Author Talk: Jeremi Suri on “Civil War by Other Means”

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Jeremi Suri, Ph.D., the fifth guest speaker for the Hollybush Author series, gave a presentation about his newest book “Civil War by Other Means” on Nov. 3 in Discovery Hall.

Fifteen copies of the book were for sale by student James Carter at the front of the room. 

This was the first in-person Hollybush event in nearly three years. The event was co-sponsored by the Hollybush Institute for Global Peace and Security, the Dean’s Office of CHSS, Rowan Center for Study of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights and was supported by a UISFL grant from the US Department of Education. The current slate of talks aligns with the 55th anniversary of the first Hollybush Summit of 1967, with the mission of continuing the legacy of the summit. 

Jeremi Suri is a book writer, magazine and newspaper contributor, hosts a podcast entitled “This is Democracy,” and has appeared on several TV news programs, as well as working in the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas. 

When the introduction ended, Suri went on to describe “Civil War by Other Means,” his newest publication. He gave an overview of the content the book covers, starting with the events of January 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C., before going back to discuss the 20 years after the end of the Civil War, often referred to as Reconstruction. Suri organized the book this way due to his belief that that tumultuous period in the late 19th century needs to be retold after the events at the Capitol at the start of 2021. 

Suri went on to describe the difficulty in ending a war and how “the other side doesn’t necessarily go home.” 

The author also mentioned how there were many unsurrendered Confederates who returned to the USA years after resettling and joining the Mexican Army and became powerful political figures, doing everything from founding Virginia Tech to writing Texas voting laws that excluded people of color from participating in the primary. 

“The people who make war were allowed to continue making war by other means,” said Suri. 

These points were used to illustrate what Jeremi Suri called “pathologies,” describing the ways in which war is embedded into society even during times of peace, the distortion of democracy, and the nature of leadership. 

“That’s why we have to study history. Those who want to teach a feel-good history… that is a deeply unpatriotic thing,” Suri said. “Hold them accountable. Say, ‘you can do better.’” 

As the discussion ended, a question and answer section began where students were given the opportunity to pose questions related to the content of the talk. 

“It was wonderful to have the opportunity to talk with students and faculty about so many issues that affect politics today, and have those talks about scholarship and policy,” Suri said after the question and answer portion had ended. 

“[It was] great for students, faculty and the community to be reminded right before another election to be reminded what’s at stake,” said Debbie Sharnak, Ph.D., a Rowan University history professor.

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