C. Vann Woodward: America’s Historian

Univ. of North Carolina. Oct. 2022. 504p. ISBN 9781469670218. $37.50. BIOG
In the decades following World War II, C. Vann Woodward (1908–99) was the country’s foremost historian about the South, an academic eminence, and a public intellectual who brought the past to American’s understanding of the present. Cobb (emeritus, history, Univ. of Georgia; The South and America Since World War II) devotes most of his richly detailed biography to carefully assessing Woodward’s scholarly publications, while also focusing on Woodward’s free speech activism, academic politics, and, less so, Woodward’s personal life. In a series of widely acclaimed books, starting with Tom Watson in 1938, Woodward deflated the myths propagated by historians who supported the Civil War, Cobb argues. Woodward also commented publicly on racial segregation and won a 1982 Pulitzer Prize for Mary Chestnut’s Civil War, his editing of Chestnut’s antebellum diaries.
VERDICT A rewarding read for scholars of Southern and 20th-century historical references in the United States.
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