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The American Civil War, 1861-65

6. Historiography and Legacy

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In this module, we think about the historiography of the American Civil War, i.e. the way that historians have written about it, the aspects they have chosen to highlight, etc. as well as the war's legacy to this day. In particular, we focus on: (i) the extent to which events in historians' own lives impact how they think about past events, e.g. pre- and post-Vietnam War; (ii) James M. McPherson's 'Battle Cry of Freedom' (1968) and David W. Blight's 'Race and Reunion' (2001); (iii) the importance of the questions that historians ask and the kind of sources they use to answer them; (iv) the movement towards exploring the 'dark side' of the civil war: Jim Downs' 'Sick From Freedom' (2012) and Michael C. C. Adams' 'Living Hell' (2014); (v) the relative leniency of terms of surrender; (vi) the assassination of Lincoln; (vii) the reorientation of the country towards the west; and (viii) the longer-term impact of the American Civil War on race relations in the United States.

Further Reading:
– James M. McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (1968)
– David W. Blight, Race and Reunion (2001)
– Jim Downs, Sick From Freedom: African-American Illness and Suffering During the Civil War and Reconstruction(2012)
– Michael C. C. Adams, Living Hell: The Dark Side of the Civil War (2014)


In this course, Professor Susan-Mary Grant (Newcastle University) explores the American Civil War (1861-65). In the first module, we think about the immediate background to the secession of South Carolina from the United States in December 1860, including the impact of the Dred Scott case and the rise of Abraham Lincoln. In the second module, we explore the idea that the American Civil War was a second American Revolution, before turning in the third module to look more closely at the issue of slavery and emancipation. In the fourth and five modules, we consider the course of the war from the perspective of the Union and the Confederacy, respectively, before turning in the sixth module to think how the historiography relating to the American Civil War has changed since the 1960s, as well as thinking about the war's legacy to this day.


Professor Susan-Mary Grant is Professor of American History at Newcastle University. She is the author of North Over South: Northern Nationalism and American Identity in the Antebellum Era (2000), The War for a Nation: The American Civil War (2006) and editor of Legacy of Disunion: The Enduring Significance of the American Civil War (2003) and Themes of the American Civil War: The War Between the States (2010).

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APA style

Grant, S. (2021, March 12). The American Civil War, 1861-65 - Historiography and Legacy [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Grant, S. "The American Civil War, 1861-65 – Historiography and Legacy." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 12 Mar 2021,

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