Washington College scholars, faculty, and alums have earned high praise as contributors to Disunion, a new compilation based upon the New York Times “Disunion” blog begun in 2010 to “write a new history” of the Civil War. The Kirkus Reviews of May 15 gave the collection a starred review, saying, “Each of the assembled scholars, historians, academics and journalists crafts unique insights and viewpoints, and through their collective dialogue, artistically contemplates the heft and enduring relevance of the Civil War.”
Ted Widmer, former director of the College’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, edited the compilation, with help from the Times’ Clay Risin, who is a former Starr Center Frederick Douglass Fellow. “We wanted to get away from the sense, all too easily found in textbooks, that history is a foreordained conclusion,” Widmer writes in the introduction. “And we hoped to explore some of the lesser-known qualities of the war—its international impact, its broad geography and its huge range of different participants.”
Adam Goodheart, the Hodson Trust-Griswold Director of the C. V. Starr Center, is the leadoff essayist/blogger, and his many contributions get special mention in the review as “consistent standouts.” Washington College history Professor Rick Striner weighs in with pieces about President Lincoln’s aborted plan for the federal government to buy all of Delaware’s slaves, and the “great gamble” of the Emancipation Proclamation. Albin J. Kowalewski ’07, now a public historian in Washington, DC, contributes a pair of essays, one called “The Star Spangled Bummer”—about the National Hymn Committee’s attempts in 1861 to find a decent national anthem—and another, poignant and quirky, about an early Arctic explorer who left a unified country and returned to one “the same no more.”
Disunion was released in mid-May by Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, New York.