Tag Archives: Alfred J. Andrea

Interview with Dr. Wesley Moody on Seven Myths of the Civil War

As seen in the video below, I recently had the chance to interview my colleague, Dr. Wesley Moody at Florida State College at Jacksonville, on the popular myths of the U.S. Civil War. Wes is an expert on the U.S. Civil War and has published his fourth book (forthcoming from Hackett Publishing) on the topic with a series I am co-editing with Dr. Alfred J. Andrea. The book includes the contributions of seven leading U.S. historians considering some of the most controversial issues related to U.S. Civil War history. We soberly discuss them here.

Special thanks to Professor Isaac Brown and his students at Florida State College at Jacksonville, particularly Lance Hunt, for their efforts in producing this. I hope we can make more of these on other key topics in the future.

“Readers of this book who thought they knew a lot about the U.S. Civil War will discover that much of what they ‘knew’ is wrong. For readers whose previous knowledge is sketchy but whose desire to learn is strong, the separation of myth from reality is an important step toward mastering the subject. The essays will generate lively discussion and new insights.”
—James M. McPherson, Professor Emeritus, Princeton University

 

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Historians Rank the “Most Important” Books on the Crusades

 

“As I write these words, it is nearly time to light the lamps; my pen moves slowly over the paper and I feel myself almost too drowsy to write as the words escape me. I have to use foreign names and I am compelled to describe in detail a mass of events which occurred in rapid succession; the result is that the main body of the history and the continuous narrative are bound to become disjointed because of interruptions. Ah well, “’tis no cause for anger” to those at least who read my work with good will. Let us go on.”

Anna Comnena, Alexiad 13.6, trans. by E.R.A. Sewter

Provided here are the responses of 34 medieval historians who were asked to provide a list of the top ten “most important” books on the crusades. Many of them are leading scholars in the field. Hopefully, it will be a useful resource for both students and interested readers. For more information, please see the Crusade Book List Project and to see each historian’s list click on their name below (or you can scroll and browse through them below). Please hit the back button to return to the contributor’s list. Also, check back in the future for additional contributions that will be added over time. This will be an ongoing project.

See also: 15 “Most Important” Books on the Crusades

See also: The Most Influential Crusade Historians

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Seven Myths of Africa in World History: An Interview with Dr. David Northrup

Above Image: David and Nancy, his wife of 46 years, hiking the Andes in 2017.
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Respected historian Dr. David Northrup is the author or editor of no fewer than ten well-received books, as well as dozens of peer-reviewed articles. Although he retired from Boston College in 2012 after thirty-eight years of service there, he began teaching more than fifty years ago, as a teacher and Vice-Principal of the Central Annang Secondary School in Nigeria during his time in the Peace Corps. He then served as a history instructor at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama from 1968 until 1972, before beginning his time at Boston College in 1974. David has had an outstanding career and is, unquestionably, one of the world’s leading scholars on African history. Needless to say, when I learned that my friend and co-series editor Alfred J. Andrea had recruited David to contribute a book to our Myths of History Series for Hackett Publishing, I was elated. Continue reading

Guest Essay: Was Lincoln a Racist?

Above Image: Abraham Lincoln “The Emancipator” (Park Plaza, Boston).

Guest post by Alfred J. Andrea

In the recently published Seven Myths of the Civil War (Hackett Publishing Co.), one of the book’s six authors, Ian Patrick Hunt, confronts head on the dual issue of Abraham Lincoln’s private opinions and official positions regarding African Americans. Through his nuanced analysis of the evolution of Abraham Lincoln’s thoughts and actions, Ian Patrick Hunt puts to rest the oft-repeated charge that the sixteenth president of the United States  was a racist. But the question remains, was he “The Emancipator,” as this statue in Park Plaza, Boston proclaims? Known as both the Emancipation Memorial and the Freedmen’s Memorial (due to the original’s having been funded by freed slaves), this copy of Thomas Bell’s statue was presented to the city in 1879. The original stands near Capitol Hill in Washington D.C.  Consider its imagery. A larger-than-life Lincoln places his right hand on the Emancipation Proclamation that rests on a pedestal, thereby bringing to mind his presidential inauguration when he placed his hand on a Bible. Assuming a heroic yet benign posture, he towers over a kneeling former slave. Unseen in this photograph, a whipping post draped in cloth stands behind the two men. This is a powerful statement, but how true is it? Continue reading

Guest Essay: The Myth of African American Confederate Soldiers

Guest post by Alfred J. Andrea

As Brooks D. Simson convincingly demonstrates in the recently published Seven Myths of the Civil War (Hackett Publishing, Sept. 2017), the claim that African Americans served, in any appreciable numbers, as combatants in Confederate forces has no basis in fact. It is, however, an incontrovertible fact that nearly 200,000 African Americans voluntarily served in the Union forces, acquitted themselves with devotion and honor, and were a significant factor in hastening the end of the war. Continue reading

“Objectivity” and the Classroom: Ten Historians Respond

Above Image: Myself giving a lecture on the thorny topic of historic Bosnian and Serbian relations (Nov. 2015). Based on my past experiences with students, Jacksonville seems to have a large population of both Bosnian and Serbian immigrants, sometimes resulting in somewhat heated classroom discussions of related topics if not framed well from the outset.

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I have seen many of my Facebook friends post stories about political or cultural bias on college campuses, sometimes expressing concern about what sort of education their children may be getting in the classroom, followed by expressions of lament for the high costs of college tuition on top of it. On rare occasions, I have also posted such stories and expressed similar incredulity, as in the case of a recent report about one university level U.S. history course that compared the “founding fathers” with the Westboro Baptist Church. When I did, it prompted a bit of a debate with one former academic, who defended the right of professors to use hyperbole to stir class discussion and thinking about historical events from different perspectives. I can appreciate the point more generally, yet in this particular case I see the rhetoric used (as reported) as too extreme, to the point of no longer really teaching “history” by modern professional standards. Yet, as I noted, some of my colleagues appear to disagree and have a more nuanced perspective.

As a result, I had been thinking about the topic of “objectivity” in the classroom when I came across a recently released statement by the American Historical Association issued in the wake of Donald Trump’s recent election victory. Consequently, I may have initially read it in a slightly different context than many of my fellow historians. It noted:

An unusually bitter and divisive election has been followed by continuing evidence of polarization to the point of harassment seldom seen in recent American history. The American Historical Association… condemns the language and harassment that have charred the American landscape in recent weeks. The AHA… [emphasizes] mutual respect and reasoned discourse—the ongoing conversation among historians holding diverse points of view and who learn from each other. A commitment to such discourse—balancing fair and honest criticism with inclusive practices and openness to different ideas—makes possible the fruitful exchange of views, opinions, and knowledge. The American Historical Association reaffirms its commitment to mutual respect, reasoned discourse, and appreciation for humanity in its full variety. We will strive to demonstrate these values in all aspects of practice, including in our roles as teachers, researchers, and citizens.

As I read these words, I wasn’t thinking so much about how historians dialogue with each other (which I can assure you is sometimes quite inflammatory), but with our students in the classroom, a captive audience, thinking these stated ideals would apply nicely there as well. The statement does, at the end, mention that these values should be demonstrated in our roles as teachers, after all, as well as more generally.

In response, I reached out to ten historians to see if they might offer some brief thoughts on the topic of “Objectivity in the Classroom.” To be clear, I fully realize that complete or “true” objectivity is not possible, but nevertheless there are things a professor can do to insure some degree of objectivity or neutrality (“as much as humanly possible”) in how they frame and discuss sensitive political, religious, or cultural topics in the classroom. It’s interesting to note that the AHA statement cited above nowhere uses the word “objectivity,” but does emphasize “mutual respect” and “reasoned discourse” in its place.

Consequently, I was curious to see how the other historians considered such issues.

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Crusade Historians and Karen Armstrong

Karen Armstrong is a former nun who writes broadly on political and religious issues including the crusades and Islam. As a well known critic of modern western attitudes towards Islam, Armstrong has often sought to draw attention to what she sees as historical injustices carried out by westerners in the East. She lists the crusades among these injustices. For example, in her work, Islam: A Short History, she writes:

It was, for example, during the Crusades, when it was Christians who had instigated a series of brutal holy wars against the Muslim world, that Islam was described by the learned scholar-monks of Europe as an inherently violent and intolerant faith, which had only been able to establish itself by the sword. The myth of the supposed fanatical intolerance of Islam has become one of the received ideas of the West. [pp. 179-180]

Of all of those currently writing on the crusades, her work is probably among the most popular and well known to the general public. In my case, I have had history students who have read her books in other settings come to me confused about apparent contradictions between what they were learning in my class and what they read in her book. I also once had a member of the general public, after reading a guest column I once wrote for the Florida Times Union, email me for the same reason, seeking clarification. The reason for these contradictions is because I have been trained as a medieval historian and work within the current dominant historiography of the crusades, much of which is decidedly at odds with some of the claims Armstrong makes in her works.

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