The Civil War and Reconstruction Era, 1845-1877 - Audio
by David Blight
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(HIST 119) This course explores the causes, course, and consequences of the American Civil War, from the 1840s to 1877. The primary goal of the course is to understand the multiple meanings of a transforming event in American history. Those meanings may be defined in many ways: national, sectional, racial, constitutional, individual, social, intellectual, or moral. Four broad themes are closely examined: the crisis of union and disunion in an expanding republic; slavery, race, and emancipation as national problem, personal experience, and social process; the experience of modern, total war for individuals and society; and the political and social challenges of Reconstruction. This course was recorded in Spring 2008.
||01 - Introductions: Why Does the Civil War era have a hold on American Historical Imagination?||Professor Blight offers an introduction to the course. He summarizes some of the course readings, and discusses the organization of the course. Professor Blight offers some thoughts on the nature of history and the study of history, before moving...||10/14/09||Free||View In iTunes|
||02 - Southern Society: Slavery, King Cotton, and Antebellum America's "Peculiar" Region||Professor Blight offers a number of approaches to the question of southern distinctiveness. The lecture offers a survey of that manner in which commentators--American, foreign, northern, and southern--have sought to make sense of the nature of southern...||10/14/09||Free||View In iTunes|
||03 - A Southern World View: the Old South and Proslavery Ideology||Professor Blight lectures on southern slavery. He makes a case for viewing the U.S. South as one of the five true "slave societies" in world history. He discusses the internal slave trade that moved thousands of slaves from the eastern seaboard to ...||10/14/09||Free||View In iTunes|
||04 - A Northern World View: Yankee Society, Antislavery Ideology and the Abolition movement||Having finished with slavery and the pro-slavery argument, Professor Blight heads North today. The majority of the lecture deals with the rise of the Market Revolution in the North, in the 1820s, 1830s, and 1840s. Blight first describes the causes...||10/14/09||Free||View In iTunes|
||05 - Telling a Free Story: Fugitive Slaves and the Underground Railroad in Myth and Reality||Professor Blight discusses the rise of abolitionism. Blight begins with an introduction to the genre of slave narratives, with particular attention to Frederick Douglass' 1845 narrative. The lecture then moves on to discuss the culture in which ...||10/14/09||Free||View In iTunes|
||06 - Expansion and Slavery: Legacies of the Mexican War and the Compromise of 1850||In this lecture, Professor Blight discusses some of the conflicts, controversies, and compromises that led up to the Civil War. After analyzing Frederick Douglass's 1852 Fourth of July speech and the inherent conflict between American slavery and ...||10/14/09||Free||View In iTunes|
||07 - "A Hell of a Storm": The Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Birth of the Republican Party, 1854-55||Professor Blight narrates some of the important political crises of the 1850s. The lecture begins with an account of the Compromise of 1850, the swan song of the great congressional triumvirate--Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and John C. ...||10/14/09||Free||View In iTunes|
||08 - Dred Scott, Bleeding Kansas, and the Impending Crisis of the Union, 1855-58||Professor Blight continues his march through the political events of the 1850s. He continues his description of the aftermath of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, describing the guerilla war that reigned in the territory of Kansas for much of...||10/14/09||Free||View In iTunes|
||09 - John Brown's Holy War: Terrorist or Heroic Revolutionary?||Professor Blight narrates the momentous events of 1857, 1858, and 1859. The lecture opens with an analysis of the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858. Next, Blight analyzes the Dred Scott decision and discusses what it meant for northerners...||10/14/09||Free||View In iTunes|
||10 - The Election of 1860 and the Secession Crisis||This lecture picks off where the previous one left off, with a discussion of the legacies of John Brown. The most important thing about John Brown's raid, Professor Blight argues, was not the event itself, but the way Americans engaged with it after ...||10/14/09||Free||View In iTunes|
||11 - Slavery and State Rights, Economies and Ways of Life: What Caused the Civil War?||Professor Blight begins this lecture with an attempt to answer the question "why did the South secede in 1861?" Blight offers five possible answers to this question: preservation of slavery, "the fear thesis," southern nationalism, the "agrarian...||10/14/09||Free||View In iTunes|
||12 - "And the War Came," 1861: The Sumter Crisis, Comparative Strategies||After finishing with his survey of the manner in which historians have explained the coming of the Civil War, Professor Blight focuses on Fort Sumter. After months of political maneuvering, the Civil War began when Confederates fired on Fort Sumter...||10/14/09||Free||View In iTunes|
||13 - Terrible Swift Sword: the Period of Confederate Ascendency, 1861-1862||Professor Blight discusses the expectations, advantages, and disadvantages with which North and South entered the Civil War. Both sides, he argues, expected and desired a short, contained conflict. The northern advantages enumerated...||10/14/09||Free||View In iTunes|
||14 - Never Call Retreat: Military and Political Turning Points in 1863||Professor Blight lectures on the military history of the early part of the war. Beginning with events in the West, Blight describes the Union victories at Fort Donelson and Fort Henry, introduces Union General Ulysses S. Grant, and narrates the ...||10/14/09||Free||View In iTunes|
||15 - Lincoln, Leadership, and Race: Emancipation as Policy||Professor Blight follows Robert E. Lee's army north into Maryland during the summer of 1862, an invasion that culminated in the Battle of Antietam, fought in September of 1862. In the wake of Antietam, Abraham Lincoln issued his preliminary...||10/14/09||Free||View In iTunes|
||16 - Days of Jubilee: The Meanings of Emancipation and Total War||This lecture focuses on the process of emancipation after the passage of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. The Proclamation, Professor Blight suggests, had four immediate effects: it made the Union army an army of emancipation...||10/14/09||Free||View In iTunes|
||17 - Homefronts and Battlefronts: "Hard War" and the Social Impact of the Civil War||Professor Blight begins his lecture with a description of the sea change in Civil War scholarship heralded by the Social History revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. Along with a focus on the experience of the common solider, women, and African...||10/14/09||Free||View In iTunes|
||18 - "War So Terrible": Why the Union Won and the Confederacy Lost at Home and Abroad||This lecture probes the reasons for confederate defeat and union victory. Professor Blight begins with an elucidation of the loss-of-will thesis, which suggests that it was a lack of conviction on the home front that assured confederate defeat, before...||10/14/09||Free||View In iTunes|
||19 - To Appomattox and Beyond: The End of the War and a Search for Meanings||Professor Blight uses Herman Melville's poem "On the Slain Collegians" to introduce the horrifying slaughter of 1864. The architect of the strategy that would eventually lead to Union victory, but at a staggering human cost, was Ulysses S. Grant...||10/14/09||Free||View In iTunes|
||20 - Wartime Reconstruction: Imagining the Aftermath and a Second American Republic||This lecture begins with a central, if often overlooked, turning point in the Civil War--the re-election of Abraham Lincoln in 1864. Although the concerted efforts of northern Peace Democrats and a palpable war weariness among the electorate...||10/14/09||Free||View In iTunes|
||21 - Andrew Johnson and the Radicals: A Contest Over the Meaning of Reconstruction||In this lecture, Professor Blight begins his engagement with Reconstruction. Reconstruction, Blight suggests, might best be understood as an extended referendum on the meaning of the Civil War. Even before the war's end, various constituencies...||10/14/09||Free||View In iTunes|
||22 - Constitutional Crisis and Impeachment of a President||Professor Blight continues his discussion of the political history of Reconstruction. The central figure in the early phase of Reconstruction was President Andrew Johnson. Under Johnson's stewardship, southern whites held constitutional conventions...||10/14/09||Free||View In iTunes|
||23 - Black Reconstruction in the South: The Freedpeople and the Economics of Land and Labor||Professor Blight begins this lecture in Washington, where the passage of the first Reconstruction Act by Congressional Republicans radically altered the direction of Reconstruction. The Act invalidated the reconstituted Southern legislatures...||10/14/09||Free||View In iTunes|
||24 - Retreat from Reconstruction: the Grant Era and Paths to "Southern Redemption"||This lecture opens with a discussion of the myriad moments at which historians have declared an "end" to Reconstruction, before shifting to the myth and reality of "Carpetbag rule" in the Reconstruction South. Popularized by Lost Cause...||10/14/09||Free||View In iTunes|
||25 - The "End" of Reconstruction: Disputed Election of 1876, and the "Compromise of 1877"||This lecture focuses on the role of white southern terrorist violence in brining about the end of Reconstruction. Professor Blight begins with an account the Colfax Massacre. Colfax, Louisiana was the sight of the largest mass murder in U.S. history...||10/14/09||Free||View In iTunes|
||26 - Race and Reunion: the Civil War in American Memory||Having dealt with the role of violence and the Supreme Court in bringing about the end of Reconstruction in his last lecture, Professor Blight now turns to the role of national electoral politics, focusing in particular on the off-year Congressional...||10/14/09||Free||View In iTunes|
||27 - Legacies of the Civil War||Professor Blight finishes his lecture series with a discussion of the legacies of the Civil War. Since the nineteenth century, Blight suggests, there have been three predominant strains of Civil War memory, which Blight defines as reconciliationist ...||10/14/09||Free||View In iTunes|
A Great Listen
This is an outstanding course on the Civil War. Professor Blight is a great speaker who maintained my interest throughout, to say the least. Very informative, highly recommend it for anyone interested in learning more about the Civil War.
I highly recooment this course to anyone who has an interest in the Civil War. Professor Blight does a great job of conveying the information, both interesting and informative.
A historian with the soul of a poet
Professor Blight demonstrates the soul of a poet in this broad yet thought provoking review of the causes, course, and results of the Civil War. Eschewing the determinist perspective so often heard (e.g. “The North had to win because…”), Blight offers instead an examination that considers the vagaries of history, including discussions of the war’s impact on those “beyond the command tent” such as slaves, civilians, women, and common soldiers. He further goes above and beyond challenging listeners with an impassioned offering of Southern arguments for secession. While you may not – indeed hopefully will not – accept these arguments, it is refreshing after the plethora of stale Confederate caricatures and ahistorical apologies.