Views from the Dark Side of American History
Publication Year: 2011
Published by: Louisiana State University Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
Like so many things in life, the idea for this book grew not from a plan but from a random discovery connected to a chance encounter. Several years ago I was cleaning out my history department office at Simon Fraser University as I prepared to move to another campus of the same institution...
1. Madison Daze
Remembering that i had been born and bred in Madison, Wisconsin, my former Simon Fraser University colleague Bryan Palmer, who had moved on to Queen’s University (and subsequently would go to Trent University), asked me to review a collection of essays edited by Paul Buhle on Madison “in the day.” I saw no good reason to keep my...
2. Shadows of the Holocaust: Jewish American Historians and the Black Slave Character
In 1980–81, I spent a fascinating year as Fulbright Professor of American Studies at the University of Haifa. I first delivered this paper at the 1981 conference of the American Studies Association of Israel, and subsequently in Philadelphia at the April 1982 convention of the Organization of American Historians (OAH). As I sent in a solo submission,...
3. At the Nihilist Edge: Reflections on Guerrilla Warfare during the American Civil War
One day in 1991, two years after the publication of Inside War: The Guerrilla Conflict in Missouri During the American Civil War, in the ancient pre-Internet era, a letter appeared in my mailbox inviting me to participate in a conference entitled “On the Road to Total War” to be held the following year in Washington, D.C., by the German Historical Institute...
4. Alligatormen and Cardsharpers: Deadly Southwestern Humor
One crisp fall day in 1982, I was sitting in my basement office in Dickinson Hall at Princeton University when Tony Grafton, a then-young medievalist, stuck his head in my door and asked, “Do you know any good stories?” I asked in return whether he meant dirty ones or otherwise, but he just repeated the question. For some reason, Mark Twain...
5. Robert E. Lee: Myth and Man
Two years prior to delivering this paper I published The Making of Robert E. Lee, and so I had had my say on this southern patrician general who had been transformed into the most highly mythicized icon of the Lost Cause. While writing that book, I had taken it as my charge to...
6. Reflections on Inside War
After the Civil War, northern veterans formed the Grand Army of the Republic, which served as a powerful lobby to demand pensions for those who fought—the first major use of the national government for social welfare expenditures—and to build clubhouses for fellowship, celebration,...
I think I was hooked on doing history during my freshman year at Oberlin College in the class of Frederic Cheyette, a brilliant and hardnosed young medievalist who pushed us through tons of reading, topically arranged, and made us argue with him rather than lecturing to us. That...