Wednesday, October 19, 2011

UGA hosts UnCivil Wars conference and launches companion book series

This weekend, leading historians and rising stars in the environmental history of the Civil War era will gather in Athens for the third annual UnCivil Wars conference, entitled “The Blue, the Gray and the Green: Toward an Environmental History of the Civil War.”

This month also marks the launch of WEIRDING THE WAR, the first volume in the UnCivil Wars series. The book is published by the University of Georgia Press and edited by UGA associate professor of history Stephen Berry.

The book, the series and the conference all seek to develop new ways of seeing and telling the Civil War, in part by focusing on unconventional social types and also by presenting history through compelling narrative strategies such as memory, reverse chronology, snapshots and glimpses, multiple perspectives, or microhistory. The conferences, which assemble senior and junior scholars in odd years and graduate students in even years, are shaped around a relevant theme developed by the participants.

As historian Edward L. Ayers noted in reference to Weirding the War, “saying something truly new about the American Civil War seems impossible,” but scholars participating in the conference use the opportunity of coming together with colleagues to challenge each other to find fresh approaches and to develop their ways of telling stories and of building broader insights out of interesting concepts.

Through the conversations made possible by the conference, which is co-sponsored by the UGA History Department, the T.R.R. Cobb House, and the Watson-Brown Foundation, series editors Stephen Berry and Amy Murrell Taylor will seek out book projects with big hooks, high concepts, strong narrative, and lively prose for consideration by the University of Georgia Press.

Next in line for publication, in Spring 2012, is Megan Kate Nelson’s Ruin Nation, which examines the surprising ways in which the destruction of cities, houses, trees and men provided common ground for American thinking about the war despite the extreme national divisiveness over other questions.