Previewing March 2022 JCWE

Previewing March 2022 JCWE

This issue of the Journal of the Civil War contains three research articles and an historiographic review essay that reflect the field’s increasing geographic and topical breadth. Together they indicate that calls to envision an expansive Civil War Era are being answered in increasingly rich and complex ways, and they suggest that we might turn to analyzing the different ways the Civil War Era is being expanded and the varying implications of those expansions.

Peter Guardino’s “The Constant Recurrence of Such Atrocities: Guerrilla Warfare and Counterinsurgency during the Mexican-American War” analyzes US military responses to guerrilla warfare over the course of the US-Mexico War. Guardino traces how wars against Native Americans shaped early US military actions in northern Mexico and then examines how US commanders made it official policy to attack Mexican civilians as the war moved into central Mexico. This story, important in its own right, also provides a backstory and partial contrast to anti-guerilla campaigns in the US Civil War.

Vanya Eftimova Bellinger looks east to expand our sense of how mid-nineteenth-century Americans understood and changed the laws of war. She argues that the Prussian immigrant Francis Lieber was influenced by Carl von Clausewitz’s On War, first published in the 1830s, but also that Lieber’s time in the United States shaped his thinking about modern war and democracy. What emerged from this mix of European theory and US reality, Bellinger claims, were new and distinctive theories that are best understood when placed in their own historical context.

Heading west, Jonathan Wells’s “Printed Communities: Race, Respectability, and Black Newspapers in the Civil War West,” examines Black editors and journalists in the US West between 1860s and 1880s as they attempted to create a distinct set of western identities for African Americans there, to engage with the complex racial politics of the West, and to construct new models of respectability to fit new spaces.

Cameron Blevins and Christy Hyman’s review essay, “Digital History and the Civil War Era,” assesses the ways that transformations in computational methods, tools, and platforms have reshaped representations and analysis of the Civil War Era. Blevins and Hyman show that scholars have made extraordinary use of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) mapping and of less-heralded digital systems, and they encourage us all to think more expansively and critically about digital technologies as they reshape historical practices.

This essay’s book reviews once again demonstrate book review editor Kathryn Shively’s extraordinary commitment under unusually challenging publishing circumstances, and also the professionalism and dedication of our colleagues, as scholars continued to produce sharp, informative reviews during the pandemic. 

 

Kate Masur and Greg Downs

Kate Masur is an associate professor at Northwestern University, specializing in the history of the nineteenth-century United States, focusing on how Americans grappled with questions of race and equality after the abolition of slavery. Greg Downs, who studies U.S. political and cultural history in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, is a professor of history at University of California--Davis. Together they edited an essay collection on the Civil War titled The World the Civil War Made (North Carolina, 2015), and they currently co-edit The Journal of the Civil War Era.

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