How Has Blogging Changed Scholarship? Has It?

At the Civil War Institute’s evening session last night, Peter Carmichael suggested that blogging had somehow transformed the nature of scholarly discourse in a less civil direction. He may well be right, although the decline of civility is by no means limited to blogging. But his assertion leads to another question: has blogging indeed had an impact on historical scholarship? Has it in any way changed the way we conduct scholarly discourse, or how historians reach out and contact a larger population? In short, are things the same, or are they different, why, and how?

News and Notes: March 29, 2014

Here’s some stuff that may be of interest to someone:

  • George Purvis has his own blog. It reads as if he’s a long-lost cousin of Jerry Dunford. In either case, those of you who want to see what George has to say can go there.
  • Kevin Levin pushes for a change to the Mississippi state flag. Given how long it took that state to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment, good luck.
  • Here’s yet another one of those “student displays Confederate flag, gets in trouble” stories from Kevin’s home state. And then there’s this, too. I will reserve comment until prom season passes.
  • Glenn McConnell was named president of the College of Charleston, and guess what happened? Yup … and this, too. As well as this. Told you sotwice.
  • None other than Gary Adams takes on someone who still embraces the black Confederate myth. In other words, here’s another case of the circular firing squad that is Confederate heritage advocacy.
  • For those of you who actually follow Civil War history, you will find this debate over the Lost Order of September 1862 fame very interesting. In order: here, here, and here. Maybe readers can go there to read the exchange and then come here to comment and discuss.

Some Thoughts on Lincoln and Colonization

Readers of this blog have read this past week about how several historians differ over the question of whether Lincoln continued to pursue initiatives that would provide for the colonization of free blacks abroad after the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. Basically, the dominant view at present is that he did not do so; a rather spirited minority position is that he did continue to do so. The reason the recent work of Philip Magness and Sebastain Page has made such a splash in some circles is that the authors offer additional evidence that suggests that Lincoln never quite abandoned colonization after all.

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Sebastain Page on Lincoln and Colonization

Sebastian Page, who with Philip Magness wrote a recent study on Lincoln and colonization that stressed Lincoln’s continuing interest in colonization after the release of the Emancipation Proclamation, left a rather lengthy comment on this blog. Posting it there, I’ve also decided to post it as a separate blog post to call attention to it.

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A Step Too Far

It’s always understandable when an author does not react well to a negative review of one’s work. After all the time and labor one has put into writing a book, it smarts when someone finds that the result isn’t as good as one had hoped. Moreover, a number of positive reviews does not numb the sting left by a negative review, especially when it concerns one’s first book. Over time, one can develop a thicker skin and a more philosophical approach to reviews of one’s work, but to ask that someone not react is to suggest that they should not be human.

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“The most sublime word in our language”: Robert E. Lee on Duty … or Didn’t He?

When it comes to the words of great men, sometimes we discover that they did not say them or write them, but the impression continues to exist in some quarters, largely because we would rather embrace the myth than accept the reality. So it is with the following quote, attributed to Robert E. Lee:

Duty is the most sublime word in our language. Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more. You should never wish to do less.

In truth, even this rendering is an edited version of the expression upon which it is based. Those original rendering was supposedly part of a letter Lee wrote his son George Washington Custiss Lee in 1852, when the son was a cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point. The text of the original would not appear until 1864, when it was reprinted in the New York Sun. There the phrase read like this:

Duty, then, is the sublimest word in our language. Do your duty in all things like the old Puritan. You cannot do more, you should never wish to do less.

On August 4, 1914, as the world went to war, Professor Charles A. Graves of the University of Virginia Law School addressed the issue of whether the letter was genuine. You can follow his discussion here.

Oh, well.