C. Vann Woodward was among the best that there ever was when it came to American historians in the twentieth century. Several of his books remain essential reading, if for no other reason than it pays to read that with which you disagree. Woodward wrote often about southern history, but, aside from his book Reunion and Reaction (1951), a somewhat controversial book about the Compromise of 1877, he did not prepare a book-length study of any topic that falls in the era of the Civil War and Reconstruction. However, he excelled at the art of the essay, sometimes using extended book reviews to make his point, an approach also embraced by one of his students, James M. McPherson.
I found Woodward’s writings on the Civil War and Reconstruction both provocative and just plain provoking. Continue reading