Faculty Achievement: Woods publishes book on emotional conflict in the Civil War


Dr. Michael Woods, assistant professor of history, has recently published Emotional and Sectional Conflict in the Antebellum United States with Cambridge University Press. Focusing on the period from 1830 to 1861, the book explores how specific emotions influenced Americans’ political behavior prior to the Civil War. Northerners and southerners alike experienced intense indignation, grief, jealousy, among other emotions, and these in turn affected their political decision-making there-by making secession and war increasingly likely.

“Recently, historians have begun to consider emotions as serious topics for study,” Woods said. “My book uses this approach to help explain why and how the Civil War erupted in 1861.”

Woods began work on Emotional and Sectional Conflict while completing his Ph.D. at the University of South Carolina. His research took him to more than a dozen archives, from New Hampshire to Alabama. Using letters, diaries, newspaper editorials and speeches, Woods identifies specific emotions that were frequently provoked by sectional political conflict and explains how Americans responded to those feelings. Ultimately, emotions encouraged antebellum Americans to think of themselves as “northerners” and “southerners” and to conclude that their interests and ideals were worth defending to the death. According to one reviewer, the book’s “brilliant exploration of this subject has profound implications for how we understand Civil War America.”

To learn more about Emotional and Sectional Conflict,  visit http://www.cambridge.org/us/academic/subjects/history/early-republic-and-antebellum-history/emotional-and-sectional-conflict-in-antebellum-united-states.