Sunday, May 20, 2007

North & South Magazine

I'm a long-time subscriber and strong advocate of North & South Magazine, but I have to admit the latest issue has me scratching my head a little bit.

Specifically, the editorial on page 4. I read that Terry Johnston recently stepped down after a two-year term. That is a shame. I thought the magazine was moving in an interesting direction--incorporating their website into the magazine through web polls and they even started a regular column reviewing Civil War-related blogs! So, it is too bad Johnston is stepping away.

However, Keith Poulter is taking his place. Poulter is the founder and was the editor for the first seven years of the magazine. No doubt, the publication will be in good hands. But, I am a bit disappointed to read about some of the "nuanced shifts" he has in mind. Here are a couple excerpts from the editorial, page 4:

For example, expect to see a little more emphasis on the military side of things, and a little less social history. The order-of-battle diagrams, so beloved of the wargamers (and many others) among the readers will again become a standard feature.

What's wrong with social history? True-enough, academic historians tend to focus on the social aspects of the war and, not so long ago, historians even worried that "Social Historians have lost the Civil War." The last few issues of N & S led me to believe we were bringing balance back to the war. Of course, military histories sell well and are essential to further our understanding of the conflict. But, I do think we need balance.

Here's another tough one:

I'm dropping the proposed special issue on Lincoln and Davis. The planned articles will appear, but spread over time. I have a feeling that an issue devoted solely to the two presidents would be less than riveting to those whose bent is mainly military, and would be something of a turn off for those whose orientation is southward--Davis surely coming off second best in any comparison.

What? This bothers me on several different levels. A magazine devoted to the Civil War, titled "North & South," thinks an issue devoted to the presidents of each side would be "less than riveting to those whose bent is mainly military..." What?!?

But, to be fair, Poulter offers a bit of a concession, though nothing is certain:

Another possibility is that we might publish a special Lincoln or Lincoln-Davis issue outside of the regular run of the magazine. Those interested could then buy it, those not interested would give it a pass.

One last tid-bit that is encouraging:

In a related development, North & South has reached agreement with Southern Illinois University Press, wehreby the Press will publish a series of books featuring articles that have appeared in the magazine. The first in the series, due out in spring 2008, will contian eight of the discussion articles that have appeared, inclduing such favorites as who were the top ten generals, and who were the worst ten.

I look forward to the series. I think that is a very positive endeavor and I will support it.

Maybe I'm just being a bit of a curmudgeon this morning, but I am a little worried about the "nuanced shifts."

I'd like to hear your thoughts on this. CLICK HERE to weigh-in over on the DISCUSSION BOARD.


Kevin said...

Hi Sam, -- Welcome to the blogosphere. I share your worries about North and South Magazine. I've been a subscriber for a number of years and I've used it in my own elective on the Civil War. I think it's all about the bottom line. Perhaps it was only a matter of time before N&S fell closer in line with the other magazines. What a shame.

Kevin at Civil War Memory:

Samuel P. Wheeler said...

Hi Kevin--

Thanks for the warm welcome! I hope my concern over the magazine will not amount to anything. I do think it is the finest magazine of its kind out there.


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