Maryville College’s own associate professor of history, Dr. Aaron Astor, authored and published his first book, “Rebels On the Border,” last May, and has already begun writing and speaking with publishers about his newest work. The working title of his second book is “Electing Civil War.”
This book will focus on the election of 1860, which involved four candidates: Republican Abraham Lincoln, Northern Democrat Steven Douglas, Southern Democrat John C. Breckinridge and Constitutional Union candidate John Bell. Many books have been published on this topic before, but Astor said that his take on the election is going to be different.
“I’m going to examine this not as a race on the national level between these candidates, but rather from the perspective of four distinct communities and how these communities understood this election as, ultimately, for tending civil war,” Astor said. Astor plans to look at the communities of Rutland, Va., Cincinnati, Ohio and Clarksville, Tenn., as well as Madison County, Miss.
Each of these communities served as strongholds for the four candidates of the election. Astor said that it is important to look at the election from the views of these communities, because they saw it not just as between these four different candidates, but also actually of their competing visions of what America was.
“The aim of this book is to show that 19th century American democracy always teetered on the edge of violence,” Astor said. At the time of the election, the United States was the only country in the world to have this form of democracy, and it was a known fact that the country could fall into anarchy at any time.
This was also a time of growing usage of violent language, as well as an overall feel of violence throughout the country, according to Astor. Astor said that looking at the white, male voting electorate, as well as the views of the rest of the populations including black and women, of these communities shows how the election was not just for a president, but for the one that could handle this violence and the encroaching Civil War.
He already has had interest expressed from the UNC Press about publishing this new book. Now, he said, the ball is in his court to finish his research and send a formal proposal to a publishing company, which he plans to do by the end of next summer. Astor said that after his current work is completed, he has a few ideas for his next venture as an author.
One of his ideas targets a different type of audience than his first two works. He said that it would lean more toward popular audience press. “I think I’m going to do a book about my grandmother,” Astor said. “She was a very interesting figure, and the animator of Betty Boop.” Astor also plans to edit a collective series of essays on the Border States during the Civil War, and publish them as a work about why those specific states mattered. Astor said that he does not have a timetable for his next two ideas, but he plans to currently devote his time to finishing “Electing Civil War.”