Interrogating the Project of Military History

December 15, 2003. I'm going to limit entries in this blog to an hour per working day, coffee breaks included. I'll follow the same rule with my posts to H-War These have succeeded in generating some decent exchanges. Now I just wish my grad students--for whom I was doing this in the first place--would start posting too. Maybe once grades are turned in, they will.

I have been nosing around the literature, conducting online searches with the keyword "postcolonialism," and getting a general sense of the lay of the land. But I haven't started reading much. Too busy writing.

When I bought those books Saturday night, I drove home wanting to read them and feeling slightly resentful of an old project that has finally surfaced on the immediate to-do list. This is a book, entitled The Union: Ordeal and Redemption, May-December 1864, that I pitched to Oxford University Press two years ago. From talking to Jim McPherson, I knew that he and David Hackett Fischer were developing a book series called "Pivotal Moments in American History." The idea is to underscore the role of contingeny in historical affairs. Since they didn't want too many Civil War titles in the hopper at once, they asked me to push back my delivery date to September 2005. Which means I should start now.

Well, I didn't want to start now, or any other time. I really wanted to press ahead with The Wars of the White Republic, do that cool poco thing, etc. I began wondering what a postcolonialist would make of the OUP book. Here's what I'd guess.

First, the main significance of the 1864 period was the end of what Omi and Winant call outright racial dictatorship. So that would be my theme.

Second, the slaves could be viewed as colonized bodies, but decolonization had begun and a small segment of the community had acquired a voice. By this reading, Frederick Douglass takes the role of Edward Said as an important postcolonial actor.

Third, the main narrative has to be on the people most affected: it's got to keep a focus on the African American communities even while doing what I agreed to do in my proposal. By the way, here it is.

Note: No entry for December 16. Made revisions to Entries 1 and 2.

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