Unless I missed something, I think this is our last week on Chandra Manning's What This Cruel War Was Over. I found it to be, overall, an informative and enjoyable read. I think the book's greatest accomplishment is cutting through the notion that both armies were simply a depoliticized mass of yokels simply and nobly fighting for hearth and home.
Manning thinks this is a condescending portrait, and it is. But it has deep roots in the depiction of the Civil War as a depoliticized accident in which both sides fought nobly over abstract trade agreements, conflicting interpretations of the inter-galactic Senate, and the fate of Naboo. It's a popular depiction even today. I went to living history demonstration in western Tennessee last year and the participants were quick to note that they had simply "heard some stuff about some people fighting, and had gone off to defend their homes. They didn't talk much about their African property.
My main critique is really personal--I wanted to see more quotes from the soldiers, and less paraphrasing from Manning. Perhaps that just reflects my love of primary sources, I don't know.
And on that note, I'll open up the floor...
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is a national correspondent for The Atlantic
, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of The Beautiful Struggle
, Between the World and Me,
and We Were Eight Years in Power