Saturday, November 28, 2015

Southern Honour and Southern History

 robert e lee 2

In present day academia, one is guaranteed a celebrated career by inventing a new way to put the South in a bad light or a new twist on an old put-down. In the 1970s, Raimondo Luraghi, Eugene Genovese, and other historians were starting to pay some attention to the existence of a genuine aristocratic ethics in the Old South. Immediately a C. Vann Woodward student stepped into the breach and produced a book on “Southern Honor.” Now we would suppose that a book on Southern honor would have something to say about George Washington and Robert E. Lee and devotion to duty. Not a bit of it.

“Southern honor,” it seems, is just a dishonest excuse for some backward folks in East Tennessee to suppress their non-comforming neighbours. Honour in the South is not what Jacob Burkhardt defined as an enigmatic mixture of ethics and ego; it is all about brawls and peasant chivarees. This same historian a few years later essayed a presentation on how Confederate soldiers were not really brave. A graduate student who actually knew something about the subject politely took him apart limb by limb.

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