Thursday, December 2, 2010

Race and Reunion

In Race and Reunion, David Blight demonstrates that as soon the guns fell silent debate over how to remember the Civil War began. In recent years, the study of historical memory has become something of a scholarly cottage industry. The memory of World War I reflected in monuments, novels, and popular culture has been examined by numerous European historians. A book on how New Englanders remembered King Philip's War against local Indians won the Bancroft prize a few years ago.

What unites these studies is the conviction that memory is a product of history. Rather than being straightforward and unproblematic, it is “constructed,” battled over, and in many ways political. Moreover, forgetting some aspects of the past is as much a part of historical understanding as remembering others. Blight's study of how Americans remembered the Civil War in the fifty years after Appomattox exemplifies these themes. “Race and Reunion” is the most comprehensive and insightful study of the memory of the Civil War yet to appear. --
Eric Foner


  1. This is an amazing book because it does show how history is constructed and how it changes over time. Even decoration day was taken over by the north to honor all soldiers, not just those killed in the war and honored by freed slaves.

  2. Another way of looking at this question:

  3. South Carolina voted to secede twice before. The first time in 1830, which Andrew Jackson promptly rebuffed. I think a lot of what Webster and others said was just rhetoric. I don't think there were any serious attempts to secede from the Union by northern states, although they grew increasingly frustrated with the dual economy that had developed in the US, and the many concessions that were made to appease the South, beginning with the 3/5's rule to get Southern states to ratify the Constitution. Something Cobb doesn't mention.