The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 88, July 1984 - April, 1985 Page: 115
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tion of American Historians, "Huey, Lyndon, and Southern Radical-
ism." Also among the selections are three important historiographical
articles: "Lincoln and the Radicals: An Essay in Civil War History
and Historiography," "An Analysis of Some Reconstruction Atti-
tudes," and "Freeman, Historian of the Civil War: An Appraisal."
Several of the essays, particularly the unfinished surveys of twentieth-
century American military policy, seem overshadowed by the volume's
innovative pieces. While some selections are amply footnoted, others
have no documentation. The earliest writing, "The Committee on the
Conduct of the War: An Experiment in Civilian Control," offers hope
to less experienced authors. When it was published in 1939, Williams
had not yet mastered the graceful style that adorned his mature work.
The majority of the essays conform to Williams's familiar formula
for advancing a creative thesis. He would posit his own definitions of
terms, examine the alternative interpretations, then present his own
with clarity and decisiveness. His reasoning bore a compelling blend
of disciplined intellectual analysis and common sense. Freely indulg-
ing in speculation, he invited revision, although he did not always
accept it. He relished submitting his findings, even tentative ones, to
professional evaluation. If his conclusions collided with traditional
wisdom, he felt doubly rewarded.
Through his prolific writings on the Civil War, Williams influ-
enced the way other historians perceived the conflict. He thought and
wrote strategically about the war, refusing to become mired in tactical
adventures. He gave to readers, as Frank E. Vandiver has observed,
"a clear vision of what strategy ought to be." In this volume the essay
"The Military Systems of North and South" provides an excellent
example of Williams's strategic focus.
Other essays demonstrate the author's skills in political biography.
Subscribing to a modified version of the "great man" theory of history,
he believed that some men could and did influence the course of
events. Although he was drawn to men who wielded power adeptly,
he evaluated their achievements and failures without imposing his
own moral judgments. Political leaders emerged from his pages as
practitioners of a necessary craft. He admired Abraham Lincoln for
his pragmatism as well as his principles. He criticized the organizers of
the Louisiana Unification Movement for barring professional politi-
cians who might have avoided the group's amateurish blunders. Brush-
ing aside Huey Long's tarnished reputation as a power-hungry, cor-
rupt demagogue, Williams unveiled a power-hungry, radical populist.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 88, July 1984 - April, 1985, periodical, 1984/1985; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101210/m1/137/: accessed April 26, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.