Thavolia Glymph is the first scholar I ever heard refer to the American Civil War as a “humanitarian crisis,” and that fitting designation—one that seemed obvious to me once Glymph articulated it but had not been but obvious beforehand—has changed the ways I think about and teach the war. To frame the war as a humanitarian crisis is invite us to put it in a global, and broad chronological, context; to call attention to the sacrifices and suffering of noncombatants and indeed to reconsider how we define the “home front”; and to raise our awareness of how class as a category of analysis intersects with race and gender in structuring the experiences of soldiers and civilians, and elites and nonelites, alike.

Glymph's emphasis on the war's contours as a humanitarian crisis is at the heart of her book's many key...

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