As every Maryville College student knows, our college is home to a wide array of excellent and competent scholars. For many, the fine educators here at MC help to define and give value to the college experience, teaching students to fall in love with learning as well as helping them plan a future for themselves.
In the Humanities Division, two such professors are putting their considerable academic talents to use by contributing books in their specific areas of expertise. They are Dr. Aaron Astor, Associate Professor of History and Dr. Nancy Locklin-Sofer, Professor of History.
Astor is the college’s leading historian of United States history, with his specialization being in the era of Reconstruction. However, as Astor is quick to point out, Reconstruction is a period that is closely related to the topic of his new book: the Civil War and the election that preceded it.
In “Electing Civil War: The 1860 Presidential Election and the Crisis of Constitutional Democracy,” Astor assesses four different communities, two in the North and two in the South, to see the ways that the regions responded politically to the four-candidate presidential race that ended in the election of Lincoln, secession and the Civil War.
Astor, who has long had a strong interest in the popular politics surrounding the Civil War era, frames the book as a struggle concerning constitutional democracy in the 1860 election. The work will focus on how the divisions formed in the election came to full fruition in the ensuing war.
Astor’s book weaves together several areas of historical study and intermingling cultural, regional, political and social history.
For Locklin-Sofer, MC’s foremost historian of premodern Europe, her manuscript was nearly 25 years in the making.
She was still a graduate student studying for her dissertation when she came across the court records of a bizarre female-on-female murder in the Brittany region of France in the 1700s.
Tentatively titled “Murder, Justice, and Harmony in a Pre-Revolutionary French Village,” Locklin-Sofer’s book centers on a French court case from 1718, in which a woman named Morrissette kills a distant relative and is charged.
In the work, Locklin-Sofer follows the legal and social story of Morrissette, who one day is accosted and accused by a distant female relative of theft. As the situation escalates, Morrissette, in a fit of passion, kills the other woman with a brick and is arrested.
In the book, Locklin-Sofer addresses the bizarre and often complicated legal and social situations that helped give life to the case. Mixed in are conflicts between feudal and royal law in France, as well as focus on the tenuous gender dynamics that accompanied pre-Revolutionary life.
Both professors did extensive research and travelled widely to complete their books.
Locklin-Sofer spent a semester off to finish up archival research in the Brittany region of France. Likewise, Astor has travelled to Vermont, Ohio, Middle Tennessee and Mississippi to study archives for his project.
As of publication, Locklin-Sofer is talking to a publisher and Astor just finished a book proposal to submit to publishers.