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Is War the Ultimate Gamble?

Civil War Historian Roger Ransom Looks at War as the Ultimate Gamble

The Distinguished Humanist Achievement Award Lecture is set for Jan. 17 at UC Riverside

(December 23, 2005)

Professor Roger Ransom, photo by Michael EldermanEnlarge

Professor Roger Ransom, photo by Michael Elderman

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( — A long-time UC Riverside historian, Roger Ransom, will tackle the subject, “War: The Ultimate Gamble” at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 17, in room 1500 Humanities and Social Sciences at this year’s UC Riverside Distinguished Humanist Award Lecture.

The talk is free and open to the public, although parking costs $5.

Professor Ransom, who specializes in U.S. economic history with an emphasis on the Civil War, has studied why the leaders of armies fighting in the American Civil War, World War I, and in World War II were each willing to take a gamble on war?

“Perhaps the governments decided that the gamble of starting a major war was preferable to other solutions because military victory promised a ‘quick fix,’” he said. “However, they soon found out that winning the gamble involves more than accurately assessing the chances of military success, and the fruits of victory are seldom as grand as they expected.”

Ransom contends that modern leaders have failed to learn the lessons of history.
Professor Ransom came to UCR in 1968 and taught in the economics department until 1984, when he moved to the history department. He was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship for 1988-89 and the Arthur Cole award from the Economic History Association in 1986. In 2003 he was awarded the UCR Distinguished Teaching Award.

In 1991, the Center for Ideas and Society at UCR inaugurated an annual lecture to recognize, honor, and celebrate the accomplishments of a faculty member of the College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences at UCR. The Center is directed by Professor Emory Elliott.

“He is remarkable scholar who has been at home it in both the Economics and History Departments and who communicates with clarity and energy in both disciplines," Elliott said. "He is an engaging speaker who brings history alive.”

Ransom's most recent book is "The Confederate States of America: What Might Have Been?" published in the spring by W.W. Norton. The book asks what might have happened if the South had won the Civil War. Other works by Ransom include: "One Kind of Freedom: The Economic Consequences of Emancipation," "Conflict and Compromise"; "The Political Economy of Slavery, Emancipation and the American Civil War"; and "The Economics of the Civil War." In 2004-05 Ransom was president of the Economic History Association.

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