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338CIVIL WAR HISTORY British historians have a long and on the whole distinguished tradition of writing not merely to inform but to entertain and, more than that, provoke. Notwithstanding your factual blunders you do a creditable job of informing a reader about Civil War tactics—although another book by you, Battle in the Civil War (Mansfield, England: Fieldbooks, 1986), with its host of superb illustrations, does it better and at a cheaper price. As to entertaining , you do that, too, although at times the informed reader will be laughing at you rather than with you. But when it comes to provoking, you do not succeed. To be provocative your book required a factual integrity and analytical acumen which it lacks, and which, given the nature of the thesis you propound, it could not have possessed. Albert Castel Western Michigan University Interpreting Southern History: Historiographical Essays in Honor ofSanford W. Higginbotham. Edited by John B. Boles and Evelyn Thomas Nolen. (Baton Rouge and London: Louisiana State University Press, 1987. Pp. x, 624. $45.00 cloth; $19.95 paper.) This volume consists of a collection of thirteen historiographical essays written by scholars who served on the editorial board of the Journal of Southern History during the eighteen years (1965-83) that Sanford W. Higginbotham was that journal's managing editor. Focusing on works published since 1965 (a year that marked the publication ofan earlier historical collection, Writing Southern History, edited by Arthur S. Link and Rembert W. Patrick in honor of Fletcher M. Green), these essays indicate the degree to which Southern history has changed during the past quartercentury . As the editors note in their preface, recent studies are far more likely than those of a generation ago to deal with social and intellectual trends, and to explore issues relating to race, class, and gender. Our understanding of some subjects, such as slavery, has been almost totally revolutionized . Other subjects themselves are new to historical inquiry; as Jacquelyn Dowd Hall and Anne Firor Scott point out in their essay on Southern women's history, "From 1920 to 1960, only five major historical works dealt with the history of American women . . . and only one had anything to say about the South" (455). A great deal has changed since then. Although all the essays in this volume are useful, they display inevitable variations in approach and quality. Some are largely descriptive; among the most thorough and informative of these are the surveys by Charles B. Dew on slavery, John B. Boles on religion, and Hall and Scott on women. Most compelling, however, are those essays that focus on major historiographical controversies. Three pieces are especially successful in highlighting important interpretive issues: Drew Gilpin Faust's treatment of ante- BOOK REVIEWS339 bellum Southern society, organized around the perennial question of Southern distinctiveness; LaWanda Cox's examination of Reconstruction policy and Southern blacks; and Harold D. Woodman's discussion of change versus continuity in the postbellum economic order. This book offers broad thematic coverage, paying careful attention to race and gender, politics and economics, class structure, religion, and urban history. Chronological balance, however, is less evident. Only one essay , by George C. Rogers, Jr., focuses on Colonial and Revolutionary-era Southern history, a time span of almost two centuries that has received a great deal of historical attention in recent years. By contrast, four essays deal specifically with the South since the 1890s. Focus on very recent Southern history seems especially problematical, despite the existence of some important work, for much ofthe literature lacks a thorough grounding in historical perspective, analysis, and sources, and ofnecessityassumes a "current events"character. As Hugh Davis Graham, Jr., points out in his essay on post-World War II Southern politics, "recent American political history . . . has been dominated by political journalists and political scientists" (404). Overall, however, Interpreting Southern History provides students and scholars with an excellent guide to recent historical literature on the South. This book also demonstrates the current vitality ofSouthern history, which has shed whateverparochialism it mayonce have possessed and entered the mainstream of American history. Indeed, as the essays in this volume reveal , much of the most exciting work in American history is now being done on...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 338-339
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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