The Romance of Reunion

Northerners and the South, 1865-1900

By Nina Silber

272 pp., 6 x 9, 13 illus., notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-4685-8
    Published: September 1997
  • eBook ISBN: 978-0-8078-6448-7
    Published: November 2000

Civil War America

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Awards & distinctions

A 1995 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

The reconciliation of North and South following the Civil War depended as much on cultural imagination as on the politics of Reconstruction. Drawing on a wide range of sources, Nina Silber documents the transformation from hostile sectionalism to sentimental reunion rhetoric. Northern culture created a notion of reconciliation that romanticized and feminized southern society. In tourist accounts, novels, minstrel shows, and popular magazines, northerners contributed to a mythic and nostalgic picture of the South that served to counter their anxieties regarding the breakdown of class and gender roles in Gilded Age America. Indeed, for many Yankees, the ultimate symbol of the reunion process, and one that served to reinforce Victorian values as well as northern hegemony, was the marriage of a northern man and a southern woman. Southern men also were represented as affirming traditional gender roles. As northern men wrestled with their nation's increasingly global and aggressive foreign policy, the military virtues extolled in Confederate legend became more admired than reviled. By the 1890s, concludes Silber, northern whites had accepted not only a newly resplendent image of Dixie but also a sentimentalized view of postwar reunion.

About the Author

Nina Silber is professor of history at Boston University. She is author or editor of seven other books, including The Romance of Reunion: Northerners and the South, 1865-1900 (from the University of North Carolina Press).
For more information about Nina Silber, visit the Author Page.

Reviews

"Complex and compelling. . . . Anyone interested in post-Civil War reunion, Northern images of the South, or the study of patriotism and nationalism should read The Romance of Reunion."--Civil War History

"[A] fascinating study of cultural history."--Boston Globe

"A fine work of social history that will appeal to both the general reader and the scholar."--Booklist

"Informative, persuasively argued, and offering valuable insight into cultural shifts that helped shape the U.S. at a critical moment in its history."--Kirkus Reviews

"Readers will find that Silber in her imaginative delineation of Northern attitudes toward the postbellum South has brought new approaches and insights to that subject."--North Carolina Historical Review

"A splendid book, filled with descriptions of these gendered cultural symbols, a book that helps explain how images of relationships can reflect and refract political impulses."--masculinities