Project that began in undergraduate research comes to fruition 20 years later
By LIAM CROSSEY
Ian Binnington of Allegheny College’s History department recently published a book entitled “Confederate Visions: Nationalism, Symbolism, and the Imagined South in the Civil War.”
Binnington’s book is an examination of the Confederacy, specifically Confederate nationalism, through the investigation of important Confederate artifacts such as wartime literature, the military role of the Confederacy, treasury notes and Confederate constitutions. Binnington also examines how the creation of America’s national identity was created through the Civil War.
“Confederate Visions” was picked up, published and distributed by the University of Virginia’s academic printing press, a highly respected publisher. There are also several other professors in the history department that have had their books published through different academic printing presses such as Cornell and the University of Pennsylvania.
James McPherson of Princeton University speaks highly of the book, stating that “Confederate Visions” will “broaden our understanding of Confederate nationalism.” Professor Don H. Doyle of the University of South Carolina said the book is a fresh take on the creation of the nation of the Confederacy.
The publication process for a scholarly book such as Binnington’s is much different than that of a fictional book.
“There is one thing that students may not understand and that is that we professors make absolutely no money off this,” Binnington said. “We may make enough money to take ourselves out to dinner in a year.”
However, Binnington said that one should take pride in his or her own work. “Confederate Visions” reflects about 20 years of research. Binnington’s work began while he was an undergraduate studying at Lancaster University. Binnington was in his junior year and was spending time abroad at the University of Illinois where he took a history class on the United States South. Binnington said that the class and professor spoke to him in ways that influenced him. He went back to Lancaster University and wrote his senior thesis on Confederate Nationalism.
“The jist of my senior thesis may or may not still be in the book,” Binnington said.
The Civil War is one of the most studied periods of American history. There is a rich array of material that a Civil War historian can consult to help his or her research. Binnington not only used books, but also primary resources such as letters, diaries and accounts from the soldiers to help him in his research.
“This is a time when many folks are thinking and writing about confederate nationalism and the Civil War,” Binnington said.
Binnington said that he had several students help him with his research and copy editing toward the end of the writing process, saying that they caught some errors he might have missed.
In his book, Binnington focuses on several notable Civil War figures. Generals such as Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson were generals that became figureheads for the Confederacy. Binnington said that one chapter is dedicated to Jackson.
“Jackson is the first general to die for the cause and becomes a martyr for it,” Binnington said. “It is almost as big as if George Washington died during the American Revolution.”
“There are multiple ways to be American. There was a confederate way to be an American,” Binnington said.
When asked if any other works such as “Confederate Visions” are in the future, Binnington said he is studying the impeachment of a judge in Tennessee during the Civil War, the only judge to be impeached for joining the Confederacy. Binnington believes that this research could turn into a second project.