Readex recently sat down with David Goldfield, the Robert Lee Bailey Professor of History at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, and author of America Aflame: How the Civil War Created a Nation. In our short discussion, Goldfield described how his extensive study of U.S. religious and Southern history—including newspaper editorials, church sermons and other primary source documents—enabled him to identify a critically important aspect of the American Civil War not often discussed by other historians.
Professor Goldfield also explained why he uses digitized primary sources in his teaching to excite and engage students. Watch the interview to learn how online resources like The American Civil War Collection help students gain a wider view of history based on a variety of perspectives.
Contact us for more information about The American Civil War Collection or other primary source collections for classroom use.
That’s the lesson David Goldfield, the Robert Lee Bailey Professor of History at University of North Carolina, Charlotte, taught at the Readex breakfast presentation at the 2017 American Library Association Midwinter Meeting in Atlanta. Prof. Goldfield supported this short declaration with several poignant examples.
While our minds tend to enjoy simple, clear-cut, good-versus-evil narratives, the reality is much more complex, Goldfield argued. He used his research surrounding U.S. religious and Southern history to provide a new look at the causes and outcomes of the American Civil War, first explaining why he finds the often-told story of the war “woefully incomplete.” He asked his audience of academic librarians to entertain a very different perspective on the war.
Throughout his presentation, Goldfield challenged the usual chronicle surrounding the war—the familiar debate of states’ rights and slavery—and instead focused on the consequences of righteousness and the effects of removing the barrier between church and state. According to Goldfield, the Civil War represented the failure of our political system, caused by the injection of religion.
During the upcoming American Library Association Midwinter Meeting, Readex will host a special Sunday breakfast presentation. Prof. David Goldfield, an exciting speaker and acclaimed authority on the American South, will present “American Tragedy: Assailing Common Assumptions about the Civil War.”
About the Presentation
For the past 50 years historians have achieved a consensus on the interpretative narrative of the American Civil War: that slavery was the primary cause of the conflict, and that the war—while bloody—produced two great results: the abolition of slavery and the salvation of the Union. Beyond the war itself, the same narrative asserts that Reconstruction was a noble but failed attempt to bind up the Union and provide the basic rights of citizenship for the freed slaves. There is nothing inherently wrong with this account, but it is woefully incomplete and, therefore, misleading.