The American Civil War transformed citizenship. But many questions remain about the nature and implications of this process, stretching from the 1850s to the 1870s and beyond. What did citizenship mean before the war and what did it mean after? How, why, when, and where did the transformation take place? What were its limitations? How were legal changes connected to social conflicts or cultural developments? Were there international ramifications? The Virginia Center for Civil War Studies, housed in the history department at Virginia Tech, invites proposals addressing these and related questions for a conference on “Citizenship in the Era of the Civil War” in Blacksburg, Virginia, April 23-25, 2015.
Citizenship was transformed most visibly with the abolition of slavery, the claiming of political rights by African American men, and the new definition of national citizenship contained in the Fourteenth Amendment. But even before the Reconstruction amendments, the war itself had begun to destabilize American citizenship. In both the Union and the Confederacy, the exigencies of war caused government to make new demands upon the governed—including women, African Americans, and immigrants, as well as white male citizens—while material hardships intensified the people’s expectations of their governments. Wartime policies such as conscription signaled new definitions of the relationship between individual and government. This was not a simple story of an already-fixed model of citizenship expanding to include new constituencies. Rather, the Civil War era saw the emergence of new forms of political belonging; of new ideas about the nature of allegiance; of deeply unsettling challenges to the basic frameworks of American politics and society. The very concept of citizenship was being transformed, not just in legal terms but in wide-ranging social, cultural, and political ways as well. The conference will cover the entire Civil War era, broadly defined—not just the war years.
Professors Laura Edwards (Duke) and Steven Hahn (Pennsylvania) will deliver keynote presentations.
Paper proposals (max. 500 words) should be accompanied by a brief CV and should be submitted to Paul Quigley (firstname.lastname@example.org) by August 20, 2014. All presenters will be asked to submit written papers in advance of the conference, and the papers will be considered for publication in an edited volume. This conference is sponsored by the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies (civilwar.vt.edu).
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