The Return of North & South Magazine

Published on 19 June 2019 under Books
The Return of North & South Magazine

North & South is back. The magazine (“The Official Magazine of the Civil War Society”) previously operated from 1997 to 2013 as a staple in the Civil War historical community. Founder and editor Keith Poulter explained the return:

With the disappearance of Blue & Gray magazine, I have been inundated with letters and phone calls from people imploring the relaunch of North & South to “fill the vacuum that now exists.” So here goes. This is the first issue of what we are calling the Second Series. Issues in this series will appear six times a year, this time in both print and online form.

For most of its history North & South was regarded as a high-quality publication, perhaps the leading non-university Civil War publication. Despite no affiliation with a university, North & South retained academic rigor and accuracy, offering a wide range of well-researched and annotated articles from leading historians. It helped establish that a quality, glossy Civil War magazine was possible.

Eventually North & South‘s editor Terry Johnston left (some reports suggest he was terminated) and he founded The Civil War Monitor in 2011, which may still be the leading Civil War magazine. Upon Johnston’s departure, Keith Poulter explained a “nuanced shift” he had in mind for North & South:

For example, expect to see a little more emphasis on the military side of things, and a little less social history. The order-of-battle diagrams, so beloved of the wargamers (and many others) among the readers will again become a standard feature.

Unsurprisingly, Johnston’s new Monitor promised more emphasis on the social, political, and economic history of the war. Perhaps Johnston’s departure, and their split in emphasis and approach, hurt North & South enough to force its closure in 2013. Or perhaps the magazine industry’s vulnerability to the internet spelled doom and prevented three major mass-market Civil War publications from surviving at once (Blue & Gray magazine did not cease publication until 2017). Reports also surfaced citing Poulter’s alleged mismanagement, broken promises, and lack of payments to authors as a major factor in North & South‘s demise.

Now with its resurrection North & South claims a strong cast of associate editors like Gary Gallagher, Ed Bearss, Allen Guelzo, and Gordon Rhea, among others, although it is unclear if they are indeed still associated or if the masthead is a carry-over from earlier editions. I watch with great anticipation to see how North & South adapts and survives.

Politics & Prose

Published on 24 April 2019 under Books

I will join Alan Taylor, Jason Kuznicki, and Ali Wyne for a discussion and book signing for Our American Story at Politics & Prose on Saturday, June 8, 2019 from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 5015 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, D.C.

The event is free to attend with no reservation required. Seating is available on a first come, first served basis. Click here for more information.

Applied History Series

Published on 7 February 2019 under Books

On Thursday, February 21st at 12 p.m. I will be on campus at the University of Southern Indiana to discuss my forthcoming book, Our American Story.

USI’s Applied History Series is a collaborative connection between the Department of History and Evansville community members and USI alumnae to discuss ways in which they have used the study of history in their field.

The series is an important piece of USI’s effort to help students and the community understand the craft of history and how we write about the past. In the words of USI’s history department, “History offers original and indispensable ways of looking at human experience because it distinguishes and evaluates continuity amid the forces of change. By means of historical inquiry, the modern world is seen as shaped by the past.”

Update: Many thanks to the students, faculty, and public who attended and prompted valuable discussion with good questions.

Lincoln Day 2019

Published on 31 January 2019 under Books
Lincoln Day 2019

Lincoln historian and author Bill Bartlet, who co-edited Abe’s Youth with me, will be the featured speaker at the annual Lincoln Day program at the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial on Sunday, February 10, 2019.

Bartelt is a former employee of Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial and is the author of There I Grew Up: Remembering Abraham Lincoln’s Indiana Youth. He will be speaking about his current research with our book, Abe’s Youth, which focuses on the “Lincoln Inquiry” conducted by the Southwestern Indiana Historical Society in the 1920s. The program will begin at 2:00 p.m. (CST) and will be held in the Abraham Lincoln Hall of Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial in Lincoln City, Indiana.

The 2019 Lincoln Day program will include presentation of the colors by the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, special music, and other ceremonial activities to honor the memory of Abraham Lincoln and his family. Following the indoor program, the traditional pilgrimage to the gravesite of Nancy Hanks Lincoln for a wreath laying ceremony will be held. All are invited to a reception in the Nancy Hanks Lincoln Hall at the conclusion of the program.

Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial preserves the Indiana farm where Abraham Lincoln lived for 14 years — from 1816 to 1830, and the site where his mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, is buried.

Brian Dirck’s Lincoln in Indiana

Published on 22 October 2018 under Books

I’ve penned a new review for H-Net of Brian Dirck’s Lincoln in Indiana. The review can be found here (with a PDF version here). Books about Abraham Lincoln began springing up immediately after his death and their proliferation seems to have continued unabated to this day. About sixteen thousand books cover Mr. Lincoln. Every aspect of his life and philosophy has been covered in depth at some point by some writer. Why, then, do we need another one? Despite the proliferation of Lincoln books, there remains a dearth of modern material about his youth in Indiana.

Because of its light treatment of certain topics, the book cannot serve as a definitive guide to Lincoln’s youth, but it nonetheless achieves its intended scope—a good, quick primer for those interested in the subject. Despite the tremendous amount of Lincoln material, Dirck identified a void in Lincoln material and offers a much-needed modern, concise history of Lincoln’s life in Indiana.

A Nation Forged by Crisis

Published on 12 October 2018 under Books

In A Nation Forged by Crisis: A New American History, historian Jay Sexton contends that our national narrative is not one of halting yet inevitable progress, but of repeated disruptions brought about by shifts in the international system. Sexton shows that the American Revolution was a consequence of the increasing integration of the British and American economies; that a necessary precondition for the Civil War was the absence, for the first time in decades, of foreign threats; and that we cannot understand the New Deal without examining the role of European immigrants and their offspring in transforming the Democratic Party.

In short, Sexton argues that we can only prepare for our unpredictable future by first acknowledging the contingencies of our collective past. An interesting tidbit in the book is that Sexton also argues the Civil War boosted Northern support for immigration:

Here we arrive at one of the least appreciated factors in the equation that led to the Union victory: the military service of immigrants. Foreign-born recruits provided the Union army with the advantage it needed over its Confederate rival. An estimated 25 percent of the soldiers in the Union army (some 543,000) and more than 40 percent of the seamen in the navy (84,000) were foreign-born. If one includes soldiers with at least one immigrant parent, the overall figure climbs to 43 percent of the Union army…

The demands of war meant that Union officials needed to appeal to immigrants. Military recruitment placards were printed in foreign languages; Union officials presented the war as part of a transnational struggle for republican government, thereby decoupling the idea of the nation from Anglo-Saxon Protestantism…

The military service of the foreign-born did more than enhance the Union’s advantage in the field. It also transformed the politics of nativism in the United States. From the nativism of the 1850s, exemplified by Know-Nothingism and bigoted anti-Catholicism, the Union now moved in the direction of welcoming — indeed, encouraging — foreign arrivals.

Review: Frederick Douglass by David W. Blight

Published on 15 September 2018 under Books

I have a new review published at Compulsive Reader of David Blight’s forthcoming Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom (Simon & Schuster, 2018). Click here to read it. As I note, David Blight’s book delivers the new Frederick Douglass standard-bearer for years to come.

Finding Our Sense of National Identity

Published on 7 September 2018 under Books
Finding Our Sense of National Identity

A bombshell New York Times op-ed by an anonymous author rightly suggests an urgent need to transcend increasing tribalism, which presents a troubling challenge to American civic life. Can we come together around a defining narrative, or make our multiple narratives cohere? Read more about my new book addressing this topic here at the University of Nebraska Press blog.