Virginia Magazine of History and Biography
Volume 119 / Number 2
The Long Civil War: A Historiography of the Consequences of the Civil War
- Aaron Sheehan-Dean, pp. 106–53
This essay has two aims. First, it explores recent scholarship on the effects of the U.S. Civil War. That scholarship falls into several broad categories—politics and governance, emancipation, and the war's social and cultural impact. Studies in each of these fields have tended to emphasize longer time frames that allow historians to assess the war's influence on different aspects of American life over the remaining decades of the nineteenth century and beyond. The essay's second aim is to encourage this trend. It suggests that Civil War scholars should follow the lead of Civil Rights historians who have recently adopted the paradigm of "The Long Civil Rights Movement." The essay calls on Civil War scholars to reorient the temporal boundaries of their studies to reflect the more capacious framing found in histories of the long civil rights movement. Doing so forces Civil War historians to connect the changes wrought by the war more directly to the broader patterns of nineteenth-century U.S. and global history. The essay also suggests a rough historiographical division for such an approach—between traditionalists or fundamentalists who view the war as a signal break in U.S. history and revisionists who emphasize continuity over change through the Civil War era.