I’ve mentioned before that if you’re not from New England (I am not) the amount of New England history you get (at least in other parts of the US) is relatively limited. Here’s a case of where even within New England the history of this war is relatively untold, told from one specific direction, and plenty is misunderstood. Using recent poststructuralist thinking to guide her, Jill Lepore to find ways to narrate the history of this war, while discussing the specific difficulties contained in the process. It’s almost a case-study in contemporary history, while also being a history writing project on its own.
The book opens with a discussion on the naming of the war, and the naming of wars in general. Naming is already a loaded concept within history, within literature, within geopolitics. For example, in the US, we’re treated a dual naming system whenever we study the Civil War as so many battles of that war were named differently by each side. It’s not true of all the battles, but it does help to see where perspective plays into it. Whether you’re talking about Manassas/Bull Run or Antietam/Sharpsburg, you have to acknowledge that who’s doing the telling matters. She goes on to mention several further examples.
She also spends a lot of time looking at the wealth of written material about the war, but is constantly reminding us that it’s all from New England writers. She uses this as well as other methods of investigation to show how difficult approaching an “objective” (something she’s not actually concerned about) telling of this history is.