“Reflections on a Global History of the American Civil War,” 12/2 Distinguished Visiting Research Fellow Lecture with Prof. Jörg Nagler

 12/02/2022

Reviving an annual tradition at the Kinder Institute, Prof. Jörg Nagler will close out fall programming with our 2022-23 Distinguished Visiting Research Fellow Lecture, drawing on the recent turn toward transnational historical studies in order to examine how taking a long, global view of the American Civil War might revise what we previously accepted about the scope and reverberations of that conflict. The talk will be held on December 2 at 3:30pm in Jesse 410.

Abstract

The American Civil War was not only the culmination of the development of a hitherto “unfinished nation” and the central crisis of American history. It had significant international, even global, repercussions in political, social, economic, and military terms. With the liberation of more than four million slaves who had produced seven-eighths of the world’s cotton before the outbreak of this war, the world had to look for new channels to procure the central raw material of the era, e.g. in Egypt and India.

In the age of nationalism and nation building, and with the emergence and growth of liberal democracies, parts of the world simultaneously experienced the globalization of capitalist economies that developed increasing interdependencies. The Civil War and its results were central to these global transformation processes. At the same time, forces outside the nation were shaping it and possessed pertinent repercussions for further American developments. The American Civil War furthermore represents, on a global meta-level, the conflict between the forces of local autonomies and those of national centralization, combined with the general phenomenon of the potential for conflict between agrarian and increasingly industrial regions.

The recent turn toward transnational historical studies is now beginning to have an effect on the way historians view the war. How does our understanding of the American Civil War change once we step back and view the conflict in its global context? How does this perspective revise what we previously accepted? These and other questions, also concerning the methodology of writing a global history of the American Civil War, will be addressed in this lecture.

Jörg Nagler received his M.A. and Ph.D. from Kiel University and is currently a Senior Full Professor of North American History (Emeritus) at Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, Germany. A scholar who writes on topics ranging from Abraham Lincoln to American Anti-Communist sentiment in the 20th century, he is the author, co-author, or editor of over a dozen monographs, most recently Their Second Revolution: German Political Refugees and the American Civil War (forthcoming, Fall 2022) and American Perceptions of the German Reich, 1871-1914 (forthcoming, Spring 2023). He joins the Kinder Institute in Fall 2022 as our Distinguished Visiting Research Fellow.