March 4, 2019

Visiting Professor Offers International Perspective on Civil War

Dr. Piotr Derengowski

VALDOSTA — Valdosta State University students are gaining unique insight into one of America’s biggest wars through the teachings of Dr. Piotr Derengowski, a visiting professor for the Spring 2019 semester.

Derengowski, an assistant professor of history at the University of Gdansk in Poland, is teaching a course on United States history from 1850 to 1877, with the focal point being the Civil War. Derengowski has been studying the Civil War for more than two decades, and his course is exploring the bloody conflict from a European perspective.

“Learning about the American Civil War from someone who is not an American citizen is very useful because we’re going to get a different perspective,” said Dr. John Dunn, head of VSU’s Department of History. “He brings a world perspective, and I think that’s super valuable.” 

The course is examining the repercussions the Civil War had on the rest of the world. Those repercussions include the downfall of France’s expansion efforts in Mexico and the rise of cotton sales in other countries due to decreased production in the American South, among other things.

Derengowski got hooked on the Civil War in elementary school, when he read a book about the Battle of Gettysburg written by a Polish diplomat. While earning his master’s degree and doctorate at the University of Gdansk, he wrote his thesis on the Civil War’s first regiment of the Polish brigade in Louisiana and his dissertation on the hundreds of people of Polish descent who fought on both sides during the war.

He has published a book representing his years of research on Poles in the Civil War, and he is now looking into African-American troops who fought in the Civil War and other American military conflicts.

“Everything about the Civil War is interesting to me,” Derengowski said. “It’s two visions of American society clashing on the battlefield. It’s one of the biggest conflicts in the United States. We might say it is the turning point in American history. It made the United States one of the most powerful nations in the world. Until the Civil War, they are a continental power. After the Civil War, they are turning into a world power.

“I hope my students will understand how complex this war was. You cannot say that all Confederates were bad and all Yankees were good. This war, as any other, is much more complex, and that’s what I want to show.”

Derengowski is teaching at VSU through the Louie A. Brown Visiting International Scholars Program, a grant program coordinated by VSU’s Center for International Programs that enables colleges and departments to bring recognized international faculty to campus for an extended period of time.

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