My plans to write a blog post for the first essay in the McPherson book was preempted yesterday by that amazing Netherlands vs. Spain match. So here are a few thoughts and hints today as you read the preface and “Antebellum Southern Exceptionalism: A New Look at an Old Question.”
You will want to think about why McPherson begins with the anecdote about the visiting Soviet historians in 1976. What does the anecdote tell us about the significance of the American Civil War, as McPherson lays it out in the next paragraph? Pay attention as well to the major themes of the essays as he outlines them, as these will pull all of the essays together.
Consider as you read the first essay what historical question McPherson is trying to answer, and then consider whether he has succeeded once you have read the essay. What does he mean by “Southern exceptionalism?” How would scholars use the concept to explain the causes of the Civil War? What are the arguments for and against the idea of Southern exceptionalism? Pay attention to the particular areas in which McPherson compares the sections. What, in the end, is McPherson’s conclusion?
Happy reading, and go England!