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Total War and the American Civil War Reconsidered: The End of an Outdated “Master Narrative”

Total War and the American Civil War Reconsidered: The End of an Outdated “Master Narrative” re v i e w e s s ay Total War and the American Civil War Reconsidered The End of an Outdated “Master Na r rative” way n e w ei-si a ng hsi eh Despite the transnational turn in American history, American historians still tend to put our national history at the center of world history, which exaggerates both our virtues and vices. Harsh critiques of Civil War vio- lence as harbingers of twentieth-century brutality share with Whiggish narratives the unproven assumption that the American Civil War forged a fulcrum point not just for American history, but for the modern world. Until recently, most military historians have generally seen the Civil War as the opening chapter of what historian Roger Chickering has called a “master narrative,” in which modern weapons, combined with the mass mobilization of society, prolonged the war, encouraged “strategic stale- mate,” and engulfed civilians politically and military. This narrative places the Civil War at a crucial way station in a new era of industrial violence that inexorably leads to Hiroshima, the Holocaust, and a doomed present. From this perspective, the “total wars” of the twentieth century mark an apex of violence that had its wellsprings http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Journal of the Civil War Era University of North Carolina Press

Total War and the American Civil War Reconsidered: The End of an Outdated “Master Narrative”

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Publisher
University of North Carolina Press
Copyright
Copyright @ The University of North Carolina Press
ISSN
2159-9807

Abstract

re v i e w e s s ay Total War and the American Civil War Reconsidered The End of an Outdated “Master Na r rative” way n e w ei-si a ng hsi eh Despite the transnational turn in American history, American historians still tend to put our national history at the center of world history, which exaggerates both our virtues and vices. Harsh critiques of Civil War vio- lence as harbingers of twentieth-century brutality share with Whiggish narratives the unproven assumption that the American Civil War forged a fulcrum point not just for American history, but for the modern world. Until recently, most military historians have generally seen the Civil War as the opening chapter of what historian Roger Chickering has called a “master narrative,” in which modern weapons, combined with the mass mobilization of society, prolonged the war, encouraged “strategic stale- mate,” and engulfed civilians politically and military. This narrative places the Civil War at a crucial way station in a new era of industrial violence that inexorably leads to Hiroshima, the Holocaust, and a doomed present. From this perspective, the “total wars” of the twentieth century mark an apex of violence that had its wellsprings

Journal

The Journal of the Civil War EraUniversity of North Carolina Press

Published: Aug 12, 2011

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