The Civil War remains America’s bloodiest conflict, in which northerners and southerners perpetrated terrible violence against each other. Yet, in the midst of this carnage, the war also provided economic opportunities to some and created economic challenges for others.

Research by a professor at West Virginia University is providing a clearer picture of how the nation’s economy was affected by the conflict, and how ordinary people helped to make that economy.

Brian Luskey, associate professor of history, has been named a 2014-15 National Endowment for the Humanities and Program in Early American Economy and Society fellow at the Library Company of Philadelphia.

Luskey will take a sabbatical from teaching next year to continue work on his book, “Rich Man’s War, Poor Man’s Fight: The Cultural Economy of the American Civil War.”

“I hope that readers will appreciate how ordinary people displayed amazing ingenuity as they tried to survive and succeed during the war and how their efforts helped to give shape to the nation’s economy as a whole,” he said.

As a fellow at the Library Company, Luskey will explore the Library’s holdings of business trade cards and records, newspapers, political pamphlets and recruitment posters produced during the war.

Luskey’s examination of the decades-old material has unveiled what he called a “surprising” amount of documentation about the economy. While soldiers and civilians often wrote about battles, politics, and loyalty, Luskey said that families also wrote about how much or little money they had, what kinds of goods they wanted, how they would send money between home and camp, and how they hoped to make and sell goods to soldiers and neighbors.

Luskey is part of a cohort of scholars who study the cultural history of capitalism in the 19th century United States. He is the author of “On the Make: Clerks and the Quest for Capital in Nineteenth-Century America,” which was printed by New York University Press.

For more information, contact Brian Luskey at (304)-293-9328 or at



CONTACT: Devon Copeland, Director of Communication and Marketing, Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, West Virginia University

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