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Abraham Lincoln, Behind Closed Doors: Memory, Politics and Gilded Age Histories of the American Civil War-Jun 4

  • The Fells Historic Estate & Gardens 456 Route 103A Newbury, NH, 03255 United States (map)

John Hay completed his ten-volume Lincoln biography in 1890, just a short time before he took up residence at The Fells. Hay and his co-author John Nicolay thus became part of the struggle over the American Civil War's meaning and legacy. Professor Robert Bonner’s presentation will draw attention to the broad complex of histories, biographies, and reminiscences of the war years that appeared in the decades after Union victory. Growing popular appetite for such histories (which reached a high-point with Grant’s Memoirs of 1885) was driven in part by the contemporary political implications of these volumes. History-writing in this period was, he will explain, intimately related to the weighty issues of sectional reunification and the re-emergence of white supremacy within the former Confederacy. The Hay-Nicolay Lincoln biography takes on new meaning when set aside the work of such authors as Horace Greeley, Alexander Stephens, Frederick Douglass, and Jefferson Davis. This presentation has been made possible through a grant from New Hampshire Humanities and is open and free to all. No reservations required. Meets at the Main House—walk or drive.

 About the Presenter: A native of Tennessee, Professor Robert Bonner is a historian of 19th century North America and the Kathe Tappe Vernon Professor in Biography. Among the primary themes of his scholarship is the problem of violence, the working of visual culture, and the metageographies of the American "South." Most of his scholarship has focused on the sectional crisis that led free and slave states towards Civil War and then to an uneasy post-emancipation peace. Previous books include Colors and Blood: Flag Passions of the Confederate South (Princeton University Press), The Soldiers Pen: Firsthand Impressions of the American Civil War (Hill and Wang); and Mastering America: Southern Slaveholders and the Crisis of American Nationhood (Cambridge University Press). He has two books in progress: a biographical study of Confederate Vice-President Alexander H. Stephens titled Master of Lost Causes and an account of Confederate commerce raiding, privateering, and slave trading, titled Slaveocrats At Sea: The Global Menace of a Maritime Southern Confederacy.