A milestone and new scholarship on the war

I thought I would take the opportunity of the blog’s 300th post to share with you the interesting contents in the latest issue of the journal Civil War History (not related to this site). The field of environmental history has been an emerging one over the forty years and the Civil War is not outside this field. The fine staff at the journal have put together a review essay and two articles dealing with environmental history of the war, specifically considering an overview of the literature on the field and the war, the nature of the war in the Trans-Mississippi, and preservation at Gettysburg.

I received the issue of the journal in the mail today and I look forward to reading it in detail in the coming weeks, but my brief examination of the article “The Nature of Preservation: The Rise of Authenticity at Gettysburg” by Brian Black shows it to be good both from an environmental history perspective, but also public history, as it touches on the changing landscape of the battlefield in the years after the battle, including the controversy over the battlefield tower that was demolished several years ago. Now with the new interpretive center and further reconstruction of the natural landscape in recent years, this article is quite timely.

I encourage interested readers to consider subscribing to this journal as well as the Journal of the Civil War Era. Civil War History has a long history and track record, being in its fifty-eighth volume, while The Journal of the Civil War Era is the new flagship publication of the Society of Civil War Historians, and has proven to be good in its first few years. Journals are worthwhile, as they contain articles on a variety of topics, which can be more accessible to some than large monographs. Plus, they are great resources for learning about new books in the field through their book reviews.

Thoughts on the new Civil War journal adopted by SCWH

As many members of the Society of Civil War Historians (SCWH) know, the Society will be adopting a new journal being created at the University of North Carolina Press, to be called Journal of the Civil War Era. While I welcome a new journal, which will only add to the rich historiography on the war, I am saddened by the loss of an established and reputable publication as an adopted publication of a historical society. I have waited a while to weigh in on this (both because of being busy with studies and wanting to have a greater chance to reflect on this), but want to share a couple of thoughts about this.

First, let me state that I plan to subscribe to both publications. This is so that I can support a new journal, as well as stay abreast of scholarship within the established periodical. A new journal offers wonderful opportunities for young scholars to get that all-important publication line on their vita. However, my one concern is how will the end of the SCWH using Civil War History as their journal effect that journal’s success.

Second, will this issue eventually cause a new historical organization for Civil War scholars to form? I am torn on this, as such possible dissension could hurt organized Civil War scholarship by creating several small groups that lack cohesive power to assert the value of their research to the larger profession. However, the possibility of another group raises thought of a situation akin to The Historical Society, which began as an off-shoot of the American Historical Association, but now has a solid reputation. Whatever eventually happens in the next year, Civil War scholars will let their voices be heard on this. Hopefully, they will continue to support Civil War History and embrace the new journal at the same time. I hope that the two publications do not hurt each other by competing for material.

Overall, I believe this transition will be relatively painless. There will be some upset, but the research and scholarship will continue. I urge readers to join the Society and to subscribe to Civil War History.

A worthwhile investment

Part of being a historian is being active in the field and one of the ways to get active is to be a member of a professional association or society. I am currently a member of the Society for Military History and the Army Historical Foundation (sorry to the rest of the branches, but I am an Army Brat). I am also involved with H-Net, which is a consortium of list servers and discussion based online networks on a wide variety of Humanities and Social Science topics, mostly history related. I have also been a member of The Historical Society and the AHA, but left the former to use the funds that would go to it to pay for membership in other organizations closer related to my research. I left the AHA for personal reasons that I will not go into here.

I have been happy with my membership in the Society for Military History and Army Historical Foundation, but I decided that since I am getting a bit further along in my graduate education, I wanted to join a couple new groups. Therefore, a few weeks ago, I mailed in my application to join The Society of Civil War Historians and just last night, after consulting with my thesis adviser yesterday, I joined the Southern Historical Association. I am contemplating joining the Society of Historians of the Early American Republic (SHEAR), but will have to wait and see about my finances.

There are many advantages to being a member of a professional group, like the ones above. You get a subscription to a quality peer-reviewed publication that offers up the latest scholarly happenings in the field. This is important, as one should be up, as best as possible, on the latest trends in their research areas. Second, you often get discounts to attend the national meetings and conferences held by these groups. These meetings, which often include a conference, as well as other conferences offer the opportunity to share your research with other scholars, as well as network with other members, which can be great for future employment. In addition, some groups have job sessions, where preliminary interviews are held for various positions around the nation and world.

In short, there are very few reasons, except for having more money in your bank account and more shelf space in your home (which are bad reasons anyway), to not join a professional society. Graduate students are especially encouraged to join, as it looks great on the old CV and on applications for programs and fellowships, plus most groups offer discounted rates for students, since they realize most students, myself included, do not have as much discretionary income. I encourage you to check out the groups I mentioned and look for others that maybe closer to your interests.