All posts by Abi

Abi Stephens and Kendall Rankin Project Contract

For this project we will be researching the secession of Western Virginia from Virginia during the early American Civil War. This will include the background and information of secessionists and the immediate aftereffects of the secession. Our goal is to provide accessible resources for people interested in West Virginia’s secession and secession movements in general. To accomplish this goal, we intend to build an easy-to-use website with multiple pages outlining the causes of the secession and the consequences of it. It will also include a citation page to ensure our resources are properly cited. We intend to use WordPress, StoryMap JS, and Timeline JS in building our website.


-Every Wednesday before class we will meet in person to discuss how the project is going-


Monday, February 13: Contract Draft Due

Monday, February 20: Project Contract Due

Monday, February 27: StoryMap and Timeline Due

Monday, March 13-14: Visit to Archive

Monday, March 27: Rough Draft of Website Due

Monday, April 24: Final Project Due
Each of us will be responsible for either the StoryMap or the Timeline. Each of us are responsible for constructing half of the pages for our website. We plan to travel to the archives together, so that the research will be split 50/50. Each of us is responsible for contacting and negotiating with one archivist for our archival visits.

Terry Rugeley’s “The Brief, Glorious History of the Yucatecan Republic”

Rugeley’s article on the Yucatecan Republic outlines the history of the movement itself and compares it with the American Confederacy. He explains that the conflict began in the 1830s after proponents of centralism revoked the constitution of 1823 and replaced it with the Siete Leyes system in which a chief executive made decisions supported by the military, the clergy, and wealthy landowners. At the same time, these men conscripted men from regional battalions to fight Anglo settlers who had recently formed Texas from Mexican territory.

This conscription led to an unsuccessful rebellion proposed by the merchant Santiago Iman y Villafana. His second attempt included removing church taxes from Maya peasants, and this revolt was successful. Opportunistic gentry pushed for independence and proclaimed it on May 16, 1841. Mexico’s apparent advantages in terms of wealth, manpower, and the Mayan desire for liberation were less effective than they believed, and they were forced to concede to Yucatecan demands for independence.

After independence the major splits in the Yucatan became apparent. They faced a downward spiral due to lack of resources and ethnic conflict. It is unclear exactly how their Caste War began due to the destruction of documents during the conflict, but the author believes that it stemmed from conflicts between Maya and Hispanic smugglers. The Maya resented increases in Hispanic violence and political power, and this lead to ethnic conflict which spread from elites to the most impoverished.

At the end of the five year war, the Yucatan peninsula reunified with Mexico. This time there were no terms, as the region was virtually destroyed. At the same time, Mexico was unable to establish punitive measures, as other regions of the country were still in open rebellion. The Yucatan’s political power was subsequently diminished by the division of Campeche in 1857 and Quintana Roo between 1898 and 1901.

In comparing the Confederacy to the Yucatan secession, Rugeley notes three major differences: Yucatan’s literacy rate was much lower and therefore lacked literary pieces to unite public opinion for secession, it had more division in terms of class and ideology, and their armies depended much more on the fighting power of the ethnic underclass. Clearly, however, both ended in defeat.

Rugeley’s analysis brings to mind Anderson’s piece on secession. Would he consider the Yucatecans an ethnic group, considering the fact that their movement was brought down largely by ethnic violence within their borders? Ideology and opportunism seem to be larger factors than ethnicity in the initial division from Mexico.

At one point, Rugeley calls the Yucatecan Republic “the longest-lived (one hesitates to use the word “successful”) secessionist movement in the history of Mexico.” (224) Yet in the same piece he discusses the separation of Texas from Mexico and the government’s attempts to put it down. I question why he does not consider Texas a secessionist movement in these terms. His discussion of the Yucatan Republic is fascinating, but I find myself wanting to know more about Texans as a separatist group.



Reading Reflection on Jason Sorens’s Secession

In the introduction to his book Secession, Jason Sorens argues that secession is relatively rare, and prompted mainly by a few factors. First, that the seceding party tends to be a minority, especially an ethnic minority, with little control over governmental policy. Second, they will only attempt to secede if the benefits of seceding are perceived to be higher than the costs. Finally, the likelihood of a minority attempting to secede may be decreased if their government either bans secession entirely, increasing the costs of seceding, or if the government allows the group more autonomy, decreasing the benefits.

While reading this piece, I realized that I had been thinking of secession in a very limited context. While I have been aware of the break-up of countries outside the United States, I had never heard the term applied in a context outside the Civil War. Clearly our class is focused on the United States, but I am interested to learn about conflicts leading to secessionist movements in other regions around the world.

Sorens’s work deals with broad matters of governmental policy, and it makes me wonder whether anyone in a position to change constitutions will ever read his work. Academics consider weighty problems, but the answers we come up with make no difference if the people in power neglect to examine them.

The idea of increasing the autonomy of secessionist groups is an intriguing one. What do governments fear in letting go of those unhappy with their rule? Loss of power, control, natural resources? Perhaps they fear to look weak in front of enemies, or even that the recently seceded will unite against them. In such cases, it makes sense to allow people more freedom in order to prevent a permanent division. It might lessen conflicts in the future if people paid attention to Sorens’s work.


Hi everyone!

My name is Abi. I grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina and moved to Nelson, New Zealand when I was twelve. After finishing high school, I decided to come back to North Carolina for university.

I’m a history major, interested in colonialism and medical history, especially the history of infectious diseases. I like learning about how catastrophe impacts the social world. I am also curious about the history of the pre-Columbian Americas, which often strays more into archaeology than traditional history. In general, though, if it happened more than thirty years ago I want to know about it.

This class drew my attention because it was about the history of division. As stated above, I enjoy studying how change affects people. On top of this, I would like to know more about building websites. It is important for academic research to be accessible to the general public in order to foster inclusion instead of division. I also believe that technological literacy is an important skill for historians to have.

I look forward to getting to know all of you.