Monday, April 04, 2011

News---America Aflame: How The Civil War Created a Nation Picked As Book of the Month by History News Network

America Aflame: How the Civil War Created a Nation, David Goldfield, Bloomsbury Press, 640 pages, notes, bibliography, index, 14 color illustrations, 20+ b/w illustrations, harcover, $35.00 {March 15,2011]

This sweeping, provocative history of America from the 1830s through Reconstruction has two grand themes. One is the importance of evangelical Protestantism, particularly in the North and within the Republican Party, in changing slavery from a political problem to an intractable moral issue that could only be settled by bloodshed. The second is the Civil War's transformation of America into a modern industrial nation with a powerful government and a commercial, scientific outlook, even as the postwar South stagnated in racism and backward-looking religiosity.

UNC-Charlotte historian Goldfield, author of Still Fighting the Civil War, courts controversy by shifting more responsibility for the conflict to an activist North and away from intransigent slaveholders, whom he likens to Indians, Mexicans, and other targets viewed by white evangelical Northerners as "polluting" the spreading western frontier. Still, he presents a superb, stylishly written historical synthesis that insightfully foregrounds ideology, faith, and public mood The book is, the author writes, "neither pro-southern nor pro-northern," but rather "antiwar." Goldfield's narrative of the war proper is especially good, evoking the horror of the fighting and its impact on soldiers and civilians. The result is an ambitious, engrossing interpretation with new things to say about a much-studied conflagration.

Text Source: History News Network

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