Yael A. Sternhell

Dec 23, 2023

War on Record

The Archive and the Afterlife of the Civil War

Yale University Press 2023

Yael A. Sternhell's War on Record: The Archive and the Aftermath of the Civil War (Yale University Press, 2023) is a history of the United States' greatest archival project and how it has shaped what we know about the Civil War. The Civil War generated a vast archive of official records--documents that would shape the postwar era and determine what future generations would know about the war. Yael Sternhell traces these records from their creation during wartime through their deployment in a host of postwar battles, including those between the federal government and Southerners seeking reparations and between veterans blaming each other for defeat. 

These documents were eventually published in the most important historical collection ever to have been assembled in the United States: The War of the Rebellion: The Official Records of the Union and the Confederate Armies. Known as the OR, it is the ultimate source for generations of scholars and writers and ordinary citizens researching the war. By delving into the archive, Sternhell reveals its power to shape myths, hide truths, perpetuate rancor, and foster reconciliation. Far more than a storehouse of papers, the Civil War archive is a major historical actor in its own right.

Hallel Yadin is an archivist and special projects manager at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research.

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Hallel Yadin is an archivist and special projects manager at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research.

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