Reconstruction: People and Perspectives

Reconstruction: People and Perspectives

Reconstruction: People and Perspectives

Reconstruction: People and Perspectives

Synopsis

Reconstruction: People and Perspectives is a fascinating collection of essays and documents that illuminates the experiences of ordinary Americans across all levels of society in the southern United States during Reconstruction.

Reconstruction: People and Perspectives describes in vivid detail the experiences of a diverse group of people caught up in the Civil War's aftermath in the South. Chapters focus on Civil War veterans, former slaveholders, farmers and city residents, Northerners in the South, and African American men and women (both those who stayed in the South and those who migrated). It also reports on groups similar studies often overlook, such as Native Americans and white women. Looking at Reconstruction from a social historian's point of view, this revealing work adds a much needed new voice to studies of the era.

Excerpt

Social history is, simply put, the study of past societies. Social historians attempt to describe societies in their totality, and hence they often eschew analysis of politics and ideas. Though many social historians argue that understanding how societies functioned is impossible without some consideration of the ways in which politics worked on a daily basis or of what ideas could be found circulating at any given time, they tend to pay little attention to the formal arenas of electoral politics or intellectual currents. In the United States, social historians have been engaged in describing components of the population that had earlier often escaped formal analysis, notably women, members of ethnic or cultural minorities, or people who had fewer economic opportunities than the elite.

Social history became a vibrant discipline in the United States after it had already gained enormous influence in Western Europe. In France, social history in its modern form emerged with the rising prominence of a group of scholars associated with the journal Annales Economie, Societé, Civilisation (or Annales ESC, as it is known). In its pages and in a series of books from historians affiliated with the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris, brilliant historians such as Marc Bloch, Jacques Le Goff, and Emmanuel LeRoy Ladurie described seemingly every aspect of French society. Among the masterpieces of this historical reconstruction was Fernand Braudel’s monumental study, The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, published first in French in 1946 and then in a revised edition in English in 1972. In this work, Braudel argued that the only way to understand a place in its totality was to describe its environment, its social and economic structures, and its political systems. In Britain, the emphasis of social historians has been less on posing questions of environment, per se, than on describing human communities in all their . . .

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