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A Historiography Of The Reconstruction Era

4644 words - 19 pages

Elliott FarringtonHistory 633.01Apr. 21, 2013Reconstruction: The Historiography of a Pivotal Era in American SocietyIt has often been stated that it is the duty of all historians to place facts about the past into an objective, cohesive chronological narrative that will help guide others to solve the problems of the present and future. It is important for the historian to have the ability to sort out the distorted facts from ones that are correct. However, what happens when the correct facts are in disagreement? This presents the challenge of postmodernity. According to Mark T. Gilderhus, objectivity poses a problem "because no historian can ever form statements about anything without the influence of bias, prejudice, self-interest, and personal preference. In essence, there is no object to behold". Therefore, to study the history of particular eras, it is necessary to strive for a clear, selective focus and for an integrated, overall view.[2: Gilderhus, Mark T. History and Historians: A Historiographical Introduction. (Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education Inc, 2007). p 116]A great example of this challenge can be seen in the period directly following the American Civil War in 1865 known as the Reconstruction Era. According to Ahmed Shawki, author of Black Liberation and Socialism, "While the Civil War destroyed slavery in the South, it did not immediately establish a new political and economic order in its place. The next three decades witnessed an intense, often violent, political struggle to determine the character of the South." In knowing this, the goal of this essay is to examine the historiography of the Reconstruction Era and how both viewpoints and scholarship following the era differed throughout the course of history. [3: Shawki, Ahmed. Black Liberation and Socialism.(Chicago, Illinois: Haymarket Books, 2006). p 63]For the purposes of this essay, the historian should note that the works that will be used will be dated chronologically due to a shift in academic viewpoints. Staughton Lynd's 1967 book entitled Reconstruction is a very helpful piece of scholarship to any historian studying the historiography of the Reconstruction Era. This book actually provided the historiography of Reconstruction up to a certain point. He provided the reader with various excerpts from scholars based on the various issues that came about as a result of Reconstruction. In his introduction, Lynd argued that Reconstruction could be divided into three parts. The first stage was a preparatory period from 1861-1865 in which rehearsals for Reconstruction were enacted in Tennessee, Louisiana, Arkansas, and the sea islands off South Carolina as these fell to the Union army. In other words, it was the actual Civil War that led to Reconstruction. The second stage was the period of Presidential Reconstruction, which lasted from April until December of 1865. In this stage, Andrew Johnson attempted to bring the Confederate states rapidly back into the Union,...

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