Life and Work
Why Read Ludwell Johnson?
Both Ludwell Johnson’s style of work and choice of subject matter strongly recommend him to our consideration. As a working historian he is calm and measured, with just the degree of detachment that historical work ideally requires. As he puts it, “trying to identify cause and effect is, to me, the very soul of history.” A careful scholar, he does not hurry toward ideological conclusions serving contemporary projects. Nor does he “read” the minds of historical actors (even Lincoln’s) but seeks reasonable inferences from a preponderance of historical evidence. In addition, Johnson has a humane and civilized style, deceptively simple but not without quiet wit, pointed comment, or an occasional twist of the historical knife. His writing reminds one of the generation of historians that included Carlton J.H. Hayes and Robert C. Binkley.
Finally, for those who wish to understand American history, it is fortunate indeed that Johnson has concentrated on perhaps the most important period of that history – the so-called Middle Period – which includes the most important war in our history, that of 1861-1865. In Johnson’s telling, account of that war entails treatment of its long aftermath and lasting consequences – legal, institutional, economic, and ideological.
Life and Career
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