Religion and the American Civil War: History and Historiography

AHA Session 169
American Society of Church History 22
Saturday, January 4, 2014: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Columbia Hall 3 (Washington Hilton)
Mark A. Noll, University of Notre Dame
The Need for Moral Evaluation of the Conflict
Harry S. Stout, Yale University
Treatments of the Religion of Abraham Lincoln
Allen C. Guelzo, Gettysburg College
African Americans, Religion, and the Civil War
Laurie Maffly-Kipp, Washington University in Saint Louis
The Audience

Session Abstract

This panel exploits two connected impulses, the boost that the sesquicentennial of the Civil War has given to scholarship on all facets of the conflict and the recent attention that scholars have devoted to religious aspects of the war.  For a very long time, historians, who were treating almost every other conceivable Civil War subject in great detail, paid inexplicably scanty attention to the religious convictions, practices, conflicts, interpretations, and effects that were so manifestly prominent as the Civil War unfolded.  Over the last two decades, thankfully, a number of significant books have expertly examined religious aspects of the conflict, even as historians writing about the war in general have begun to factor religious questions more prominently into their accounts.  The cumulative effect of this recent work has been to transform study of religion and the Civil War into a fresh, dynamic, and rapidly expanding theme of first-order historical research.  In keeping with the American Historical Association’s announced theme for this annual meeting—“Disagreement, Debate, and Discussion”—the panel will provide a forum for engaging in these instructive activities for a topic of great current interest.

            This panel has enlisted distinguished scholars whose works have been crucial in propelling fuller attention to religious themes or whose comprehensive accounts have given them more extensive attention.  After a brief introduction from the chair, which will sketch the historiographical trajectory, each panelist will speak for 10-11 minutes about how he or she views the place of religion in the war or in historical treatments of the conflict.  They will be reflecting on this general theme from the standpoint of the landmark studies they have published.  The second hour of the session will be devoted to exchange with the audience.  Allen Guelzo, James McPherson, George Rable, Harry Stout, and Laurie Maffly-Kipp have agreed to participate.

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