Thursday, March 17, 2011

Historian Has New Take On Civil War [sic}

From Rebellion:

Historian has new take on Civil Warfrom feed/ by Old RebelI'm no fan of historian David Goldfield, but his latest book is clearly better than his past efforts. Instead of toeing the party line that the WBTS was a glorious war of liberation, he portrays it as the nation's greatest failure. He has a point, though he still misses the heart of the matter:

In his new book, "America Aflame: How the Civil War Created a Nation" (Bloomsbury; $35), Goldfield describes the war not as a triumph of freedom but as America's biggest failure - a conflict that cost 620,000 American lives, the equivalent in today's population of 10 million people.

"The question I want readers to ask is, 'Was this necessary?'" Goldfield says. ...

"We've grown up thinking the war saved the Union and liberated 4 million human beings and it was good. I'm saying the results weren't as clear cut and there may have been a better way to achieve those results."

Publishers Weekly says that Goldfield "courts controversy by shifting more responsibility for the conflict to the activist North and away from intransigent slaveholders." Still, the review says, "he presents a superb, stylishly written historical synthesis that insightfully foregrounds ideology, faith and public mood."

The War of Northern Aggression was just another instance of the centralizing trend of the late nineteenth century. Prussia fought three wars to forge the German Empire, Piedmont-Sardinia waged war on its Italian neighbors to form the Kingdom of Italy, and Japan centralized power around the emperor. Lincoln managed to centralize the former Republic of Republics under the domination of New England industrialists and the central government. The WBTS, like all wars, was about power, not liberation.

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