Aaron Sheehan-Dean is the Fred C. Frey Chair in Southern Studies and chairman of the Department of History at Louisiana State University. He is the author of the award-winningThe Calculus of Violence: How Americans Fought the Civil War(2018),Why Confederates Fought: Family and Nation in Civil War Virginia (2007), and the Concise Historical Atlas of the U.S. Civil War (2nd ed., 2020). He edited The Cambridge History of the American Civil War and the Companion to the U.S. Civil War, among other books. He has conducted workshops on a variety of topics in U.S. history with elementary, middle, and high school teachers around the country. His more recent book, a comparative study of civil and national conflicts, is Reckoning With Rebellion: War and Sovereignty in the Nineteenth Century.
Most histories of the American Civil War describe it as a domestic event. Instead, this lecture situates the conflict in the context of the other civil and national wars that happened at nearly the same time. By comparing and contrasting the American experience with the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the Polish Insurrection of 1863, and the Taiping Rebellion, we see the Civil War in a new light. Rather than being a unique or exceptional American event, we can see what Confederates shared with other rebels around the globe. This new framing also helps us see the commonalities between the US and the British, Russian, and Chinese empires, all large and ambitious states willing to use violence to maintain their authority.