A recommendation for Confederate History Month

In the wake of Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell’s idiotic declaration of April as Confederate History Month and the justified anger it caused, I’d like to recommend this iTunes U podcast series: The Civil War and Reconstruction Era: 1845-1877. It’s from Yale University’s History 119 class, taught by Prof. David Blight, and is really engaging. Blight is especially good in the lead up to the war. Gov. McDonnell might do well to put it on his iPod.

I listened to it last summer and recommended it then. That post has a longer description of the series and what I considered to be it’s strengths and weaknesses. I don’t want to repeat myself, but one of my favorite parts of the course, a theme Blight touches upon many times, is how historians do their job and how historical interpretations change over time.

Changing the interpretation of an event or an era is legitimate; changing the historical record itself is not. If you go to the Confederate History Month proclamation today, you’ll find language about the evils of slavery and how thankful Virginia is for its abolition—it almost sounds as if the purpose of Confederate History Month is penitence. That language, however, was not in the original proclamation, in which slavery wasn’t even mentioned, let alone declared evil.

I doubt Prof. Blight would give a passing grade to Gov. McDonnell.