Shifting Grounds: Nationalism and the American South, 1848-1865

ISBN : 9780199735488

Paul Quigley
344 Pages
162 x 236 mm
Pub date
Dec 2011
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Between 1848 and 1865 white southerners felt the grounds of nationhood shift beneath their feet. The regional conflict over slavery that culminated in the American Civil War forced them to confront difficult problems of nationalism. What made a nation a nation? Could an individual or a group change nationality at will? What were the rights and responsibilities of national citizenship? Why should nations exist at all? As they contemplated these questions, white southerners drew on their long experience as American nationalists and their knowledge of nationalism in the wider world. Shifting Grounds tells the fascinating story not just of the radical secessionists who shattered the Union in 1861, but also of the moderate majority who struggled before and after secession to balance their southern and American identities and loyalties. As they pondered the changing significance of the Fourth of July, as they fused ideals of masculinity and femininity with national identity, they revealed the shifting meanings of nationalism and citizenship. Southerners also looked across the Atlantic, comparing southern separatism with movements in Hungary and Ireland, and applying the European model of romantic nationalism first to the United States and later to the Confederacy. Evaluating the American South in transnational context sheds new light on the ideas and motivations behind America's greatest conflict. The creation of the Confederacy and the onset of brutal war in 1861 both built on and transformed antebellum ideas. A powerful national government imposed newly stringent obligations of citizenship while the shared experience of suffering united many Confederates in a sacred national community of sacrifice. For all white southerners-Unionists, die-hard Confederates, and the large majority torn between the two-the problems of nationalism had come to matter more by 1865 than ever before.


Chapter 1. Foundations: Nationalism in the Antebellum American South
Chapter 2. Dreams: Southern Nationalism before Nationhood
Chapter 3. The Pinch: American Nationalism in Crisis
Chapter 4. Definitions: Confederate Citizenship and National Identity in 1861
Chapter 5. War: Suffering, Sacrifice, and the Trials of Nationalism
List of abbreviations

About the author: 

Lecturer in American History, University of Edinburgh

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