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Three Questions with Dr. Elliott West

Old State House Museum - Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Our seminar on “Legacy of Arkansas’s Civil War” is fast approaching on Saturday, October 10. The deadline for tickets is October 6, so register now.

Today we’re joined by Dr. Elliott West, Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, to share some thoughts on the talk he will present at the seminar, “Arkansas: Where One War’s Edge Was Another War’s Center.”

OSH: Can you give our audience a preview of what you will be talking about?

EW: I hope to encourage us all to think of the Civil War as a genuinely continental crisis with truly continental consequences. As Arkansans, one way to reach toward that perspective is to think of our state, not on the edge of the action of those crucial years, but pretty much in the middle. We can take ourselves back to that time, stand in Arkansas, look eastward to see those familiar events of the war and remember how they affected us here, but we can also look westward, toward Indian Territory and the Southwest, toward Utah and California and even farther into the Pacific world. From that perspective we can gain a much fuller view of those years and what they have meant to all of us, Arkansans and Americans.

OSH: The idea of two wars in Arkansas is an interesting one. Can you give us a hint about what these two wars were?

EW: The one war was the one we are all pretty familiar with, the one with episodes that dominate every standard history and documentary. Those events are obviously hugely important in shaping our common history ever since. But in our memories we have badly neglected the other one. It involved Indian peoples and was, among other things, a war of conquest of Native America. It was a contest over what institutions would take hold in the rising society and economy on the Pacific coast. As much as the fighting in the East, it would redefine the American nation and who we, as Americans, are.

OSH: What was the significance of these wars for Arkansans?

EW: They were significant for Arkansans for the same reasons as for all Americans. They remade the nation and the continent. But as Arkansans we should pay special attention, because Arkansas was something of a hinge between the two wars, the place from which the various sides in the conflict projected their ambitions and power toward the Pacific coast and the world beyond.

To find out more, register for the seminar by October 6.

Registration for the seminar is $15, which includes lunch. To register, contact Tanya Canada at (501) 683-2954 or Tanya@arkansasheritage.org. The deadline to register is October 6.