Suicide in the Civil War Era South with Diane Miller Sommerville

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Hey all!! It’s really great to welcome Dr. Diane Sommerville to the show :)

Diane is professor of history at Binghamton University, SUNY. Her research interests encompass race, gender, and the American South. Her first research project, which culminated in the publication of her first book, Rape and Race in the Nineteenth-Century South, traces the evolution of white southerners' fears of black rape by examining cases of black-on-white rape throughout the nineteenth century. Her recent project -- Aberration of Mind: Suicide and Suffering in the Civil War Era South (2018) -- is a study of suicide among Southerners during and after the Civil War that explores how gender and race shaped decisions and attitudes about suicide in the wake of war's physical and emotional devastation and was a finalist for the Lincoln Prize. She is currently at work on a project she calls "Motherhood and Madness" -- a study of postpartum disorders in the 19th c. South. She lives in Vestal NY with her husband and her two geriatric wheaten terriers.

It seems like I have a theme going on these last couple of weeks. A minute ago I had Sarah Handley-Cousins on the show - we discussed disability and Union veterans. Next week I’m having Jonathan Jones on - and we are discussing opiate addiction and Union veterans. So I guess it’s a thing - and of course, you know I like to talk about veterans. Anyway…Diane and I get to veterans as well…and some other folks too. We discuss:

  • Edmund Ruffin, the “heroic” Southron who committed suicide rather than submit to Yankee rule

  • Confederate nationalism and tragedy

  • How one taps into the psyche of those (both vets and folks behind the lines) afflicted with psychological trauma

  • Masculinity and psychological trauma in the Victorian era

  • Slave suicide at the idea of resistance

  • Dealing with historical actors’ trauma on a personal level

You want to be sure and check out Diane’s website, where you can easily contact her with questions and follow her on Twitter - she’ there regularly.

And please, be sure and subscribe to The Rogue Historian Podcast on Apple Podcasts or your favorite app so you never ever ever ever miss a show. That would be dumb.

With compliments,