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 Posted: Wed Aug 29th, 2007 04:44 pm
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booklover
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David,

I think much of it comes from McPherson's reputation and that one good book (although I respectfully disagree that his other work is just okay). When people come to me in the bookstore and ask for a good single volume history of the war, McPherson is my first choice for two main reasons. First, his work set the standard in the early 1980s for readable history that went beyond simplistic explanations for great events and second, his work has stood the test of time. "Battle Cry of Freedom" is in desperate need of revision to bring it up to date, but I think it still should be given the honor it deserves.  That isn't to say that Jack Davis, Stephen Sears or Gary Gallagher haven't produced exceptional work, but their studies have been subject specific, where McPherson by and large has remained a generalist.

I have to be honest here and admit that much of my respect for McPherson came about because of a letter I wrote him just after BCOF came out. I was trying to decide whether to go to graduate school and on a lark, I wrote him (and C. Vann Woodward) a letter asking for his advice. He sent me a very nice reply urging me to go to grad school (I didn't) and encouraging my study of history. Woodward also sent back a reply that he typed himself (it has all the errors he made on it). Both hang in places of honor in my office. But even if he had told me to leave him alone or simply ignored me, I would still give his work the respect it deserves.

Best
Rob

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