Sarah Handley-Cousins

Falling Out of Love with the Civil War

On Thursday morning, as the President of the United States tweeted his tacit support of the Confederacy, three different friends sent me messages. Each was struggling with the same thing: how do we convince our friends and families that statues of former Confederates need to come down? One friend had spent the previous evening in… Read more →

The Spoils of War: A Review of Sex and the Civil War

Many years ago when I was first starting my dissertation research on Civil War disability, I had an opportunity to sit in on a question and answer session with historian Marcus Rediker, who was talking about his book, not yet released at the time, The Amistad Rebellion. Part of the conversation revolved around the experience… Read more →

Sunday Morning Protest – A Note from the Editors

Since 1903, a poem has lain before the feet of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor that declares to the world that the United States will be a safe haven for the world’s neediest people: “Give me your tired, your poor/ your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” As historians we know that… Read more →

Lady Presidential Candidates: Belva Lockwood (1830-1917)

Oh, Hillary. What a bitch. A liar. A cheat. A man-hater. A one-percenter. The Donald most definitely does NOT rate her a “ten” on his own, patented “Women Donald Trump Thinks Are Hot Scale.” A measure so significant that he even uses it to rate his own daughter! Is this sad? Yes. Is this bad?… Read more →

“She Did It to Herself”: Women’s Health on Television and Film

[Spoiler alert for PBS’s Mercy Street] Like just about every other Civil War historian out there, I’ve been following PBS’s new period drama, Mercy Street, pretty closely. The show, which aired its season finale on Sunday night, was innovative compared to other shows and movies on the war: it included plotlines about the health of… Read more →

Ghosts are Scary, Disabled People are Not: The Troubling Rise of the Haunted Asylum

This past spring, the defunct Willard Psychiatric Center (previously known as the Willard Asylum for the Chronic Insane) in Ovid, New York, opened its doors for tours — one day only, with no advance sale tickets. I immediately made plans to make the two-hour drive — after all, for the past few years, I’ve been working… Read more →

What’s on Your Feminist Playlist?

Music played a pretty important role in my life as a kid, but I always listened to what my parents listened to — an interesting blend of 70s singer-songwriters, blue-collar rockers, and sugary 60s pop. When I was around 12, in an attempt to fit in better with my sixth grade peers, I decided to… Read more →

Heritage is Not History: Historians, Charleston, and the Confederate Flag

It’s hard to be a historian these days without constantly hearing about the supposed irrelevance of your work. After all, it must seem to many observers like we exist in our own academic echo chambers, engaging in ivory tower intellectualism that has little bearing on “real life.” And then, as a nation, we have a week… Read more →

You’re Wearing That?

In February of this year, Urban Outfitters began selling a tapestry covered with faded gray stripes and adorned with pink triangles. It didn’t take long for customers to notice that the tapestry looked “eerily reminiscent” of the uniforms and badges that the Nazis required gay men wear during the Holocaust. This is not the first… Read more →

Come to the Dark Side: Disability as “Dark” Civil War History

By Sarah Handley-Cousins

While the rest of the world was happily decking the halls and calling for goodwill toward men, Civil War historians — in the now-famous words of Historista blogger and historian Megan Kate Nelson — were “freaking out.”

They weren’t freaking out because of the discovery of some great new source material, or an exciting new publication. They were freaking out because both Civil War History and The Journal of the Civil War Era, the two major journals in the field, each published an article in their December issues that criticized the state of current Civil War research and writing. The major concern for the articles’ authors — Gary Gallagher and Kathryn Shively Meier for JCWE and Earl J. Hess for CWH — was that Civil War military historians, already a dying breed, are being hurried to their demise by eager social and cultural historians who dismiss military history as unscholarly and old-fashioned. Earl Hess suggests that “understanding the real battlefield of 1861-1865 is essential to understanding everything else about the Civil War.”[1] Gallagher and Meier assert that “because the Civil War was a massive war, every scholar of the conflict should be at least basically versed in its military history.”[2]