At its core, Civil Discourse offers fresh and thought-provoking content via our blog, which delves into one of the richest and most significant eras in American history: the 19th-century.
Examining the era via a range of perspectives and lenses (political, cultural, social, gender, and military, among others), Civil Discourse invites you to read our thoughts and share your own.
While we at Civil Discourse strive to present a wide variety of topics and viewpoints, our content is ultimately a product of our own experiences. Learn more about Civil Discourse by checking out our mission statement and authors' bios.
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Looking to learn more about your Civil War ancestor? Check out this guide put together by Zac Cowsert to get you started!
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.
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.
But our guide also expressed great optimism for the future of Helena and a blooming revitalization of the area, including work planned for that Main Street area to renovate some of the empty buildings into new stores and hotels. A key part of this revitalization, I could tell by the end of the day, was the use of historic tourism and highlighting the history (particularly the Civil War history) of the area.
As a spectator I found it masterfully done; as a historian I found it thought-provoking and intriguing. Hamilton is not a historically accurate portrayal of the life of Alexander Hamilton (although the historical context was pretty spot on in most places), and it was never meant to be. The choices made by the writers, production team, and performers sends many layers of meaning about history, race, diversity, and the relationships between people both then and now.
The Emancipation Proclamation changed the course of the war, from protecting the Union to redefining freedom. But far from being the bringer of widespread freedom to all enslaved peoples, the Proclamation was very limited in its power.
Confederate monuments are at the forefront of politics and national debate these days as American society grapples with the legacy of the Civil War and its aftermath. While this debate seems new and is situated in a modern society that is opening many meaningful, and sometimes divisive, conversations about history, race, and society, controversy over Confederate monuments is not necessarily new.
In the midst of conversation and debate about how to best interpret slavery at historic sites, I recently visited Frogmore Plantation in Natchez, Mississippi. When my family signed up to take a tour of this working cotton plantation as part of our Mississippi River cruise, I was admittedly excited but with some trepidation. Viewing the experience through the historian’s lens, it could have been enlightening or terrible.
In February 2013 headlines announced that the state of Mississippi had finally banned slavery. Now this is not to say that the state had been stuck in an Antebellum/Civil War timewarp for the past century and a half. But apparently there were a few oversights along the way.
Thus we also need to remember that the monuments we build, the sites we preserve, and the places we name are never just about history. They are and have always been about who we imagine ourselves to be in the present and what we want to be, as a community, in the future.
It's a new year, which means (after a undeniable autumnal hiatus) a fresh round of Civil Discourse posts rests just around the corner. Yet it's also an opportune time to look back at pieces that have resonated with our readers over the past year, several of which caused quite a stir. Without further ado, here are the five most popular Civil Discourse posts of 2017!