Sarah Handley-Cousins

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]

I’m a Country Girl … Or Not

By Sarah Handley-Cousins

I have a confession: I love country music. I grew up in a small town that could have come straight out of a country song, with its one stoplight, large number of cows, and self-described “redneck” residents. Country music was, unsurprisingly, pretty popular. I stopped listening to country for quite awhile after I left home, until a friend took me to a Zac Brown Band concert — after that, I was hooked. My Pandora stations all had titles like “Today’s Country Radio” and “Country Love Songs Radio.” I even bought cowboy boots. One day while singing along to Florida Georgia Line’s incredibly popular “Cruise,” I found myself thinking, “Man, I want to be this girl.”

Save Our Sisterhood: Reflecting on Single-Sex Education Ten Years Later

By Sarah Handley-Cousins

Ten years ago, on October 2, 2004, Wells College, a tiny, women’s liberal arts college in rural New York State, announced its decision to become coed. Frustrated and angry, many Wells Women — myself included — protested by holding a sit-in at the main academic building in hopes of compelling the college board of trustees to reverse its decision. We refused to leave. We slept in our classrooms; we chanted and sang; we lined up from one end of the building to the other, arm-in-arm, our mouths gagged with black fabric to symbolize how we had been silenced by the Wells administration.

Desertion, Martial Manhood, and Mental Illness: The Case of Sgt. Bergdahl

By Sarah Handley Cousins

Several months ago, when I submitted my first blog post for Nursing Clio, I included a short section about Civil War veterans who had lost their right to a pension because they had deserted the army during the war. But after discussing it with our editors, I decided to remove the section – after all, we thought, desertion isn’t really a current issue, right? I was more than a little surprised when, a few months later, the topic of military desertion became headline news.

Adventures in the Archives: Searching for the Past

by Sarah Handley-Cousins

For much of this past year, I’ve been entrenched in dissertation research. Despite the long hours hunched over dusty papers, trying to decipher century-old handwriting, generally while cold and hungry, I’m not complaining. I’m continually amazed that I’m getting the opportunity to do exactly what I’ve always wanted: the work of history. What I wasn’t prepared for, necessarily, was the emotional work that would come along with it.

Disability, Responsibility, and the Veteran Pension Paradox

By Guest Author

Recently, NPR reporter Quil Lawrence presented a radio series in which he profiled veterans who received other-than-honorable discharges from the military after violating rules of conduct, breaking the law, or getting in trouble with military authorities. Despite their service – including, for many, tours in active warzones – soldiers with so-called ‘bad paper’ are no longer considered veterans. As former Marine Michael Hartnett put it: “You might as well never even enlisted.”[1] Hartnett was given bad paper in 1993 when he began abusing drugs and alcohol – an attempt to self-medicate his undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder. Veterans like Hartnett are no longer eligible to receive any of the veterans’ benefits they were promised when they enlisted.