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September 12, 2017
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v2.1 Reference
Electronic book text
November 21, 2017
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v2.1 Reference

Civil War Memories

Contesting the Past in the United States since 1865

At a cost of at least 800,000 lives, the Civil War preserved the Union, aborted the breakaway Confederacy, and liberated a race of slaves. Civil War Memories is the first comprehensive account of how and why Americans have selectively remembered, and forgotten, this watershed conflict since its conclusion in 1865. Drawing on an array of textual and visual sources as well as a wide range of modern scholarship on Civil War memory, Robert J. Cook charts the construction of four dominant narratives by the ordinary men and women, as well as the statesmen and generals, who lived through the struggle and its tumultuous aftermath.

Part One explains why the Yankee victors' memory of the "War of the Rebellion" drove political conflict into the 1890s, then waned with the passing of the soldiers who had saved the republic. It also touches on the leading role southern white women played in the development of the racially segregated South's "Lost Cause"; explores why, by the beginning of the twentieth century, the majority of Americans had embraced a powerful reconciliatory memory of the Civil War; and details the failed efforts to connect an emancipationist reading of the conflict to the fading cause of civil rights.

Part Two demonstrates the Civil War's capacity to thrill twentieth-century Americans in movies such as The Birth of a Nation and Gone with the Wind. It also reveals the war's vital connection to the black freedom struggle in the modern era. Finally, Cook argues that the massacre of African American parishioners in Charleston in June 2015 highlighted the continuing relevance of the Civil War by triggering intense nationwide controversy over the place of Confederate symbols in the United States.

Written in vigorous prose for a wide audience and designed to inform popular debate on the relevance of the Civil War to the racial politics of modern America, Civil War Memories is required reading for informed Americans today.

About the Author

Robert J. Cook is a professor of American history at the University of Sussex. He is the author of Civil War Senator: William Pitt Fessenden and the Fight to Save the American Republic and a coauthor of Secession Winter: When the Union Fell Apart.


"The book is full of interesting anecdotes that illustrate the many skirmishes between the competing narratives"—History News Network

"Cook's work has the advantage of covering the entirety of post-Civil War history, making his the most comprehensive entry in this scholarly debate . . . His consistent attention to electoral politics across time sets his work apart from that of many other authors and makes the book well worth reading."—Annals of Iowa

"Civil War Memories offers a comprehensive treatment of the memory of the nation's most enduring and contested event. In offering a study of Civil War memory since 1865, Cook underscores that memories of the war have never been monolithic. They have always been debated, politicized, and maligned. His attention to the war's differing memories in the modern era reminds us how the Civil War continues to resonate within our own "mystic chords of memory."—Jennifer M. Murray, University of Virginia's College at Wise, Journal of Southern History

"In Civil War Memories: Contesting the Past in the United States since 1865, Robert J. Cook outlines the fight over the memory of the Civil War since Appomattox. It is a tightly argued work that blends adept synthesis with primary source research, and Cook offers an absorbing study of the Civil War's long memory and, implicitly, a meditation on the ways in which various entities "marshal the past so powerfully in the service of the present."—Bonnie Laughlin-Schultz, Eastern Illinois University, American Historical Review

"Cook makes clear the powerful ways that the reverberations of the Civil War still resonate within American political culture. A compelling story told by a uniquely qualified expert in southern history and civil rights."—Joan Waugh, University of California–Los Angeles, author of U. S. Grant: American Hero, American Myth

"The Civil War has occupied a special place in the American psyche, for northerners and southerners, for blacks and whites, ever since General Robert E. Lee's men stacked their guns at Appomattox in 1865. In his fast-paced, well-researched, and gripping Civil War Memories, Robert J. Cook underscores why and how Americans have remembered (and forgotten) the war's complex meanings and legacies. Cook's book is especially relevant at a moment in American history when pro-Confederate symbols remain hotly contested and recurrent racial violence challenges the myth of a post-racial age."—John David Smith, University of North Carolina–Charlotte, coauthor of Soldiering for Freedom: How the Union Army Recruited, Trained, and Deployed the U.S. Colored Troops

9781421423494 : civil-war-memories-cook
Paperback / softback
288 Pages
$27.00 USD
9781421423500 : civil-war-memories-cook
Electronic book text
288 Pages
$27.00 USD

Other Titles by Robert J. Cook

Secession Winter

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Mar 2013 - The Johns Hopkins University Press
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