Menu Close

The American Civil War and Its Aftermath


Coclanis, Peter A. (2017). The American Civil War and Its Aftermath.. Eltis, David; Engerman, Stanley L.; Drescher, Seymour; & Richardson, David (Eds.) (pp. 513-539). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.


Scholars today are less confident than they have been in a long while about many matters relating to the American Civil War and its aftermath. This is so for a variety of reasons. Some see the roots of such uncharacteristic scholarly humility in powerful intellectual currents, most notably, in the epistemological challenges raised during the recent, but now much-dimmed, postmodernist movement, particularly the movement’s assault on the idea of grand narratives. Similarly, others point to today’s rapidly intensifying methodological critiques of standard economics, which have led an increasing number of economic historians, especially younger scholars, to believe that we are asking the wrong questions, measuring the wrong things, and/or misreading or drastically simplifying the motivations animating human economic behaviors. Still others view the war and its aftermath differently because the simultaneous rise of both global and micro history as fields has changed the levels of refraction in which we view – and interpret – American developments, while still others have become interested in studying questions, issues, groups, and themes that don’t fit comfortably, if at all, into the interpretive architecture that once so solidly framed our understanding of the war, emancipation, and all that. As a result, one thing we can say with some certitude, with a nod to Marx, is that much of what we once considered solid about the war and its aftermath has melted into air.


Reference Type

Book Section

Year Published


Series Title

The Cambridge World History of Slavery


Coclanis, Peter A.