Review: Lang on Gleeson and Lewis, ‘The Civil War as Global Conflict: Transnational Meanings of the American Civil War’

Posted on February 7, 2018

David T. Gleeson, Simon Lewis, eds. The Civil War as Global Conflict: Transnational Meanings of the American Civil War. The Carolina Lowcountry and the Atlantic World Series. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2014. viii + 308 pp. $49.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-61117-325-3.

Reviewed by Andrew Lang (Mississippi State University)
Published on H-War (January, 2018)
Commissioned by Margaret Sankey

The World of the American Civil War

The previous two decades have showcased a remarkable revolution in American historiography. No longer can scholars look exclusively at the national past within the protective and isolated confines of the United States’ seemingly secure borders. While rich texts continue to focus on the national experience, almost all historians today accept that the United States never evolved independent of its connection to the broader world. Indeed, as Thomas Bender reminded us in 2006, the United States lived—and lives—as “a nation among nations” (A Nation among Nations: America’s Place in World History [2006]). By linking American history to its hemispheric, Atlantic, and international pasts, the literature has uncovered extraordinary new insights into the studies of place and nation, slavery and abolition, revolution and restoration. Long burdened by an exceptionalist bent to its historical narrative—the notion that the United States had evaded the corrupting evolutionary tendencies of the Old World, charting altogether a distinct path of history—the transnational turn in American historiography has disrupted a sense of uniqueness to the national story.

Fewer places in the literature have experienced this historiographical transformation more than the field of Civil War studies. Long a product of exceptionalist writing, the United States’ signal mid-nineteenth-century conflict was often written as humanity’s most profound shift from premodernism immediately into the dawn of modernity. Such an unprecedented revolution, this older scholarship argued, irrevocably realigned the citizenry’s relation to the state, brandished a kind of total war that foreshadowed the terrible conflicts of the twentieth century, and centralized the United States altogether. This exceptionalist veil suggested that no other civil conflict had been as bloody, had been as revolutionary, or had been as sweeping in scope as the United States’ own internal struggle. Indeed, this was our war, just as American history was our past.

The transnational turn fundamentally altered how historians considered the American Civil War. A new wave of literature now places the domestic conditions of the conflict—why it came, how it was waged, and what it meant—alongside the United States’ place in an Atlantic world embroiled in similar disputes over the meanings of liberty, democracy, and republicanism. Myriad nations in both the Old and New Worlds had already experienced the impossible problems of democratic-republicanism’s fate, slavery’s destiny, emancipation’s promise, and the destructive power of modern industrialized war. If anything, the United States came late to a party long underway.

And that is where David T. Gleeson and Simon Lewis’s fabulous anthology comes into focus. Functioning at once as a tight synthesis of the transnational premise and as a departure point for new areas of study, the volume of thirteen wholly unique essays unveils the interpretative power of framing the American Civil War within its global context. The book’s overriding purpose is to understand the war transnationally, but the editors and authors are careful to recognize the multifaceted ways in which a transnational history of a national event can look. The volume never strips away the commanding influence of the nation-state. In fact, the various authors acknowledge that transnational history is not necessarily world history. American history and the Civil War in particular were contingent on relations to the world, the international exchange of ideas, the efforts to demonstrate behavior acceptable to a global audience, and even fears of the world impinging onto the nation itself. The nation-state is very much alive in this book. But it, like all intricate and evolving systems, was subject to complex, complementary, and contradictory influences both from within and without its immediate orbit. What we therefore see is an event that is simultaneously domestic and global. The Civil War, the authors suggest, was not exclusively a local moment, nor was it an amorphous global occurrence. The world was connected intimately to matters in the United States, just as the United States erupted in war due to conditions nurtured by global dynamics.

The book unfolds as a broad series of meditations on the war’s causes, its many interested parties, its conduct, and its consequences and memory. Edward B. Rugemer and Matthew Karp open the anthology, engaging the complicated antebellum connections that American abolitionists and slaveholders alike forged with the Atlantic world. Both authors conclude that the delicate evolution from slavery to freedom in the United States and in the Western Hemisphere played central roles in the formation of American identities on the eve of secession. Indeed, the United States’ mid-century emergence as one of the world’s few remaining slave societies—and unquestionably its largest—directly influenced how the 1850s developed at home, how slaveholders viewed themselves in relation to the nation-state, how American slavery related to a world increasingly hostile to human bondage, and how a post-emancipation United States differed dramatically from other former slave societies.

In dealing with the war itself, Hugh Dubrulle, James M. McPherson, David T. Gleeson, Alexander Noonan, and Niels Eichhorn all shatter the simple notion that “northerners” and “southerners”—esoteric identifiers that now carry such little meaning—cared most about the course and meaning of the conflict. Each author instead agrees that the world watched this war carefully, that diplomacy was shaped by contingencies forged on the field of battle, that Americans themselves practiced war in ways to legitimize their belligerency and to seek international approval, and that mid-century nationalism underwent a crisis over its very sources. One of the anthology’s profound leitmotifs is the question of nationalism itself, its ingredients, and its meaning. The American Civil War was one of many nineteenth-century conflicts waged as a terrible, enduring struggle about nationalism as a mystical idea or as the ethnic makeup of a nation’s people. Were all humans truly created equal, as European and Unionist liberals would have it, endowed with the capacity of democratic self-determination? Or, were nations conceived in the image of the Confederacy, a state built on racial and ethnic hierarchies that promised to secure liberty only for those of privileged classes? These various essays thus reveal that the fate not only of the United States but also of the Atlantic world hinged on answers to these questions. The Civil War was not the first nor the last conflict imbued with these difficult dilemmas. But by the 1860s, the authors conclude, it was among the most recent to take up the same questions that had plagued the world in the long wake of the Enlightenment and the Age of Revolutions.

The conduct of the war itself depended on similar questions. Burdened with self-imposed exceptionalist identities, Unionists and Confederates worried whether their conflict would deteriorate into what Abraham Lincoln called a “remorseless revolutionary struggle.” A pair of essays by Aaron Sheehan-Dean and Jane E. Schultz demolish any argument favoring the old Civil War-as-total war thesis. As Sheehan-Dean explains, each belligerent embraced the limiting tendencies and careful restraints of international law in shaping policies of retaliation, surrender, and prisoner exchange. Both nations avoided the most brutal passions and truly merciless conduct that so often scar societies engaged in civil war. Schultz’s treatment of British nurse Florence Nightingale, whose efforts during the Crimean War transformed nursing into a formal profession, demonstrates that both Unionist and Confederate women envisioned themselves in roles similar to the English icon. Understanding wartime nursing to be a source of virtue and humanitarianism, but also as a gateway into women’s public professionalization, American nurses understood their wartime place as a testing ground for a new postwar world.

The volume concludes with a series of essays by Aaron W. Marrs, Christopher Wilkins, Lesley Marx, and a sizeable roundtable, which all deal with the problem of the war’s aftermath and historical memory. Similar to the war’s significant transnational revision, the postwar period is also undergoing profound reevaluations. The closing essays discourage, some more explicitly than others, the use of “Reconstruction” when labeling events in the wake of Appomattox. “Reconstruction” seems to impose a limiting quality to the boundless events that took place both in and outside of the United States, as the nation, hemisphere, and world grappled with the stunning changes wrought by Union victory and American emancipation. From uncertain diplomatic relations, to American efforts to annex Santo Domingo, and even to the powerful international processes of remembering and forgetting forged on the silver screen by Gone with the Wind (1939), each essay instructs that because it was an international event, the American Civil War created more uncertainties and fostered bolder questions than those that it answered definitively.

The anthology not only encompasses an expansive temporal scope but also touches on a prodigious array of subjects. Both of these qualities make the book truly worthwhile. In fewer than three hundred pages of text, more than thirteen authors explore their subjects with painstaking precision and careful comprehension. Each essay, written with brevity and confidence, models the finest type of historical writing. The proof is in the way the book is conceived and executed. There is little doubt that each of these essays will either revise existing historiographical debates or spawn new areas of inquiry. That is the mark of a fine anthology, and this one succeeds admirably.

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Series: “When the War Is Over: Memory, Division, and Healing”

Posted on January 22, 2018

I was angry with my friend;
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.
-William Blake, “A Poison Tree”

“When the War is Over”: A series of public events dedicated to thinking about building Community After Periods of Slavery, Persecution, Genocide, or War.

In much the same way that trauma in an individual’s past causes psychological damage, communities that have experienced traumatic violence also bear psychological scars from that experience. Psychiatrists have for many years asserted the value of the “talking cure,” arguing that healing comes from addressing, not suppressing, the memory of the traumatic event. In the US military, for example, treatment of PTSD is generally informed by the work of psychiatrist Judith Herman, author of the now-classic 1992 study Trauma and Recovery. In the cases of traumatized communities, the tendency in recent years has also been to attempt “talking cures”; numerous countries have opted to establish truth commissions as a way to stabilize post-conflict situations. Hoping to avoid the potentially endless cycle of tit-for-tat vengeful “justice,” countries as diverse as Chile, Sierra Leone, and South Africa have used truth commissions to deal with their violent pasts not by repressing memories but by bringing them into the open.

Despite the successes of the Civil Rights Movement, the scars of slavery and of institutionalized racism in the United States are still present, manifesting themselves in a variety of ways, including continued systemic discrimination as well as individual acts of violence. In the latter case, the mass murder of nine of our fellow citizens while at prayer in the Mother Emanuel Church in June 2015 reminded us all that Charleston, our beautiful home city, is also a site of trauma, suffering from the suppressed memories of native genocide, two centuries of racialized slavery, and a century of legalized racial discrimination. Although contemporary historians have put the story of these traumas into print, the visible, material landscape still suppresses the trauma: public memorials and the demographics of urban space still render Native American and African American experience virtually invisible.

Elsewhere in the world, communities that have experienced similar trauma and racial, ethnic, or sectarian division have begun to address the effect of statues, monuments, and memorials honoring eminent historical figures whose ideologies and policies are out of step with contemporary assertions of universal human rights. In perpetuating a positive memory of leaders like Cecil Rhodes, for example, these memorials enshrine and set in stone attitudes we now consider to be anathema. Campaigns to remove statues honoring Rhodes from places of honor in South Africa and in his native England have led to wider campaigns for social justice, including equal access to education for all.

In the US, the last year has seen a wave of local initiatives to remove or modify statues and memorials honoring Civil War generals and politicians, as well as efforts to rename buildings named in honor of post-War politicians who advocated for and/or profited from racial segregation. These initiatives have in turn spawned renewed violence, notably in Charlottesville, Virginia last August. Here in Charleston, confusion still reigns over how to handle the memory of John C. Calhoun, whose statue towers above the city in Marion Square.

As an academic institution, dedicated to the notion that wisdom itself is liberty, we at the College of Charleston feel called upon to use our expertise in the humanities and social sciences to provide an intellectual framework to negotiate these contentious issues. “When the War Is Over:  Memory, Division, and Healing” thus brings together in a loosely unified series, a collection of public lectures and forums that address historical trauma and the ways in which sites that have experienced such trauma have moved, or might move towards building sustainable, peaceful community. In broadening the discussion from Charleston and the US to include the Northern Irish “Troubles” and the Holocaust, the series aims to provide a discursive context within which a fundamental commitment to human rights governs policy decisions that lead toward peaceable coexistence, the eradication of racism and other forms of discrimination, and the prevention of genocide.

We warmly invite the public to attend these events as we strive to move toward a better, more inclusive understanding of our common but divided history. A full list of the events will be available at

Hand painted copy B of William Blake’s “A Poison Tree”, 1794 currently held at the British Museum.


Congratulations to Dr. Vernon Burton!

Posted on October 31, 2017

Congratulations to Dr. Vernon Burton for being honored at The Governor’s Awards in the Humanities ceremony on October 19, 2017 at Hilton Columbia Center. Dr. Burton was one of four recipients at this year’s awards luncheon along with The Auntie Karen Foundation (Karen Alexander), The Hon. Betty Jo Rhea, and Dr. Dixie Goswami.
Now celebrating its 26th anniversary, the Governor’s Awards in the Humanities recognize outstanding achievement in humanities research, teaching, and scholarship; institutional and individual participation in helping communities in South Carolina better understand our cultural heritage or ideas and issues related to the humanities; excellence defining South Carolina’s cultural life to the national or world; and exemplary support for public humanities programs.
Dr. Burton gave a power acceptance speech that we believe is worth posting for all to read…
I am honored and humbled, especially since at this same time our friend Dixie Goswami, a hero to both Georganne and me, receives this award. I am grateful that my daughters took time off from busy lives, and brought grandchildren, to share this day.
It is an exciting time to be a historian in S.C. I grew up in the farming- textile community of Ninety Six. In 1969, I left for graduate school at Princeton, bracketed by two brief stints in the Army. I then spent 34 years at the University of Illinois researching and teaching the American South. I never wanted to leave home and my beloved mother, and when I met Georganne I told her I was only temporarily in Illinois until I could get back to South Carolina. One of the books I wrote, The Age of Lincoln, allowed me to retire and return home. Things have certainly changed dramatically in SC since 1969, and people here no longer care much for Lincoln, although I argue that he was not only the greatest president, but the greatest theologian of the 19th century, and a great southerner. The culture wars continue their cruel effect on democracy.
At least twice, our state has been at the forefront of United States history. In 1860, we led the nation in the wrong direction into civil war. Every elementary student knows the story, or at least a version of it; and on courthouse squares, and on the state house grounds, we celebrate the defeated Confederacy. Yet, South Carolina also led the nation during the Civil Rights Movement. Brown v. Board, which ended segregation, began in the 1940s when an extraordinary group of African American families in rural Clarendon County demanded a decent education for their children. Few know of these courageous heroes or their leader Rev. Joseph DeLaine, or their few white allies, who made our state and nation a more democratic and inclusive one. No monuments celebrate them nor their hard-fought victory.
South Carolina again has the opportunity to lead the nation in the right direction and to be on the right side of history. In the aftermath of the June 17, 2015 terrible tragedy, the Mother Emanuel Church massacre, I was interviewed by NPR and was not optimistic that the Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia would be removed from the state house grounds. South Carolinians, however, illustrated the best of our shared culture, and consistent with their faith, the families of the victims of Mother Emanuel forgave the murderer Dylan Roof, and their acts of grace changed the debate. The word “grace” permeates the legislative debates on the flag. I believe that is why white legislators voted to furl the flag, some understanding for the first time what the Confederate flag symbolized to African Americans; and why it was so appropriate that President Obama sang “Amazing Grace” at the memorial service.
People do not learn their history from the books historians write (or my grandchildren would have a larger college fund). We learn our history from what our communities tell us is important, by what they memorialize and to whom they erect statues
Most important for learning is our state house grounds, and today every single monument or statue to a named individual recognizes only white supporters of slavery, segregation, or white supremacy. I acknowledge a monument to African American denizens (who until 1930 comprised the majority of South Carolina’s population), but no monument honors an African American individual or individual’s achievements. We can rectify this situation and help end, or at least moderate the worst of the culture wars by erecting statues and celebrating South Carolinians who went against the grain and fought against white supremacy and for justice and “grace.” Hosts of African American and white South Carolinians fought the good fight and can be role models for generations to come. We must balance our public history presentations.
Growing up in Ninety Six, I learned from a marker commemorating Congressman Preston Brooks’ 1856 caning of abolitionist Senator Charles Sumner in the Senate Chamber. That marker signified that the way to be celebrated was to brutally beat those with whom you disagree. (It is no wonder we were state champs in football!) There was another local hero, but because of segregation, I never heard of the long-time president of Morehouse College, Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, until I met him during religious emphasis week my senior year at Furman. Today, that great theologian, spiritual god-father of the Civil Rights Movement, and mentor to Martin Luther King, Jr. is celebrated and recognized in Ninety Six, and I encourage you to visit the Benjamin E. Mays Historical Site in Greenwood where a statue will be dedicated to Dr. Mays Nov. 4. It is an excellent example of how we can do better, how a community can recognize an apostle, advocate, and example of peace and “grace,” an alternative role model for all youth, black and white.Thank you.


Posted on October 6, 2017



In preparation for a volume of essays to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the “Denmark Vesey Conspiracy” of 1822, the Carolina Lowcountry in the Atlantic World Program (CLAW) at the College of Charleston will hold a small conference on enslaved and free black anti-slavery, February 8-10, 2019.

Keynote speakers will include Bernie Powers (author of Black Charlestonians) and Michael Moore (executive director of the International African American Museum). Other featured participants include Manisha Sinha, Douglas Egerton, Samuel Ntewusu, and Rebecca Shumway.

Known to scholars mainly as a conspiracy of Carolina slaves, the “Denmark Vesey Conspiracy” also ensnared free black people and should be treated as a part of the broader black anti-slavery movement. Some of the rebels were aware of the Missouri Compromise debates over slavery. They compared Carolina whites to those national leaders who they thought wanted to end slavery. Some of the rebels were aware of the Sierra Leone colony of freed slaves and probably had known free and enslaved people who emigrated there in 1821. Some were aware of revolutionary Haiti. Some were born in Africa. In the truest sense, there were African, American, and Atlantic dimensions to the 1822 rebels’ organizing.

We welcome proposals seeking to understand black anti-slavery in the wider Atlantic world, including but not limited to Africa, the Caribbean, and Carolina. Proposals may include but are not limited to:

Rebellions in Africa
Archives of rebellion
Women in rebellions
Information networks
Religion and spirituality
Empire and colonization
The archive of antislavery
African resistance strategies
Cultural memory of rebellion
Gender/sexuality and rebellion
Rebellions & the Middle Passage
Criminalization of antislavery activity
Legacies of the repression of rebellions
Rebellions against the internal slave trade
Resistance and the internal (U.S.) slave trade
Haiti and black anti-slavery in the Atlantic World
Black activists and the politics of resistance to slavery
Black antislavery and subsequent social movements (such as #BLM)…

Charleston is an apt setting for these discussions. Nearby to Stono Creek, the namesake of one of the most significant slave rebellions in American history, Charleston was also a major entrepot for enslaved people trafficked from elsewhere in the Atlantic world. The College of Charleston was founded shortly before Vesey’s birth, and sits in the midst of the neighborhoods in which the uprising planners lived and worked. Tours will be organized as part of the conference.

To propose a paper, send a CV and a 250 word abstract to James O’Neil Spady ( by February 28, 2018. Authors of accepted proposals will be asked to submit their completed essays by January 8, 2019. The complete essays will be distributed to conference attendees in advance, workshopped during sessions, and considered for a proposed volume marking the 200th anniversary of the Vesey Conspiracy in 2022.

Contact Info:
James O’Neil Spady, Assoc. Prof. of American History, Soka University of America

2018 Conference “Freedoms Gained and Lost: Reinterpreting Reconstruction in the Atlantic World”

Posted on June 21, 2017

Freedoms Gained and Lost: Reinterpreting Reconstruction in the Atlantic World

 Call For Papers

In honor of the 150th Anniversary of South Carolina’s 1868 Constitutional Convention, South Carolina’s biracial Constitutional Convention that fundamentally changed the state by ushering in legal reforms, provided for public education, expanded the franchise, and promised numerous other rights, the College of Charleston will be hosting a conference entitled “Freedoms Gained and Lost: Reinterpreting Reconstruction in the Atlantic World.” In the decades following the 1868 conventions some of those rights guaranteed on paper by the convention would not always be protected or even remembered.

In partnership with various local, national, and international cultural heritage organizations, academic institutions, and historic sites, the Carolina Lowcountry and the Atlantic World Program (CLAW), invite proposals for panels, and individual papers about the larger topic of gaining and losing freedoms. The conference will be held March 16th-17th, 2018.

Topics might include (but are not limited to) women’s rights; reinterpreting the Reconstruction Acts; enfranchisement and disfranchisement; access to education; civil rights activism;; the impact on people of African Descent; the ending of slavery in the Atlantic World; the meaning of emancipation; the modern legal principles Reconstruction created; Reconstruction from an international perspective; the lasting social and cultural legacies from Reconstruction; and the historical memory of the era, especially as manifested in public sites, literature, music, performance, film, and visual art. Today, Reconstruction is often seen as both a “Splendid Failure” and the foundation of the modern Civil Rights movement. As such organizers intend for proposals to take an expansive definition to Freedom, Reconstruction, and Atlantic World when considering proposals. In light of CLAW’s transnational focus we are particularly interested in papers that take a transnational or comparative approach, thinking about lessons to be learned from US Reconstruction in comparable post-conflict settlements.

Special Focus:

Mindful of the United Nations declaration of 2015-2024 as the International Decade for People of African Descent, and the conference location in Charleston, South Carolina, the planners particularly encourage proposals relevant to the history of Reconstruction’s race and class legacies in Charleston and historically interconnected international sites—though we welcome proposals on a range of issues related to the larger theme of gaining or losing freedom in geographic areas throughout the Atlantic World and beyond.

 Proposals, Conference Format, and Post-Conference Publication:

Please submit panel or paper proposals with session title, presentation title(s), contact information, and institutional affiliation for all participants in PDF or Word format to Adam Domby at Deadline for proposals is September 1st, 2017. Paper proposals should be around 250 words long. Panels should include abstracts for each paper and an additional summary of the panel’s goals. As with a number of prior CLAW gatherings, this conference will take the form of a symposium where participants will discuss pre-circulated papers. Thus, if your paper is accepted, we will expect a complete version of the paper by February 1st for pre-circulation among participants. This allows presenters to pre-circulate full-length articles rather than the often-truncated versions that are read aloud. At the conference, presenters will then have a maximum of ten minutes to talk about the paper with the bulk of each session being devoted to discussion of the papers that participants will already have read.

Holding the conference in this manner allows us to move toward publication of selected papers in a greatly expedited fashion. Immediately after the conference, the organizers will complete their selection of essays to include in an edited volume. Final versions of papers for the volume will then be due some three months after the March conference (end of June 2018).


Keynote address will be given by Bruce Baker, author of What Reconstruction Meant: Historical Memory in the American South (2007), and editor of both Remembering Reconstruction: Struggles Over the Meaning of America’s Most Tumultuous Era (2017), and After Slavery: Race, Labor, and Citizenship in the Reconstruction South (2013).

Some Questions to Consider:

Did Reconstruction fail? If so, why did it fail? If not, what did it accomplish?

Do we need a new interpretation of Reconstruction? Does its traditional periodization still work?

How does the public understand Reconstruction?

How does Reconstruction continue to shape popular culture?

What role does Reconstruction play in modern politics?

Reconstruction is often viewed as a southern story. Yet, the South is inherently tied to the rest of the world. How did Reconstruction impact the rest of the world?

How has Reconstruction continued to impact the Atlantic World?

How were international understandings of race and race relations shaped by Reconstruction?

How does the South’s post-emancipation experience compare to other parts of the Atlantic world’s which experienced emancipation? How does the South’s post war period compare to other parts Atlantic world that experienced similar post-war periods?

How did Reconstruction influence the Civil Rights movement?

How did education shape Reconstruction and its legacy?

How did the Civil War influence Reconstruction in ways previously unnoticed?

Public Exhibit

The College of Charleston Libraries will host an original exhibit curated by historians and archivists showcasing the documentary heritage of Reconstruction and the post-emancipation era in South Carolina and the Atlantic world. Informed by cultural heritage objects from repositories across the region, the display will offer the public the opportunity to engage with sources that inform the (re)interpretation of the freedoms gained and lost during the Reconstruction era.

Transforming Public History conference a great success

Transforming Public History from Charleston to the Atlantic World” drew over 280 participants from Barbados, Brazil, Colombia, and the United Kingdom as well as all over the US.  The keynote lecture by Dr Lonnie Bunch, founding Director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, was delivered in Mother Emanuel Church, just two days before the anniversary of the dreadful massacre perpetrated there in 2015. Dr Bunch’s speech was powerful and inspiring. The following day saw a conversation with black British author Caryl Phillips, much of whose work has touched on issues of race and the legacy of the international slave trade. In addition to those two public events, a series of workshops, plenary sessions, and panel presentations addressed the many and various issues of race and social justice that confront public historians as they attempt to interpret historic sites and to render historical narratives more properly inclusive.

Rather than comment further on the conference, let me refer you to a blog-post by one of the conference participants, Angela Sutton, on the SmartWomenWrite site. Angela describes herself as  “juiced up from one of the most thoughtfully constructed conferences I’ve attended in a long while.” Take a read to see why.

Former CLAW director, Dr David Shields, wins 2017 SEC Faculty Achievement Award

Posted on April 12, 2017

Dr David Sheilds, the Carolina Distinguished Professor at the University of South Carolina and former director of the Carolina Lowcountry Atlantic World Program, was recently awarded the 2017 SEC Faculty Achievement Award for his teaching, research and scholarship which focuses on early American literature, cinematic portrait photography and the revival of Southern foods. Recipients of the SEC Faculty Achievement Award are awarded $5000 (honorarium) and are also nominated for the SEC Professor of the Year Award.

Throughout his career, Dr Sheilds,has written and produced numerous monographs and articles for both the academic sphere as well as the culinary world exploring the role of food in Southern culture. He has also published extensively on American literature during the early Republic.

Outside of academia, Dr Sheilds is also the chairman of the Carolina Gold Rice Foundation which seeks to advance the sustainable restoration and preservation of Carolina Gold Rice and other heirloom grains and raise public awareness of the importance of historic rice lands and heirloom agriculture.


North American Society for Oceanic History 43rd Annual Conference

Posted on April 10, 2017

On Monday, May 15th, the College of Charleston will host the North American Society for Oceanic History (NASOH) 43rd annual conference. This year’s conference will see professors and academics from across the world present papers covering a range of topic that pertain to “Ventures into the Western Ocean: Global Maritime Communities, Commerce, and Conflicts.” Presentations will explore a wide range of maritime connections, cultural landscapes, or an interweaving of both to examine the meaning and processes of our maritime heritage.

Christophe Boucher, Associate Professor of History at the College of Charleston, will be presenting a paper which explores the role of Native Americans in the fall of Fort Caroline in the 16th Century.  Prof. Boucher said that he is delighted that the College of Charleston has been afforded the opportunity to host such a prestigious conference, stating that “the upcoming conference presents an excellent opportunity for those within the discipline to remain engaged within the realms of oceanic history.”

Further information on the The North American Society for Oceanic History and its mission can be found here.


Carter Hudgins at CLAW

Posted on February 15, 2017

On February 8th, 2017, Dr. Carter Hudgins, Director and CEO of the Drayton Hall Preservation Trust, delivered the Carolina Lowcountry and Atlantic World Program’s first Wells Fargo Distinguished Lecture of 2017 entitled “The Past and Future of Drayton Hall.”
The lecture traced the development of Drayton Hall from its beginnings in the eighteenth century by using the wealth of material artifacts found on the site and recovered from archives and collections from around the Lowcountry. Through meticulous archeological and historical study, the Drayton Hall Preservation Trust hopes to reconstruct the lives of the estate’s residents, including John Drayton and the many enslaved people who worked his surrounding plantations.
The work of Dr. Hudgins and his team have uncovered a surprising history, and many artifacts discovered at Drayton Hall are found nowhere else in North America, including rare black Delft ceramics, one-of-a-kind patterns from China, and other rare products from around the world, showing that Drayton participated in global trade networks. However, according to Hudgins, John Drayton also placed a high value on domestically produced products and native landscapes, and many of the furniture pieces were made right here in Charleston at the workshop of Thomas Elfe. The gardens also represented the Lowcountry’s unique style, and while the design was inspired by the grand English estates, Drayton utilized native plants and trees and worked with the low-lying shape of the Ashley river area to create a distinctly local landscape. According to Dr. Hudgins, the Drayton Hall site is a convergence of different cultures and histories as represented by a particularly important piece of recently discovered ceramic that was produced and used by enslaved people of African descent. The artifact strongly reflects the blended ceramic techniques of Europe, West Africa, and southeastern Native America.
Dr. Hudgins also discussed Drayton Hall’s plans to build a visitor’s center and fulfill its goal to become a premiere archeological site dedicated to researching, documenting, and preserving the Lowcountry’s unique history. While Dr. Hudgin’s research has uncovered a tremendous amount of material history, he said they have barely scratched the surface of what the Drayton site can teach us about eighteenth-century Charleston and the lives of those who inhabited the area.
Many College of Charleston students and faculty attended the talk, and Dr. Hudgin’s research also attracted a number of interested members from the community. For more information on Drayton Hall’s preservation efforts, please visit

Hines Prize 2017: Call for Submissions

Posted on December 8, 2016

The Hines Prize is awarded to the best first book relating to any aspect of the Carolina Lowcountry and/or the Atlantic World. The prize carries a cash award of $1,000 and preferential consideration by the University of South Carolina Press for the CLAW Program’s book series. If you have a manuscript on a topic pertaining to the Carolina Lowcountry and/or Atlantic World, please send a copy to CLAW Director Simon Lewis at- before May 15, 2017. Graduate students are also eligible to compete for the Hines Prize if they have a relevant manuscript.