I see from the Southern Intellectual History Circle page on facebook that distinguished historian Bertram Wyatt-Brown passed away on November 5. Wyatt-Brown was educated at Sewanee, Cambridge University, and Johns Hopkins and taught from many years at the University of Florida (and before that Case Western, the University of Colorado, and Colorado State). He had recently completed his final book, A Warring Nation: Honor, Race, and Humiliation in America’s Wars, which sounds absolutely fantastic. It sounds like a fitting capstone to a career that spanned serious work on anti-slavery as well as pro-slavery thought. His best-known book is Southern Honor: Ethics and Behavior in the Old South, which influenced a generation of historians of the south to focus on the role of honor in southern life and action. It is a powerful volume that repays multiple readings -- and I think I shall go off now and spend some time with it this evening in honor of Dr. Wyatt-Brown.
Like many other legal historians -- Ariela Gross and Timothy Huebner come immediately to mind -- I have engaged Wyatt-Brown's focus on honor, though I remain rather more skeptical about its power in explaining southern behavior than many legal historians. I'm more on the economic side of things as an explanation for southern law. But then again, one of my current objects of study was in a duel in 1834!
This has been a year of significant loss for southern intellectual history.