

I recently picked up a copy of D. H. Dilbeck’s 2016 book A More Civil War. Given my interests in the intersection of the morality and consequences of war, it seemed like something worth reading. As I went through it, I found myself not thinking of it just as a work of Civil War scholarship but also as reflection upon the enormous shifts in our understanding of moral warfare since the 19th century.... Read More
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We Love Them Anyway: Guilty Pleasures in TV and Film

Movies and TV shows are often some of the most compelling ways to tell history, but they’re not without cost. Along with every attempt at bringing history to the big or small screen comes the critiques of historians, and we’ve certainly analysed our fair share. Whether it’s structural inaccuracy or imperfections in costuming and makeup, the challenge of adapting the mess of history to a neat narrative always results in some problems, minor or glaringly major. Despite these flaws, however, there are some stories you can’t help but enjoy. Here we’ve assembled a taste of our historical guilty pleasures: movies and TV shows we fully recognize have problematic relationships with the history they portray, but we love them all the same.... Read More