Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Birth of a nation

A recent study has shown that the previously believed death-toll  of the American Civil War has been seriously under-estimated. Based on census returns, Prof David Hacker of Binghampton University has  calculated the total killed as 750,000. Staggeringly, an proportional equivalent  based on  the US's current population would be 7.5 million.

Records for the English Civil Wars total death-toll are more sketchy, but 185,000 for the years 1642-51 is a reasonable estimate. Again, a proportional equivalent  based on  the UK's current population would be around 2.8 million.

The numbers alone are shocking. 

But consider the social and economic effect of prolonged fighting - four years in the US - and (depending how you count it) nine years in this country. Or the immeasurable impact on the political and cultural development of both societies.

My experience of the levels of awareness of the American Civil War in the states is only second-hand. But I do know that in this country general awareness of our civil war is woefully low. 

In our schools history lessons often  seem to revolve repeatedly around the Great War and the Western Front, and Hitler and the Nazis. I don't want to jump on the reactionary band-wagon of old farts that wants a return to 'our island story' in schools. But I'd dearly love to see the Levellers and the all too short-lived English Republic salvaged from obscurity ...

1 comment:

build muscle without weights said...

I recently saw "The Birth of a Nation" for the first time, knowing full well what sort of movie it is. It's no accident that it came out during the Wilson era. In fact, the movie was based on a novel by Woodrow Wilson's college buddy Thomas Dixon, whose obsession with race was "unrivaled until 'Mein Kampf'". Wilson, meanwhile, had to be the most reactionary and racist president in US history. The KKK staged a comeback during his presidency, and the years 1917-1921 saw more anti-black violence in the US than any other period since Reconstruction.
Very insightful piece... Thank you.