Preview of the September 2020 JCWE Issue

Preview of the September 2020 JCWE Issue

This issue of the Journal of the Civil War Era is the first in which we appear as coeditors. We enter this job with deep respect for what the journal has accomplished and enormous excitement for what we might help it do over the next five years. Our goals remain those that our friend and mentor Bill Blair articulated in his editor’s note for the founding issue. The new journal would bring, he wrote, “fresh perspective to the sectional crisis, war, Reconstruction, and memory of the conflict, while tying the struggles that defined the period to the broader course of American his- tory and to a wider world. In this way, we hope to attract scholars across the many subfields that animate nineteenth-century history, providing a place where they can engage with each other.”[1]  This remains a powerful statement of the journal’s ambitions. It aims to be fresh, expansive, deeply engaged in historiography, and committed to advancing new perspectives, all at once. Indeed, the journal’s articles and essays vary in method, approach, and argument. The journal has been a site where scholars from many subfields engage to shape our understanding of the Civil War era through innovative research articles, widely read historiographical essays, probing book reviews, and eclectic posts on Muster.

As we build on these strengths, we intend to use our term to press farther. We aim to incorporate the history and historiography of slavery more fully into the journal. We want the journal’s offerings to reflect the diversity of scholars working on the mid-nineteenth century United States and the multiplicity of topics they are investigating. We recognize that broadening the journal’s scope requires outreach and openness, and we intend to reach out every way we know how. We hope the journal will stand as evidence of how much is gained when we approach the past from a wide angle, determined to consider the full range of social, economic, political, cultural, and global forces that shaped the period and its people.

We build on the extraordinary work of Bill Blair, the founding editor, and of the many others who have kept the journal vibrant and flourishing. While our names are on this issue’s masthead, the issue represents the extraordinary dedication of a group of interim editors who worked hard to sustain the journal in a period of transition, develop coherent systems for managing submissions and correspondence, and keep the journal thriving while the Richards Center conducted the search for permanent editors.

As this issue demonstrates, those interim editors—Rachel Shelden, Stacey Smith, and Luke Harlow—did far more than keep the journal afloat; they kept it a model of fresh, provocative, and deeply researched historical work, work of the very best kind and work that everyone associated with the journal and the field can be proud of. The journal and the field owe a great deal to the three of them and the journal staff, especially Managing Editor Matthew Isham and Editorial Assistant Megan Hildebrand. Careful readers will note other changes to the masthead, as well, and we look forward to celebrating those new additions in our editors’ note in the December issue.

This issue includes three fine research articles that in different ways speak to the field’s creativity across the antebellum, wartime, and Reconstruction periods. Bennett Parten’s “‘Blow Ye Trumpet, Blow’: The Idea of Jubilee in Slavery and Freedom” examines the evolution of the idea of Jubilee in antislavery thought, as abolitionists turned to Jubilee to explain why and how society might change. Angela Zombek’s “The Power of the Press: Defining Disloyalty at Old Capitol Prison” analyzes the role of the popular press in policing disloyalty and shaping national discourses of loyalty and treason during the war. Catherine Jones’s “The Trials of Mary Booth and the Post–Civil War Incarceration of African American Children” studies how the postbellum court system in Virginia constructed African Ameri- can children, especially girls, as criminal subjects and denied them presumptions of immaturity that helped shield white children from the full force of the law.

As former review essay editors, we take particular pleasure in the continued success of these pieces. Chandra Manning’s essay, “Faith and Works: A Historiographical Review of Religion in the Civil War Era,” demonstrates the enduring need for thoughtful and creative assessments of where we are and where we may be heading in the many different subfields of the era. Manning analyzes differing scholarly portrayals of what religion did and of what religion was in this period, helping to capture the many ways scholars wrestle with religion as social structure, as theological ideas, as personal beliefs, and as part of identity formation in a period in which religious beliefs and identities helped shape conflicts over slavery, secession, and Reconstruction. This issue also includes the journal’s typically fine range of book reviews.

The late Tony Kaye recruited both of us into the journal. With Bill Blair and Aaron Sheehan-Dean and Judith Giesberg and others, Tony helped create a journal as bold and energetic as he was. It is our pleasure to take up the mantle, and we intend to continue his legacy.


We regret if our original editors’ note conveyed a lack of appreciation for Judith Giesberg’s leadership, and we heartily endorse the public statement of the transitional editors, published in the journal in September 2019: “The September 2019 issue is Judy Giesberg’s last as editor of The Journal of the Civil War Era. She has been integral to the journal since its first issue in 2011, and the editorial team would like to thank her for her pathbreaking service. We have been privileged to work with her during her four-year tenure as editor and greatly appreciate the groundwork she and founding editor Bill Blair have laid for the future of the field, through this publication. It has been a true pleasure, Judy. Thank you.” 

[1]“Editor’s Note, “Journal of the Civil War Era 1 (March 2011): 1–2.

5 Replies to “Preview of the September 2020 JCWE Issue”

  1. kate masur and greg downs are both extraordinary historians who will foster an improved contemporaneous journal during these perilous times when the inheritance of the civil war era is on trial.

  2. This is a lovely tribute to the work of Bill Blair and the late Tony Kaye in starting the JCWE. But let’s not forget the incredible job that Judy Giesberg did for nine years– first as book review editor and then as editor of the journal itself. She made the JCWE into the important and innovative publication it is today, cultivating articles and special issue editors, and starting Muster (along with Kristen Epps).

    1. anne sarah rubin is absolutely right. i ist ran into judy giesberg in philadelphia at a small symposium at the public library for her to-be-released book on the painstakingly translated (at penn state) diary of a free black young woman during the civil war. it threw a light on the educated free black community of phila during this period. i never forgot it.

      1. Dear Ellen, It is so good to “hear” your voice here. It was my very great pleasure to meet you. I hope to see you again. -Judy

    2. Thanks for the postscript, but the use of the word “if” is unfortunate. As someone who served on the SCWH board for several years, Judy Giesberg’s significant contributions were both many and obvious.

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