Thursday, August 9, 2012

Memories of War

"There is no one American memory of either world war," writes Jay Winter in his interesting review."We need to acknowledge the messiness of remembrance, the absence of uniformity, and the heterodox tendency of people who survive war to speak their minds and express their feelings in their own ways." (Of course, one way of remembering -- not so useful to the genealogist or historian -- is simple silence, which seems to be what my great-grandfather practiced.) Winter commends four books:

Steven Trout, On the Battlefield of Memory: The First World War and American Remembrance, 1919-1941 (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2010).

John Bodnar, The "Good War" in American Memory (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010).

David Blight, Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2002). Harvard's publicity describes it as "a history of how the unity of white America was purchased through the increasing segregation of black and white memory of the Civil War. Blight . . . . resurrects the variety of African-American voices and memories of the war and the efforts to preserve the emancipationist legacy in the midst of a culture built on its denial."

Drew Gilpin Faust, This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008). This one I can recommend personally, having already read it. What sticks with me is her description of what was then conventionally viewed as "A Good Death," and how surviving soldiers did their best to describe their fallen comrades' deaths accordingly.

Jay Winter [featured review], The American Historical Review, vol. 116, no. 3 (June 2011):755-58.

Harold Henderson, "Memories of War," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 9August 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

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