Jane Dailey's commentary raises methodological issues at play in Ely's book but also of concern to the wider world of historical writing. Ely focuses on human behavior in antebellum Virginia rather than on human thought or ideology. This kind of division between behavior and thought visible in Israel on the Appomattox is reproduced at the methodological level in the historical discipline as a whole. Some historians claim the triumph of social history, others economic or intellectual or cultural history. This sort of oppositional choice—behavior matters more than ideas—needs to be thought of not dogmatically but strategically. It is one thing to divide thought and action heuristically, in order to discover something unknown about one or the other—we can separate x from y in order to see x more clearly. However, privileging day-to-day behavior over law and ideology does not take us any closer to a model of history that accounts for the complexity of society and for the possibility of that society to generate all types of potential and conflicting histories, many of which are never realized. Dividing cognitive and ideological structures from everyday behavior constrains our ability to explain why behavior matters. Histories are punctuated equilibriums. The behavioral model can go a long way toward explaining equilibriums, but it has a hard time explaining punctuations.

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