When completed, this site
will provide access to over 2,000 newspaper editorials detailing the shifting
tides of emotion and opinion in the 16 months leading to Southern secession
and the American Civil War. The site is intended primarily as a teaching
resource, to enrich students' exploration and understanding of the period,
and assist teachers by expanding the available primary sources that they
can incorporate into their pedagogy.
The project has its origins in a three volume series prepared for the
American Historical Association in the 1930s, by Dwight Dumond (Southern
editorials) and Harold Perkins (Northern editorials). However, in reviewing
the series, staff were troubled by the selectivity of the coverage and
uneven distibution. The completed site will expand the coverage and range
of from the period by including editorials from regions neglected in the
original series—particularly in the West, where newspapers from
California, Texas, and the Missouri-Kansas border region formerly known
as "Bleeding Kansas". Staff will expand beyond the voices of
the editors by incorporating additional supplementary materials—letters
to the editor, diaries, and basic demographic data—to provide a
wider context for reading the editorials that takes into account recent
historiography and remind readers that there were many other voices engaged
in the debate.
The editorials in the site are organized in two ways—chronologically
and geographically. We use an animated map with
a three-stage taxonomy to provide easier access
to this data, as readers can identify particular stages in the evolution
toward Civil War, or click on a particular locality to review editorials
from a particular city or town.
The current project is planned in three stages:
Phase 1) Preparation of the original volumes for the Web.
Regardless of their limitations, the original volumes provide an exceptionally
rich source of materials for study of the period. The first iteration
of the site will include all structural elements, and the full range
of editorials from the period.
(Estimated completion, August 31, 2002)
Phase 2) Expansion of the editorial source base. After
production of the the original series is completed staff will turn to
the selection and preparation of additional editorials from the period.
We will expand the editorials included in the site to provide a wider
geographical range, as well as a more comprehensive selection of editorials
from newspapers included in the original series. A preliminary survey
of newspapers in the Library of Congress, suggests that this will mean
selecting, editing, annotating, and encoding, approximately 1,400 additional
editorials for the site. (Estimated completion, May 15, 2003)
Phase 3) Extension of contextual and pedagogical information.
Simultaneous with the expansion of the core editorials, staff will also
be developing additional contextual information extending from the demographics
of those writing the editorials to general information about the societies
and populations reading and responding to them. (Estimated completion,
This section focuses in on newspapers themselves, summarizing
the state of the press in 1860.
When completed, this section will provide access to the full
text of over 2,000 editorials. An interactive map of their locations
demonstrates how these opinions serve as a measure of the hardening
of opinion toward secession and war.
Provides additional context for the editorials through supplementary
documents, statistical data, and a guide to further reading.
This section focuses in on the editorials themselves, and highlights
how these opinions serve as a measure of the hardening of opinion
toward secession and war.