Nation-Building in the South, 1862–1868

Authored by: Keith Dickson

The Routledge Handbook of American Military and Diplomatic History

Print publication date:  August  2014
Online publication date:  September  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415533805
eBook ISBN: 9781315817347
Adobe ISBN: 9781317813354


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This period of American history is often referred to as the Civil War and Reconstruction. Reconstruction, which is widely understood as the US Army’s occupation of the South, is not a completely accurate term to understand what occurred in the South during the war and its aftermath. A more accurate (and more modern term) to describe this period is nation-building. In the aftermath of successful military operations, the goal of nation-building is to establish a friendly, re-legitimized government. Recent scholarship has noted that nation-building involves both reconstruction and development. Reconstruction is the restoration of a society through outside intervention to stabilize social and political institutions, rebuild infrastructure, and address humanitarian needs. When the underlying political and social structure of a country has survived a war, reconstruction is intended to bring a country back to its pre-war condition. Development is the restructuring of existing political institutions and the creation of new institutions that are strong enough to stand on their own with the intent to transform a society. For the process of development to succeed, the local population must perceive that the newly established government is advancing their interests, and not the interests of the occupying force. 1

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