Recommend to your Librarian

The Civil War in American Culture

Will Kaufman


The Civil War is an event of great cultural significance, impacting upon American literature, film, music, electronic media, the marketplace and public performance.

This book takes an innovative approach to this great event in American history, exploring its cultural origins and enduring cultural legacy. It focuses upon the place of the Civil War across the broad sweep of American cultural forms and practices and reveals important links between historical events and contemporary culture.

The first chapter introduces a discussion of ante-bellum culture and the part cultural forces played in the sectional crisis that exploded into full-blown war in 1861. Subsequent chapters focus on particular themes, appropriations, interpretations and manifestations of the War as they have appeared in American culture. Particular topics include:

  • Confederate revivalism
  • the cultural uses of martyrdom
  • the centrality of race
  • the War's destabilisation of gender norms
  • the War's place in virtual and transnational culture

The final chapter explores the Civil War's alternative histories and the cultural meanings of the word 'Appomattox'.

The reader is presented with an accessible, concise discussion of the Civil War in its many cultural contexts.

Key Features:

  • multidisciplinary study of the cultural legacy of the Civil War: in literature, film, music, computer games, the internet, role play, material culture, and civic demonstration
  • situates race at the heart of the discussion and challenges the culture of denial in which race and slavery are marginalised in Civil War remembrance
  • written in a lively narrative voice, deliberately jargon-free
  • offers innovative readings of well-known and unexplored cultural material


1. Antebellum Groundwork
2. Reunion and Resistance
3. Martyrdom and Memory
4. Abe Lincoln's Mixed Reviews
5. Rebels, Inc.
6. The Regendered Civil War
7. The Virtual Civil War
8. The Transnational Civil War
Conclusion: 'History is My Starting Point'
Sources and Further Reading.

About the Author

Will Kaufman is Professor of American Literature and Culture at the University of Central Lancashire and a founder of the Maastricht Center for Transatlantic Studies in the Netherlands. He is the author of The Comedian as Confidence Man: Studies in Irony Fatigue (1997) and The Civil War in American Culture (2006).


Required reading for anyone interested in topic of race and/or culture in the U.S.
- Gerri Gribi, Curator, Journal of American Studies
Will Kaufman's lively introduction to the Civil War's continuing culture wars is therefore a timely publication for those wondering why the Civil War still resonates in american culture... a vibrant and engaging study that conveys an enthusiasm for the subject that students, one hopes, will find infectious.
- Susan-Mary Grant, Newcastle University, Journal of American Studies
Some of the more hidden gems of Civil War culture, and thus keep the reader enthralled as to what new curiosities he will uncover next... an entertaining and revealing perspective on the ethos of the American Civil War.
- Tracy Rex, University of Wales , American Studies Today
Kaufman moves elegantly and expertly from the actual events of the CivilWar to its representation in all kinds of modern popular culture, from thelabels of whisky bottles (one of which adorns his cover) to southern rockmusic, from bikinis to Playmobil figures... this is an exciting, wide-ranging and instructive book.
- Marion Gibson, University of Exeter, European Journal of American Culture
An interesting, well-nuanced study of the imprints that the Civil war has made and continues to make on US culture.
- T. Marwell-Long, University of California State, Journal of American Studies
An excellent overview for scholars and advanced students alike ... an excellent reference guide.
- H-CivWar - Jim Flook, University of Florida, H-Net

The prose is clear, with many deft turns of phrase. This is an engaging book, most enjoyable to read… a compelling book, bursting with insights. The war still matters so much, to so many people, and Kaufman has helped illuminate how and why. As he sagely observes, Appomattox was not the last word on the great conflict.

- Joan E. Cashin, Ohio State University , American Studies

Also in this series