Book Review: Terrible Swift Sword

Terrible Swift Sword: The Legacy of John Brown. Edited by Peggy A. Russo and Paul Finkelman. (Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 2005. 228 pp. Paper, $24.95. ISBN: 0821416316.)

This collection of twelve essays by scholars from various fields examines the legacy of John Brown, the abolitionist zealot whose raid in 1859 on the Federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, further inflamed sectional hostility and helped ignite the Civil War. Drawn from a symposium on Brown at the Mont Alto campus of Pennsylvania State University in 1996, these essays focus for the most part on how people then and now have thought of Brown and how they have portrayed him—as a martyr, madman, criminal, or terrorist. The conference organizers and the editors sought multidisciplinary contributors in hopes of overcoming the “habit of specialization” among academics in an effort to garner fresh insights into Brown’s legacy. These essays, for the most part, succeed in their goal. Continue reading Book Review: Terrible Swift Sword