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Ken Burns' Civil War

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I've been watching this series recently, which most of us probably remember from whatever history course we took that covered the Civil War.  I remember watching this quite some time ago outside of class, but I was probably 13 years old or so, and little of it has stuck with me.

Coming back to it, it's amazing, because it is better than I remember.  That's a rare thing for me, as usually something I watch again suffers when I realize either that my love for it stems from the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia, or worse, that I no longer am in the right point in my life for it to hit me the same way.  But somehow, the intervening years have improved the Civil War series.  Even more shocking, corny as it seems, I find myself thinking how much it has affected our country.  When did this happen?  When did I start sounding, even thinking, like a history teacher? 

I think, perhaps, the reasons for this are twofold.  First, I have a little bit better understanding of some of the historical figures of the Civil War.  Sure, everybody knows Abe Lincoln and Robert E. Lee, but now I have a little more framework for the other players, like George McClellan or Jefferson Davis.  Somehow, this has given me enough to hang on to, and what seemed slow and confusing before is very, very easy to understand this time around. 

Second, and I know this makes me a Yankee through and through, but I have no sympathy with the South.  The apologists will say they were fighting for states' rights, but there is plenty of Confederate rhetoric of the time that makes it clear that they were fighting for their culture, and that an integral part of that culture was the furtherance of slavery.  Masking it by calling it something like states' rights is just historical justification.  Moreover, can you imagine the Confederacy as a modern nation?  I can't imagine them becoming a world power.  The South, with its focus on agrarian society and minimal vertical integration of social class, simply had to reinvent itself.  Losing a Civil War was probably not the most effective way to do so, but it got the South out of a rut it very much needed to escape.

I'm sure I'll be writing more on the series.  I'm currently halfway through, and I'll be sure to post when I finish.

 

For part 2 of this review, click here.