04 April 2012

What Caused The WBTS Takes Longer Than 2 Minutes

Unless you're scholarship is shallow and narrow or unless you're a social scientist instead of a historian:

In recent years some historians have attempted to solve the problem of historical causation with the analytical tools of modern social scientists. ~ Kenneth Stamp

And for those more interested in serious analysis than soundbites:

A focus on slavery also explains little about the divisions within the North and the South. It assumes unity in each of these regions when in fact there was fragmentation . . . There is no question that some individuals in the South felt that Lincoln's election posed a mortal threat to slavery, but more did not . . . In sum, the current emphasis on slavery as the cause of the Civil War is fraught with problems. It does not clarify the sequence of events, the divisions within the sections, or the policies and actions of the Republican Party. It is these problems that a new interpretation must address . . . It argues that more than any other reason, the evolution of the Northern and Southern economies explains the Civil War. ~ Marc Egnal (Emphasis mine.)

3 comments:

Peter MacHare said...

I once knew a man who did not like the foods on his plate to mingle. He was so pleased when I was able to give him one of those compartmentalized plates (like children use) that matched his wife’s china. Thus the sauce on his pork never touched his greens. Reality is not like that; reality is like stew where everything is mixed up together.

Slavery, tariffs, cultural differences, growing economic differences, differences in thinking about the proper role of the federal government cannot really be examined as separate issues, because it is often in the relationships among these issues that the kernel of truth is found. Think of poor Mr Stephen Douglas trying to run a railroad west - all hell breaks loose because of the relationship between his railroad and the expansion of slavery.

Good writing, however, is compartmentalized; sentences must flow; paragraphs must organize. The very nature of writing about these issues encourages us to think about them one at a time when we probably shouldn’t.

I have no trouble with the idea that we are interested in different aspects of the Civil War at different times in our history. Immediately after the War, the need for reconciliation was greatest, so we tended to concentrate on the heroics of those who fought and the many admirable characters that were revealed in the War. As the Civil Rights Movement came to the fore, we became more interested in that Movement’s background and in the history of slavery. This all makes sense to me. What does not make sense to me, is thinking that the interests of one generation invalidates or contradicts the interests of another. As a great fan of American Music, it puzzles me when I read the jazz became less popular as rock came along in the 1950s and 60s. Can’t we be interested in both?

As G.K. Chesterton wrote: “A small circle is quite as infinite as a large circle; but, though it is quite as infinite, it is not so large. In the same way the insane explanation is quite as complete as the sane one, but it is not so large.”

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Excellent comment Peter, excellent.

"it is often in the relationships among these issues that the kernel of truth is found."

Even David Blight accidentally "swerved" into this truth:

"Why doesn't the Confederacy just fade away? Is it because we are irresistibly fascinated by catastrophic loss? Or is it something else? Is it because the Confederacy is to this day the greatest conservative resistance to federal authority in American history?"

Note that Blight acknowledges the inherent conservatism of the South - both in 1861 and today - and notes that (a Freudian slip?) the real issue was/is "conservative resistance to federal authority."

(See: http://oldvirginiablog.blogspot.com/2010/08/response-to-professor-david-blights.html)

And yet, pseudo-historians continue the mantra which focuses on slavery because its currently what is in vogue.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Peter - many academics are inclined to follow trends that "appear" to make them smarter, more sophisticated, etc, etc. than everyone else. Other examples are man-made global warming, Marxist economic theories, and so on. As evidence reveals, it actually makes them look stupid.