See Disclaimer Below.

Posts Tagged ‘Harvard University Press’

Additional Thoughts on Gary W. Gallagher’s The Union War

In American History, Arts & Letters, Book Reviews, Historicism, History, Nineteenth-Century America, Slavery, Southern History, The South, Western Civilization on December 23, 2011 at 10:50 am

Allen Mendenhall

Recently I reviewed Gary W. Gallagher’s The Union War (Harvard University Press, 2011) for The University Bookman.  The review (“Why the Union Soldiers Fought”) is available here.  I have not said all I mean to say about Gallagher’s book, so this post records some additional thoughts.

I began my review with the tale of the “Lost Women and Children of Roswell.”  It was difficult as a child, knowing this story and others like it, to view the Union Army as completely righteous and pure, or to justify the eradication of certain evils like slavery with other widespread and destructive evils like war.  Despite being a Southerner with ancestors who fought for the Confederacy, I’m ambivalent about the War because of the various and totalizing perspectives that were thrust upon me when I was young, and because of my general opposition to war and nationalism, to say nothing of the complex figuring of race that played a defining role in bringing about the conflict.

As I went from middle school to high school, and then college to graduate school, the less likely I was to reduce the causes of the War to one or two factors, and the more likely I was to believe that anyone’s view of the War is already tainted by biases and assumptions.  Over time, I learned never to rule out alternate ways of viewing the War or the Confederacy.  I decided that no one would ever discover the intellectual trump card that would prevail over other viewpoints about the War that killed more men than all other wars in American history, combined.

There’s always more than one way of looking at a conflict, be it this War or some other one.  And our imperfect understanding of conflicts—of anything, really—always consists of generalizations based on the confines of personal experience.  We can read about the events encompassing the War, and we can guess at the logic and beliefs that explain those events.  But we can never relive the War or experience it in real time; and if we are honest, we must say that we can never read all there is to read about the period, never fully know the way a nineteenth-century mind thought, never entirely understand the quotidian realities of the men and women of all races at those times and in those places.  Being human, moreover, we make mistakes and assumptions.  Most of us revise our errors when we notice them.  But some don’t.  Some try to rationalize the logic of the unrealities to which they cling.  Read the rest of this entry »

Outline and Summary of Walter Johnson’s Soul by Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market (Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England: Harvard University Press, 1999)

In American History, Arts & Letters, Book Reviews, History, Nineteenth-Century America, Politics, Rhetoric, Slavery on April 9, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Allen Mendenhall

Introduction

The focus of this book is on nineteenth-century New Orleans and the slave market that emerged then and there.  More than other workings of slavery, slave markets reduced humans to commodities with prices.  In particular, this book is interested in the story of slave showrooms, which held up to 100 slaves and where appraisals, accountings, back-room dealings, and other activities took place.  The book attributes the slave trade to mercantilism whereby colonial imports serviced and stocked metropolitan centers and generated profits secured for both state-sponsored companies and the monopoly-granting state itself.  Companies with well-connected leaders and government ties could gain state privileges and favors and receive special monopoly licenses to dominate trade, first in goods such as tobacco, indigo, rice, cotton, coffee, and so on, and later in human beings.  The ban of the international slave trade in 1808 did not lead to the reduction or softening of slavery, but rather to new shapes and manifestations of slavery, especially as slave populations moved increasingly from the upper to the lower South.  The ban led, more importantly for the purposes of this book, to the domestic slave trade.  The domestic slave trade intensified during the rise of the cotton kingdom.  The price of slaves changed with the price of cotton until the 1850s.  Read the rest of this entry »

%d bloggers like this: