Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Further education is just a click away

It started with listening to the recordings of former slaves on the Library of Congress site. Fountain Hughes was 101 at the time he was interviewed and said his grandfather was owned by Thomas Jefferson. This led me to reading Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made by Eugene D. Genovese. One of the sources he quotes most is Mary Chesnut's Diary. She was the wife of a senior Confederate officer. During the Civil War she maintained a diary of how the world looked from her side. I read that. At the same time I began watching The American Civil War, Ken Burns's definitive TV history of the era which also quotes Chesnut a lot. I heard great things about Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln and so I read that, by which time it began to dawn on me that 2011 is the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War. I picked up the copy of Lincoln by Gore Vidal that I'd had kicking around unread for twenty years. A simple novelisation of actual events, I could only assume I wasn't intended to throw it away. Looking for something to listen to while shaving I now find David Reynolds' Civil War series "American, Empire Of Liberty" being repeated on the BBC iPlayer.

From which I conclude that it's never been easier or cheaper to pursue an interest than it is today. Some of these were digital resources, some were three dimensional objects made from paper or carbon fibre. Some were new, some were second hand, all were below cost price. In the days before the web just finding all of that would have involved a lot of shoe leather, a lot of poring over microfiches and explaining things to shop assistants. A lot of faff in fact. Above all I would have had to remember to do it. With the web you simply take action as soon as something is front of mind.


  1. Radio 3 has also just embarked on a four part series too: The American Civil War.

  2. I teach the American Civil War and if you want a good, one volume account of the war, try James McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom. Also, to get a great overview of the historical debates, read Hugh Tulloch's Debate on the American Civil War.

    From a Word subscriber of many years. Keep up the intellectually high standards. Don't dumb down.