Special Subject: Gone with the Wind? The Civil War in American Memory Part 2 (V1400B)

15 credits, Level 6

Spring teaching

The ongoing sesquicentennial commemoration of the Civil War in the United States highlights the continuing capacity of that sanguinary conflict to generate controversy in the present.

This module provides you with a detailed examination of the war's impact on generations of Americans since 1865. It focuses specifically on the construction of southern white, African American and official unionist memories of the Civil War. These three key strains of historical memory evolved in the late nineteenth century under the press of postbellum reconciliation between North and South and the concomitant growth of a segregated society. They took a variety of forms, notably the potent and profoundly racist 'Lost Cause' memory of the Confederate cause which underpinned the Jim Crow South for more than half a century, a marginalised African-American 'counter-memory' which sought to keep alive remembrance of emancipation and black military service in the armed forces of the United States, and an official national memory which depicted the Civil War as a tragic brothers' war which nevertheless had the effect of unifying and strengthening the United States in preparation for its emergence on the world stage as a Great Power.

The module will focus on the impersonal social and economic forces at work in the construction of these distinctive and frequently intertwined memories as well as the inherently political activities of different groups involved in the memory-making process. These groups include southern white women who founded the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the veterans themselves who contributed significantly to sectional reconciliation, novelists, poets and historians of all kinds, filmmakers and dramatists, and politicians with a wide range of vested interests. The module will introduce students to a broad range of illustrative 'texts' in order to familiarise them with the diverse manifestations of Civil War memory – not only writings by Ulysses S. Grant, Carl Sandburg, and Douglas Southall Freeman but also monuments such as the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC; movies like Gone With the Wind and Glory; and commemorative events including the ill-fated centennial of the 1960s which was moulded by both the Cold War and the modern civil rights movement.

In many respects the module functions as a detailed case study in historical memory, a concept of growing interest to historians and one that has already generated a rich secondary literature. You will be encouraged to engage closely with this broader literature in order to make cross-national comparisons and to apply at least a modicum of theory to the primary and secondary texts at their disposal.


27%: Lecture (Film)
73%: Seminar


50%: Coursework (Essay)
50%: Examination (Unseen examination)

Contact hours and workload

This module is 150 hours of work. This breaks down into 22 hours of contact time and 128 hours of independent study.

This module is running in the academic year 2019/20. We also plan to offer it in future academic years. It may become unavailable due to staff availability, student demand or updates to our curriculum. We’ll make sure to let our applicants know of such changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.