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  • Print publication year: 1990
  • Online publication date: February 2010

Introduction by Marts A. Vinovskis


Despite the popularity of military history, little effort has been made to study the demographic and socioeconomic impact of war on society. A prime example is the neglect of the American Civil War by social historians. Although thousands of articles and books have been written about the military experiences of its participants, not much attention has been paid to their lives. Indeed, most of the so-called new social historians have ignored the possible influence of the Civil War on the life course of nineteenth-century Americans.

In order to begin to explore the social history of the Civil War, seven essays have been solicited for this volume. Because of the scarcity of materials on the social history of the Civil War, it was decided to focus only on the experiences of the North, to allow coverage in greater depth. It is hoped that in the near future a similar volume can be assembled on the South, for of course the wartime and postwar experiences of the two sections were by no means identical. One of the essays, “Have Social Historians Lost the Civil War?”, is reprinted from the Journal of American History, but the other six were written especially for this volume. The fact that the six original essays for this collection are by scholars in their twenties and thirties suggests that the next generation of scholars will pay more attention to the social history of the Civil War than have their predecessors.