Saturday, August 1, 2009

Shelby Foote's The Civil War: A Narrative

This morning I finished the second volume of Shelby Foote's The Civil War: A Narrative. Reading Foote's magnum opus is a bit arduous; it's 2,960 pages all told. But I am thoroughly enjoying Foote's magisterial treatment of our nation's four year conflict. Foote, who died in 2005 at the age of 88, was a novelist and he's a great storyteller. His presentation of the personalities of the Civil War is entirely engaging.

He completed the first volume in 1958, the second five years later, and wrapped up his final book in the trilogy in 1974. But it wasn't until Foote appeared in Ken Burns' wildly successful1990 PBS documentary The Civil War that the novelist turned historian became very widely known. Though at that time Volume 3 - Red River to Appomattox had been published 16 years previously, at one point in September of 1990, each volume of Foote's history was selling 1000 copies a day.

War is repugnant, but my primary motivation behind my reading of histories and biographies around the American Revolutionary War, the American Civil War, and World Wars I and II is what they have to teach us about leadership. When I am done with the three books, I'll post some thoughts about leadership prompted by Foote's treatment.

1 comment:

  1. I've subscribed to this new blog. Looking forward to your insights!