448 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 15 halftones, notes, bibl., index
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-4330-4
Published: October 2018
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-4356-4
Published: October 2018
eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-4357-1
Published: September 2018
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Awards & distinctions
Finalist, 2019 Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize
Sommerville recovers previously hidden stories of individuals exhibiting suicidal activity or aberrant psychological behavior she links to the war and its aftermath. This work adds crucial nuance to our understanding of how personal suffering shaped the way southerners viewed themselves in the Civil War era and underscores the full human costs of war.
About the Author
Diane Miller Sommerville is associate professor of history at Binghamton University and author of Rape and Race in the Nineteenth-Century South.
For more information about Diane Miller Sommerville, visit the Author Page.
“Sommerville gives a well-researched, powerful monograph that paves the way for other historians doing research in this field. She presents the experience of suicide from many angles and grounds that examination in the words and experiences of southerners themselves. The resulting analysis is a valuable contribution to our understanding of nineteenth-century American society, the impact of the Civil War on the South, and the understanding and treatment of mental illness in the Civil War era.”--H-Net Reviews
“A worthy contribution to the scholarship on the experiences of ordinary citizens during the Civil War era and to the literature on the trauma of war.”--Journal of Southern History
"In recent years, the suicide rate among American soldiers in Afghanistan surpassed the rate of combat deaths, making work like Aberration of Mind enormously timely and important. War, we are learning, is not just destructive but self-destructive work. In combining the lenses of history, psychology, and medicine, this book takes us to the root of how and why war has, apparently for centuries, left deep mental scars in the minds of the people who waged it and the populations who experienced it. This incredibly arresting and richly researched book will remain significant for a long time to come."--Stephen Berry, University of Georgia
"Sommerville's research is robust, her evidence formidable, and her analysis insightful, probing the complex intersections of gender and race. This book is full of fresh interpretations--a timely and welcome addition to the scholarship."--David Silkenat, University of Edinburgh
"The wages of war in the South of the 1860s and after went beyond the casualties of conflict and ravages of disease, beyond even the loss of wealth and resources. As Diane Sommerville demonstrates in this work of originality and sensitivity, the despair produced by catastrophic defeat and destruction caused many Southerners to take their own lives to escape the trials of a hopeless future. This book is an important contribution to our understanding of a dark result of the Civil War."--James M. McPherson, Princeton University