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Causes Won, Lost, and Forgotten: How Hollywood and Popular Art Shape What We Know about the Civil War (The Steven and Janice Brose Lectures in the Civil War Era) Hardcover – April 7, 2008

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Editorial Reviews


Gallagher's analysis of the ways artists and Hollywood film writers have shaped the changing perceptions of the Civil War and its legacy is thought provoking.--Courier

Written with Gallagher's customary clarity and vigor, salted with sardonic humor, and laced with expressions of concern about the darker side of Lost Cause adherents' admiration of Nathan Bedford Forrest and contempt for Abraham Lincoln.--Virginia Magazine

A highly informative, well-illustrated, and wonderfully entertaining book.--The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

A solidly researched and intriguing exploration of the influence of popular culture on public understanding of the war. Anyone interested in the Civil War and the impact of media on historical understanding will find Gallagher's latest book rewarding on many levels.--Civil War Times

A fascinating, informative book. . . . Highly recommended to students and enthusiasts of the Civil War and for those interested in an examination of misinformation in movies and

Fuses Civil War military and cultural history in a particularly readable and entertaining manner." --Canadian Journal of History

[Gallagher's] witty, handsomely illustrated book underscores Hollywood's ability to shape perceptions of historical events. Causes Won, Lost, and Forgotten is a major contribution to Civil War memory scholarship. It reminds us how past traditions and present concerns shape understandings of the conflict, perhaps as Warren mused, the very essence of American history.--BookPage

Innovative in its approach, provocative in its arguments, and fundamentally interesting, but, most significantly . . . will drive further discussion of Civil War memory through popular culture.--West Virginia History

Provides insight into how the war is viewed in contemporary American culture. . . . The four interpretive frameworks Gallagher uses for his analysis are instructive for understanding the dominant trends in art and film.--Southern Historian

A highly edifying and entertaining look at how popular culture has advanced the primary interpretive traditions by which Americans have sought to ascribe meaning to the Civil War. It reveals that despite the passing of the Civil War generation so long ago, the participants who endured that bloody conflict still define, for better or worse, how we comprehend the past.--Louisiana History

A short and very readable book that should appeal to anyone with more than a passing interest in the Civil War.--On Point

Gallagher has established himself as a one-man Civil War cottage industry. . . . Surveys this landscape with proficiency. . . . Infused with a deep sense of authority that has its satisfactions.--Civil War History

An intelligent, readable account of how we look at the American Civil War. . . . Five stars.-- James Durney, independent Book Reviewer

A welcome addition to the burgeoning literature on the Civil War in popular culture, and it makes for a breezy and edifying read for the scholar and layperson alike.--North Carolina Historical Review

Crisp, focused, and thoughtful.--Georgia Historical Quarterly

Gallagher, one of our finest historians of the Civil War, brings an abundance of sharp insights to this thoughtful analysis. By drawing attention to four principal traditions of interpretation in cinema and art, he demonstrates how popular culture both reflects and shapes our understanding of the war's meaning.--American Historical Review

This seemingly specialized book in fact has broad appeal.--Centre Daily Times

In-depth, analytical, and thought-provoking. . . . An important, must read for students of the Civil War.--Journal of American History

A thoughtful, well-researched, and well-illustrated study that helps readers learn how their understanding of the Civil War has been shaped.--The Journal of America's Military Past

Highly recommended.--Choice

[A] highly entertaining analysis of how the Civil War has been treated in popular culture.--The Boston Globe

[Gallagher's] books are always packed with relevant information and are a joy to read. This work is no different.--H-Net

A useful entry in the burgeoning literature that deals with the way in which the Civil War is remembered by Americans.--Southwestern Historical Quarterly


Gallagher provides an elegant and penetrating analysis of the ways in which artists and Hollywood film writers have shaped our changing perceptions of the Civil War and its legacy. Readers will be intrigued by his explanations of why the Lost Cause image continues to prevail in one medium while it has disappeared from the other.--James M. McPherson, author of This Mighty Scourge: Perspectives on the Civil War

|An absolutely superb, thought-provoking analysis of the Civil War in American popular culture. Gallagher offers a masterful and sure-footed account of how film and art have presented the war.--George C. Rable, author of Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg!

|Gary Gallagher dissects art and cinema with a historian's eye and the heart of a 14-year-old watching Shenandoah three times in a row. In crisp and compelling prose, he shows that winners don't always write the history. More than 140 years after Appomattox, the cause of the Union is still missing in action on the screen and canvas. This book is a must-read for anyone who cares about the power of popular culture to shape memory of the past.--Tony Horwitz, author of Confederates in the Attic


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Product Details

  • Series: The Steven and Janice Brose Lectures in the Civil War Era
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; First Edition first Printing edition (April 7, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807832065
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807832066
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #797,543 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By James W. Durney TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 24, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The Civil War is one of the most important events in American history, generating tons of books, magazines, memorials, paintings and statuary. The day the war ended, participants seem to have started books on their experience. Publishing has not stopped and seems to be more active now than 100 years ago. Any large complex event is subject to interpretation. This interpretation creates opportunities for additional interpretations. In time, what happened is subject to various interpretations that are the history of the event. Starting in 1865, the American Civil War was interpreted to fit the needs of groups of people. This created what the author calls the four traditions of our understanding of the war.
Lost Cause; created by Southerners to come to grips with the results of the war.
Union; was what motivated Northerners to fight to maintain one nation.
Emancipation; developed after the war and cast the war as the finial act in the great struggle to end slavery in America.
Reconciliation; is the view that both sides were honorable and fought bravely for deeply held ideals emerging as a stronger united nation. This tradition grew after reconstruction ended and veterans started to establish the National Battle Parks.
Working with these four traditions, the author shows how movies and art portrays them. This can be unsettling. All the more so, if you have seen the movie and viewed the art. The book is similar to looking into a mirror. The reader's tradition(s) can be unsettling as you see their reflection.
The author makes few judgments, trying to be fair to all sides. He has strong feelings about some of the traditions. However, Gallagher refuses to condemn or applauded trends.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Colleen Cupido on July 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book is one of the most entertaining Civil War books I have ever read, and that includes the hilarious Confederates in the Attic. As a woman going into her last year before getting a BA in History and with plans to go for a graduate degree in the Civil War and American Studies, I am surprised at the dry-as-dust reviews this book has generated so far. All five reviewers pat themselves on the back for explaining the four main interpretations of the Civil War in the media, apparantly without realizing that this information is clearly spelled out in the Product Information section. I am hoping that a person who reads this review will see how much fun this book is. In once instance, the author describes the politically correct view of the Civil War (which he clearly does not agree with) in saying that a better name for The Last Samurai would be Dances With Wolves Goes To Japan. In describing the anti-war, feminist approach Cold Mountain takes, he wonders how such a Confederacy as portrayed in this movie could possibly LAST for four years. And in the begining of the book, in his description of the mini-series North and South, author Gallagher thinks the principle TV direction was probably "A little more over the top, if you please."
Aside from witticisms such as these, Gallagher is a first rate scholar of the Civil War and probes deeply into what the movie going public thinks it knows about the Civil War. The part about Southern feelings about affirmative action and the increasing secularization of America fueling a Lost Cause dominated artwork was particularly rewarding.
For a reader looking for either how popular culture affects what the majority of Americans think about the Civil War, or else just a highly entertaining and thoughtful study of the Civil War as reflected in film, this is a can't-put-it-down volume.
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17 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Kerry Walters VINE VOICE on April 27, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Different periods and different constituencies "remember" the past to be what they need it to be, and collective memories especially try to infuse a meaning into past events that are traumatic. It should come as no surprise, then, that there are a number of ways in which the Civil War, surely our single greatest national trauma, has been "remembered" by succeeding generations. In Causes Won, Lost, & Forgotten, Civil War scholar Gary Gallagher focuses on four filters through which we've remembered the Civil War and examines how popular film and art have expressed those memories.

Gallagher argues that the going four interpretive traditions when it comes to the Civil War are the Lost Cause (the Confederate army fought honorably against overwhelming odds), the Union Cause (the war was fought to preserve the American experiment in democracy), the Emancipation Cause (the war was fought to end the egregious injustice of slavery), and the Reconciliation Cause (the war, although tragic, brought together all Americans, northerners and southerners, each of whom had fought honorably). Three of these attempts to read meaning back into the Civil War--the Lost Cause, Union Cause, and Reconciliation--tend either to ignore or to trivialize African Americans.

Gallagher traces the presence of these four interpretations in both film and artwork that have the Civil War as their theme. Early cinema focused almost entirely on the Lost Cause filter, but more recent films move toward Emancipation and Reconciliation. The Union Cause seems not to resonate deeply with viewing audiences, although it was the paramount motivation for northern enthusiasm for the war.
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