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First sentence revisited

I reverted to 172's version because:

  • The origins lay in the interplay between political, economic, and cultural forces is fluff. You could say the same thing about any war in history, or the invention of television, or the writing of Bleak House.
  • 172's version is an accurate summary of the article. If someone disagrees with the article, they can contest that content (please don't though!); neutering the lead is not the answer. Markalexander100 04:45, 7 May 2004 (UTC)
I agree, but was too timid to revert (I don't want to get caught in the VV/172 crossfire). --mav 05:22, 7 May 2004 (UTC)

Article naming discussion

Thought I should mention, I started discussing the way this article was split up again in the /categorization subpage before it got moved to /Archive 2, and the discussion is still going on over in /Archive 2 now. Should I bring it out here? Bryan 22:53, 15 May 2004 (UTC)

I'd rather not do that. 172 23:05, 15 May 2004 (UTC)
Perhaps I should move /Archive 2 back to its original title, then, since it's got active discussion instead of old static text. Bryan 23:11, 15 May 2004 (UTC)
I've just come back to this article after wandering away for a while, and don't consider this resolved yet. Discussion ongoing in /Archive 2. Bryan 00:10, 5 Jun 2004 (UTC)

Reorganizing these four sub-articles

for a more detailed discussion of this issue, see Talk:Reorganizing the four sub-articles of Origins of the American Civil War

I'm moving my discussion of these issues out of /Archive 2 since I'm basically starting from scratch again, and because IMO Archive subpages should be left inactive. Anyway. My position is that leaving this article split over four pages with (2/4), (3/4) etc. in the titles is a very fragile and hackish way to deal with length issues, and should be changed to fit better with the way the rest of Wikipedia is organized. The two main ideas that came up in the previous discussion seemed to be:

  1. Make the article's sections into a "series", each one focused on a particular sequential topic that could be used as a meaningful title for that article
  2. Make the "main" article into a shorter summary of the whole topic, with a couple of "for a more detailed discussion of this subject, see [foo]" leading to various more tightly-focused articles consisting of text from the current set.

I like the latter better, personally; it's how a lot of the other articles on big topics have been split up and makes each article stand on its own more easily. I'll start working out a detailed outline for that approach here in a day or so, lacking other suggestions. Bryan 01:13, 13 Jun 2004 (UTC)


I'm glad to hear that you lean toward your second proposal. Since each section of the article depends on context that has already been established by previous sections, the first proposal, calling for the creation of self-standing articles, would require that each section of the article be recontextualized/rewritten. But the second one would not.

I made a proposal along these lines on Mav's user talk page. I copied and pasted it onto this page so that you can take a look. I think that this will accomplish what you're trying to do:

I think that what happens to the History of the United States series is another issue. What I would like to do is move the ==Overview== section in this article to the corresponding History of the United States series page (whatever that is) and create a 20 to 30KB summary of the whole topic of the Origins of the American Civil War and place it at Origins of the American Civil War. The lead section there would be expanded to three paragraphs and the article would be divided into 4 or 5 other sections. Each of those sections would have a Main article link under the heading and would contain a 4 to 5 good sized paragraph summary of each of the current "pages" in this series. Each of those pages in turn will have its own 1 to 3 paragraph lead section. When any one of the sections on any of these pages gets too long in the future, that section can be summarized and the detail moved to its own article. Ad infinitum. This is analogous to how cellular division works except that the parent articles don't ever die. --mav

The last two sections of (1789-1865) look to me like a good foundation on which to start a summary of Origins, though, and splitting the article at 1845 would basically just nip those two sections off. (1845-1865) would essentially become the summarized "Origins." Might be nice to splice the summary into the narrative of US history that way (though on the downside, I assume that Civil War setup wasn't the only thing going on during that time period :). Bryan 04:45, 13 Jun 2004 (UTC)
It sure wasn't. But I'll fill in the remaining gaps, aside from the origins section, in the 1845-65 article. 172 08:24, 13 Jun 2004 (UTC)

OK - here is a start. So far only page one of this series has been summarized. It condenses 4.5 pages down to less than one page. I'll work on the rest as time permits at /Origins of the American Civil War. If I missed any major points, then please add a sentence or two so that they are at least mentioned. The detail will be in the main article of each section. --mav 06:44, 14 Jun 2004 (UTC)

Oh my God, you're still not giving up this idea of a New Imperialism-style series. You did not finish the hard part; the hard part would be creating that daughter article you have in red in that temp page. Why not accept Bryan's second proposal? That way, you can have your 20-30 K summary while everyone else who has found the existing article useful (given the feedback, this group outnumbers you and your news style dogmatism) can have the existing article. 172 08:21, 14 Jun 2004 (UTC)
The summary would fit far better in a new article History of the United States (1789-1845)#Origins of the American Civil War, once Origins of the American Civil War is taken out of the U.S. history series. For one, we have to give an overview of the coming of the Civil War in the U.S. history series anyway. Moreover, this would mean that the existing origins article would not have to be dismembered-- a process that will encounter just as much opposition from me this time as it did the last time you'd attempted that. 172 08:36, 14 Jun 2004 (UTC)
How is what I am doing different than what Bryan said? Which was: Make the "main" article into a shorter summary of the whole topic, with a couple of "for a more detailed discussion of this subject, see [foo]" leading to various more tightly-focused articles consisting of text from the current set. The "hard part" you are talking about has already been done; that article would consist of text that is at Origins of the American Civil War right now. --mav
Yeah, this does look like the start of what I was talking about (sorry I haven't actually contriubted to writing it yet, I'll try to help out on that some tomorrow). The current hugely-long version of the article would split into a number of more-focused pages introduced by this summary, which would give the necessary background for people who decide to "skip ahead". Bryan 07:35, 15 Jun 2004 (UTC)

I like the idea of modifying the US History pages in this fashion! I agree with mav, however, that this is distinct from the issue of refactoring the use of the article namespace so that [[OACW]] is a more concise account of the Origins, perhaps distinct from the current OACW article -- an issue about which I am ambivalent. +sj+

Isaac Newton, et al

I don't think surgery is the right solution. I doubt I'm the only one who likes the heft and flow of the current OACW article; the current collection of paragraphs in their current order is well-tuned. I'd like to see the current OACW article (I use the singular) stay as is, under some title, with some suitable page division (which is already imposed only by interface limitations).

I'd also like to see someone write a 20Kb summary of the longer article.

Please see Isaac Newton for an example of a long, beloved article which was supplemented by a more concise one. +sj+ 06:00, 15 Jun 2004 (UTC)

A 20-30KB summary introducing the longer parts of the article is exactly what I want. I don't think much needs to be done at all with the current articles other than getting expanded lead sections and real page titles. --mav 06:52, 15 Jun 2004 (UTC)
You seem to think that expanding the lead sections will be enough to make parts of this article into self-standing articles. But to sufficiently contextualize some of these sections so that they can be made into self-standing articles, you'd have to write a 'contextualizing' lead-section for a number of sections that would wind up even longer than the sections that you wanted to make into self-standing articles. BTW, once again, a real page title already exists: Origins of the American Civil War, which is a single article consisting of four pages. Numbering the pages is the only option. 172 08:13, 15 Jun 2004 (UTC)
One article with multiple pages? That is a print and book concept, not a web-based encyclopedia one. Minor contexualization will come in time but is only needed for people who land on those articles directly. Most people will land on the survey page first and upon reading the survey will be able to decide which parts of the topic they want to explore in more detail - the lead section for them will be a quick refresher on the points which are most important. Then they can go to the text you mostly wrote that has that detail. That makes this article series more useful to a larger number of people (most don't want to have to read from "page" straight through "page" 30 just to get a good idea about what the topic is about (the current overview is simply way too small for that). --mav 08:26, 15 Jun 2004 (UTC)
You are speaking on behalf of your own personal preferences-- not all readers and all online encyclopedias. If you are attempting to speak on behalf of all web-based encyclopedias, your claim is factually incorrect any way you look at it. Encarta's overview of the American Civil War itself is a part of a 10 page article [1] At the bottom of the page I'm citing above you'll "find Page 1 of 10" toward the bottom. Also, I have nothing against a 20-30K summary, but creating one must not come at the expense of dismantling this article, which many readers have found useful. 172 08:49, 15 Jun 2004 (UTC)
Um, Encarta started life as a print encyclopedia before Microsoft put its polish on it and put it on CD and later the web. And how many times do I have to say that I am not suggesting dismantling this article or even the series. I want to write that summary you say you are for. --mav
And, um, what does the origins of Encarta have to do with anything? When I say "dismantling this article," I mean using the text to create multiple self-standing entries, as to a singe 4-page in-depth entry. The summary that you want might as well be found in an article on U.S. history 1945-65, where one is needed anyway. 172 09:17, 15 Jun 2004 (UTC)
Because you used an Encarta article to "prove" your point (but it in fact proved mine). Also again, what I want to do will preserve the articles pretty much as they are. They can at the same time be part of the series and pass some minimal requirements that would also make them act as stand-alone articles. --mav 10:04, 15 Jun 2004 (UTC)
If you want to exclude all major encyclopedias online that did not get their start in print so that you can disregard Encarta, you're only left with Wikipedia. Now, you may think that your personal preferences and Wikipedia policies are one and the same, and that you can dictate things to us writers-- us hapless walking anachronisms who are stuck in the page numbering age of Gutenberg-- but I've never seen any Wikipedia policy statements explicitly forbidding the concept of numbering pages. You're just making up policies as you go, as far as I know. Perhaps you're doing this to avoid addressing the salient evidence: all the feedback from readers searching for information on the subject has been positive (perhaps Wikipedia can learn something from those print encyclopedias?) 172 18:34, 15 Jun 2004 (UTC)
I pointed out two last time we discussed this that I felt applied here; Wikipedia:Naming_conventions#Do_not_use_an_article_name_that_suggests_a_hierarchy_of_articles and Wikipedia:Naming conventions (precision). Giving articles "page numbers" puts them into a heirarchy, IMO; the numbered pages are clearly "subordinate" to the overall article. The page-numbered titles lack precision because they do not describe what the specific subject of the article is, it just says "this is some unspecified subsection of the Origins of the American Civil War article". Bryan 01:04, 16 Jun 2004 (UTC)
If clicking "continue" a couple of times to read the entire article bothers you so much, would you rather just consolidate all four pages into one (which was the old format)? It could be a single page that just happens to be longer than most articles, like History of the Jews in the United States (Colonial Era-1906). A long article could be taken out of the U.S. history series and supplemented by a 20-30K summary at History of the United States (1845-1865)#Origins of the American Civil War. 172 05:07, 16 Jun 2004 (UTC)
It is not just "clicking continue a couple of times to read the entire article" that bothers me, as I have already explained in detail below. But in any event, yes, I myself would be perfectly happy with splicing these four articles back together into one - that's one of the options I proposed way back when I first noticed this article's current situation. I assume others would object, though, since that was the original state of this article before it got split up for being too long in the first place. Bryan 07:10, 16 Jun 2004 (UTC)
Good to hear. I think that splicing these four articles back together into one, taking OACW out of the U.S. history series, and starting a 20-30K summary at History of the United States (1845-1865)#Origins of the American Civil War-- where one's needed anyway-- is actually preferable to the current situation (I think that the major problem with the current situation is that the TOC is not accessible on all four pages). 172 07:27, 16 Jun 2004 (UTC)
I think "dismantling" it in that sense will be beneficial in the long run, since it will allow each of the resulting smaller articles to be independantly edited and expanded more easily than the current organization allows. Having now read the whole entire thing right through, I don't believe that it will be impossible to split this up into a few reasonably independant subtopics. If you're worried about readers lacking background, an intro paragraph can be added to each of them that mentions explicitly what bits of background would be useful and include links to the articles on those subtopics if the reader needs them. Bryan 09:32, 15 Jun 2004 (UTC)
Well, even setting personal preferences and philosophical issues aside, Encarta and Wikipedia articles have some significantly different practical requirements that IMO make splitting a single unified article over multiple "pages" a bad idea for Wikipedia. Wikipedia articles need to be easy to edit and copy. With the current four-"paged" setup it's necessary to update the TOC by hand when edits are made to other "pages" (the current TOC isn't even complete as it stands currently), talk: is in four different places, and copying, moving or adding sections requires a lot more work. Aside from that Newton article, I have never seen a similarly split-up article elsewhere on Wikipedia (well, not quite true; the article on the American Constitution was once briefly split into two "pages" like this. But that got undone very quickly). That seems like a much more significant precedent to me than what Encarta might be doing. Bryan 09:23, 15 Jun 2004 (UTC)
Looks like Newton's "in-depth biography" has the same problem I see with this page, having a set of pages labelled "1/3", "2/3" and "3/3". Should be easier to fix that one, though, since a quick scan of the year links seems to indicate a highly chronological layout - it may be possible to just put the year range covered in the title instead of "page numbers," or just "early life, writing Principia, late life." I'll worry about that later, though. :) Bryan 07:35, 15 Jun 2004 (UTC)

A Deep and Serious Issue

It occurs to me that a few highly productive WP members are discussing this topic on a little-visited Talk page, that it has little if anything to do with OACW in particular, and that it is complicated by temporary technical limitations and worries about precedent. Can we move this to a more appropriate page and invite a broader audience to comment?


  1. This is a question of nomenclature. Choosing accurate and concise names can be difficult. Far from being trivial, the naming of sections, pages, articles, and categories is deeply important, even though naming decisions are often made in haste. The question of how to name and subdivide lengthy works, in universal Style Manual fashion, should be answered carefully (and answers should be qualified where necessary).
    • For borderline cases, consider stubs (which can be renamed as further detail clarifies content) on the one hand, and detailed books (with preset divisions of 20,000-word chapters into 2,000-word sections, and brief titles for each of section, chapter, and book).
  2. This is also a question of interface. Most visitors are limited to some combination of what their monitor can show, what their browser can display, and what our collective style has inspired us to create.
    • "Keep pages under 30k!" is an artefact of current browser limitations.
    • The need of maintaining "by hand" a single TOC for an article which is visibly split into a number of distinct "pages" can also be overcome with better technology. We should keep in mind when making Style Guidelines(TM) to distinguish b/t guidelines for the imperfect present and suggested guidelines for a more perfect future.
    • See the Int'l Herald Tribune for another take on paging.
  3. This is a question, lastly, of hard vs. soft style guides. How strictly should guides be followed? How much is up to the discretion and energy of the primary editors of an article? How worried should we be about setting precedents, and about uniformity?
    • I like having a variety of styles around, and waiting for obviously excellent designs to emerge. Choosing among and arguing about a number of flawed designs may only hinder good designs from appearing. None of the designs suggested so far really appeals to me; of course I (slightly) prefer the layout I suggested to what was here before, but I'm still waiting for a good solution to emerge. Meanwhile, there are REALLY IMPORTANT changes going on around WP that have nothing to do with how long pages are displaye.d (: see below for my Table of Mediocrity.
  4. ~~ +sj+ 01:00, 19 Jun 2004 (UTC) ~~

Table of Long-Pages Design Mediocrity

Design type Naming Size Table of Contents
Single page Short. Clean. Honest. What's not to like about that? (: Too long. Slow loading; browsers currently load entire page at once; breaks some older browsers. Simple, complete.
Tree-like Short parent name. Long child names; sometimes complicated. Most external articles need only know the title of the parent node, and link there. Just right. Tree nodes limited to < 30k. Content refactored accordingly. Complete within each self-contained node.
Serial Single short name for all nodes, clarified with 'page number'. Most external articles need only know the title of the first node, and link there. Just right. Serial nodes limited to < 30k. New pages started every 20/25k. Complete in first node; needs updating by hand.

It seems that removing or working around the technical limitation would alleviate the problem most cleanly -- everyone likes a single autogenerated TOC, a single searchable page, and the interface of scrolling down until you're done with the article. +sj+ 01:00, 19 Jun 2004 (UTC)

Excellent comments by Sj. They deserve careful and detailed consideration and elucidation on another page, so that these proposals can be applied to a number of other articles. 172 03:38, 25 Jun 2004 (UTC)
Hacking things up into a series is never "just right" since there is no quick (20 - 30 KB) summary of the whole topic. Thus those users who don't want so much detail are not served. See wikipedia:summary style. --mav 03:54, 18 Jul 2004 (UTC)

New article on History of the United States (1849-1865)

Mav, Bryan, and Sj:

I just took the OACW article out of the U.S. history series and started a new article on History of the United States (1849-1865), which can contain the 20-30K summaries of both OACW and ACW. If there are any objections to this, please go ahead and revert any of my changes. 172 03:38, 25 Jun 2004 (UTC)

Then this article should itself be a survey article for the OACW series. I still plan on finishing Talk:Origins of the American Civil War/Origins of the American Civil War to make that happen (I'm glad to see that Brian has helped a bit). The OACW part of History of the United States (1849-1865) seems to be the right length while the ACW is way too short. There also needs to be other sections dealing with other aspects of the period that are not directly related to the ACW. In fact the whole division seems wrong since the main period of Indian Wars are therefore split in two. --mav 03:51, 18 Jul 2004 (UTC)
I must admit to drifting away from this summary-writing project in the hopes that it would somehow magically complete itself, but I guess I'll come back now and pitch in some more work since that didn't happen. In a few days, though, this weekend is too busy for heavy lifting. :) BTW, found another article that's been split up in an arbitrary manner; USS Tennessee (BB-43). I think I'll make myself a list over on my user page so I can work these over once this one's settled into a form that is generally accepted. Bryan 05:01, 18 Jul 2004 (UTC)

Black Slaveowners

This article implies that all slaveowners were white, which is not true[2]. This needs to be corrected. H2O 07:58, 16 Aug 2004 (UTC)

Nowhere does the article state "all slaveowners were white." As for the edit that I just reverted, even if you can point to a few black slaveholders, this is an anomaly completely irrelevant to the topic at hand. 172 08:00, 16 Aug 2004 (UTC)

The article implied that all slaveowners were white, and it's not irrelevant. Slavery was an evil institution that went beyond race. The article implies that it was about the rich white people suppressing the poor black people, when it was really about the powerful (white or black) using the powerless (white or black) for their own gain, as evidenced by the fact that there were free black slaveowners who took advantage of the system as well. H2O 08:14, 16 Aug 2004 (UTC)

The article has no business making value-laden, rhetorical pronouncements like the one you're stating above. The system of slavery is addressed in the context of the historical, political, and ideological realities within which it was operating, not in the context of contemporary political considerations. This is how scholarly historical research is conducted. Moreover, the number of free black slaveholders was so minuscule as to be irrelevant to the content of this article. 172 08:36, 16 Aug 2004 (UTC)

I thought it was ok to have an opinion on a talk page. No one is suggesting that my comments be incorporated into the article. However, this article seems somewhat slanted to the POV of those who invaded the Southern states. i.e. The picture of the slave with the whip scars - did the average slave have this type of scarring? Many in the South, such as Robert E. Lee, treated their slaves kindly, and wanted to see an end to slavery, and believed that it eventually would die out, but did not see a simple way to end the practice, the system having been in place for 200 years. They did not want the help of an overly strong federal government to accomplish this. Also, there were a number of both free and slave blacks who fought for the Confederacy. I am not a scholar, but as I said, this article does not seem to be neutral. H2O 09:17, 16 Aug 2004 (UTC)

This is not an article on the institution of slavery but rather the role of slavery in the coming of the Civil War, so these observations regarding the paternalistic side of slavery aren't relevant. (Northern propaganda, of course, did not focus on paternalistic slaveowners who "treated their slaves kindly" but rather the violence of the slave system. Hence the picture of a scarred slave instead of a picture of, say, slaves smiling, whistling, and picking cotton.) 172 09:45, 16 Aug 2004 (UTC)

If this is a propanganda picture used by Northern abolitionists, why isn't it noted as such and used in that section? The illustration doesn't seem to fit the section on the Southern defense of slavery. An illustration of happy whistling cotton picking slaves (and noted as Southern propanganda) WOULD be more appropriate in this section. Information about the laws and customs that were in existence that made it difficult for slaves to be freed in the South, even by those who wanted to free them, would also be useful. And by the way, there were over 3000 black or mulatto slaveowners in New Orleans alone. H2O 05:55, 19 Aug 2004 (UTC) Incidentally, if you follow the picture back to its source, you'll notice that the overseer who inflicted these wounds was fired by the slave's owner. I think the caption on this picture should be altered. H2O 06:31, 19 Aug 2004 (UTC)

The picture's caption explicitly states Abolitionists cited the slave codes as example of the barbarism of Southern society. How much clearer would you like it? Markalexander100 07:46, 19 Aug 2004 (UTC)
1) the caption states - Slave "patrollers," mostly poor whites, were given the authority to stop, search, whip, maim, and even kill any slave who violated the slave codes. This man was not beaten by a slave patroller, but by his own overseer, who was consequently fired.
2) Abolitionists cited the slave codes as example of the barbarism of Southern society. - I doubt abolitionists would have had opportunity to use this photo during the time leading up to the Civil War, as the photo was taken in 1863, two years after the war started. H2O 08:27, 19 Aug 2004 (UTC)

Secession Crisis

Oughtn't the crisis between the secession of South Carolina and the beginning of the war be discussed in this article? In particular, stuff like the failed Crittenden Compromise plan, and so forth, seem to belong here more than to American Civil War. john k 04:46, 19 Oct 2004 (UTC)