The Civil War: A Concise History, Louis P. Masur, Oxford University Press, 118 pp, nine illustrations, notes, index, 2011, $18.95.
Oxford University Press has a notable series entitled Very Short Introductions. Each of the 200+ volumes are 144 pages and cover topics from Advertising to Writing and Script.
The Civil War: A Concise History is not in the series. With 94 pages of text and 24 pages of notes, index and 'For Further Reading' it is very, very short and with retail price of $18.95 is expensive. Count the nine illustrations, two full page and seven half page and there is about 85 pages of text. But it works.
With a preface, a chapter of origins and five chapters of the years of the war Masur presents a fluid clear introduction to the war and its issues. The book is carefully balanced between generalizations and evidence. The pacing of the book is dramatic and explains what happened, how it happened and what it meant. The important political, economic and social points are there. Knowledgeable readers will make a mental list of what doesn't appear in the book but these readers are not the audience for The Civil War: A Concise History. Those who are looking for an introduction to the war during the sesquicentennial, those who are in high school college preparatory courses, those who find themselves getting sunburned while watching 25,000 reenactors sweating in wool uniforms at Masassas Virginia are the target audience of this book. Also, you may be very familiar with one or two battles but you need to be refreshed about the 'before' and the 'after' this is the book for you.
If you are asked for a book on the Civil War that explains the who, what, where, when why and how, CWL recommends Masur's work. Particularly helpful is Mazur's organizing the cause of the war into three groups: long term origins, short term origins, and triggers.Readers who finish The Civil War: A Concise History may well ask for another book on the Civil War.
By the way, The Civil War: A Concise History is on Amazon's Kindle for $9;95.