"War makes rattling good History" Civil War Scholarship in the 21st Century
March 29 - 31, 2001
Andrea Mehrländer (Center for U. S. Studies, Martin-Luther-University
Jörg Nagler (Friedrich-Schiller-University of Jena)
Hartmut Keil (University of Leipzig)
The sectional conflict of the mid-nineteenth century was probably the greatest crisis in the
history of the United States. Consequently, courses on this momentous event have become a
necessary and much needed feature in American and German history curricula.
This conference will examine the exact nature of the American Civil War, which has been
a continuing source of dispute among historians. Secession festered decades before erupting.
Southerners would not take the drastic step of seceding until they believed that the North
aimed not merely to bar the expansion of slavery but also to corrode the moral and political
foundations of southern society. The Kansas-Nebraska furor, the emergence of the purely
sectional Republican party, northern opposition to the Dred Scott decision, and John Brown's
raid on Harpers Ferry finally persuaded southerners that the North intended to reduce them to
subjection and "slavery". Secession seemed a natural recourse. All of these conflicts, spanning
a period of 50 years, were deeply embedded in the nation's political heritage, with the North
and the South holding vastly different views of what that heritage was.
No field of American history has been more transformed by recent scholarship than the
study of the Civil War. Despite this outpouring of written history that has shaped our
understanding of Northern and Southern attitudes in this conflict, there seems to be no
diminuition of interest in the subject.
Since 1865, more than 50,000 books have been published on this most crucial event in
American history. In addition, an average of 800 Civil War books are still being published
annually, and Civil War roundtables, military enactments and Hollywood movies are increasingly
high in popular favor.
While the immense interest of American scholars in this field needs no explanation, it
was only recently that Germany has witnessed the emergence of wide scholarly interest in the
era of the American Civil War. Naturally, a number of outstanding studies have focused on the
ethnic dimensions of the war, tightly connected with issues of ethnic leadership, race, and
In both countries, however, there are still topics that lie fallow. For instance, more
research is needed about the Civil War in current popular culture both in the United States and
Germany. As long as the conflict about the Confederate battle flag is still important enough to
feature as a decisive issue in the upcoming presidential election, too little is known about
the very nature of American heritage. Likewise, many Germans have engaged themselves in
organizing roundtables and re-enactment groups throughout the nation, taking pride in their
ancestors' participation in the Civil War, whereas their attitude concerning Germany's role in
World War II remains questionable.
The aim of this conference is twofold:
For the first time German and American Civil War scholars, both established and young, will
meet outside the United States to discuss, evaluate, and analyse the findings of recent
research in the field.
The conference participants will be able to and take stock in what has been published on
both sides of the Atlantic within the last decade.
The Center for U.S. Studies takes great pride in announcing Dr. James M. McPherson (Princeton
University) as keynote speaker of the conference. In order to allow a balanced presentation of
the diversity and richness of the history of the Civil War and Reconstruction, papers are
welcomed for the following panels:
The Civil War and the Afro-American Experience
Gender & the Civil War
Ethnic Dimensions of the Civil War
The Civil War in Culture & Memory
Civil War Politics & the Military
Touched by Fire: The Civil War & Biography
The conference will be held at the Center for U.S. Studies, Lutherstadt Wittenberg, from March
29 - 31, 2001. In order to receive consideration, proposals must be postmarked by September
15th, 2000. For more information or to submit a paper proposal please contact Dr. Andrea
Mehrländer at the address below.
Conference participants are hosted at the LEUCOREA, Collegienstr. 62, 06886 Lutherstadt
Wittenberg, Germany. Registration for the conference requires prepayment, is non-refundable and
includes accommodations, meals, conference materials, guided city tour. Transportation costs
and the reception dinner on March 30th, 2001, are not covered. Registration deadline: January
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