My project analyzed book lists posted by forum members on www.civilwarinteractive.com in order to look at reading preferences, debates, and basic assumptions and values held by Civil War hobby historians.
When commencing work for this project, I made the guess that hobby historians of the American Civil War would be callous and simplistic in their responses to each other online, that they would be uninformed about scholarly debates pertaining to the Civil War, and that they would also be swept up by counterfactual possibilities of how events in the Civil War might have occurred. In other words, I did not expect to find a lot of scholarly, civil discourse and debate.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that hobby historians of the American Civil War on the website www.civilwarinteractive.com tend to hold reasonably educated views of the Civil War, are quite well read, and tend to value smaller details like source citation more than I thought they would.
I found that sampling forums that had a large number of viewers and posters was the best method for finding out how online hobby historians discuss their Civil War knowledge. I found many reading lists posted by forum members, which allowed me to ascertain that many hobby historians absorb themselves in historical fiction of the Civil War.
I think one area for improvement, had I been allowed more time, would be to sample other websites on the Civil War and their online discussion forums pertaining to books on the Civil War. While this website I examined was a favorite among hobby historians, I think a broader range of sites would have added some depth to this project.
This project was fulfilling because I got to witness how hobby historians outside of academia survey Civil War literature and what their preferences are for renowned Civil War historians. I think the project is important because it can help to broaden the viewpoints of historians of the American Civil War when looking at how history buffs outside academia absorb their history.