What percentage of history has actually been covered?

Posted on August 30, 2018 by

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Fellow blogger Michael Hardy posted something on his Facebook page, today, regarding the percentage of history that has actually been covered in published works, and, really, the greater portion which has not been covered. While my reply went off on a bit of a tangent, I agree that we’ve only scraped the surface (and, as remarkable as it may seem, there’s still more ground to cover with the Civil War).

The Shenandoah Valley is an excellent example of light coverage. There’s a lot out there about the Civil War in the Valley (and, for example, I’m actually floored that, in the wake of Charlie Knight’s book on the Battle of New Market, there appears to be two more New Market books forthcoming), but (excepting that which is tucked away in local/county histories), there’s relatively slim pickins when it comes to the story before and after the war. Clearly, there’s room for coverage… yet, is coverage of that void defined by what raises interests enough for people to read, or maybe, more simply put, what sells?

As I demonstrated, from time to time, in my posts in years past, I’ve sometimes taken on the gap in the history before the war. It doesn’t really draw a crowd/garner readership, but there are some rather tasty tidbits which help us better grasp the Valley and pre-war society, there (and, that it was more diverse and complex than some think). I prefer to avoid generalizations and stereotypes, and accentuate the reality of a more dynamic cross-section of the story of people. In the end, this pre-war history is essential in pushing aside the mythology (often limited in scope… and perhaps to either a “moonlight and magnolias” perspective, or “those damned rebel traitors” perspective, depending on who one speaks with) that, too often, is tossed like a blanket across the masses in the area. Don’t we want to know these people better… more accurately?

Further, by stepping (so to speak) across the Potomac, and considering the incredible similarities in people and culture in the lower Cumberland Valley (mostly Washington County, Maryland), I think we’re able see how similarities carried over, and where the differences were defined, especially as the war closed in.

One other thing… it’s not always going to be threaded together with the Civil War, but posts, over time, will form a larger volume of work (hopefully) from which, at times, people can draw, and I can tie together to the narrative of the history of the people of the Shenandoah Valley in the Civil War.

This, in a nutshell, defines where I’d like to take the larger portion of the blog posts in the future… and then, there will be those “what just happened to interest me, today outside that which I defined above”. It’s pretty much the avenue I defined years ago, but didn’t always follow (thanks, often, to the CW Sesqui and Confederate monuments chatter).

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