The Imperiled Union: Essays on the Background of the Civil War

The Imperiled Union: Essays on the Background of the Civil War

The Imperiled Union: Essays on the Background of the Civil War

The Imperiled Union: Essays on the Background of the Civil War

Excerpt

Though I wrote each of the essays in this book to stand by itself, they do fall into a chronological order, and they all relate to a common historical theme: the American sectional conflict. They deal with the constitutional debate over the nature of the Union, some recent interpretations of southern slavery, the political crisis of the 1850s, the perennial problem of Civil War causation, and the controversial question of why the Confederate States of America lost the war. Some of the essays are in part historiographical; all advance interpretations that evolved during many years of teaching and research in what was once called the Middle Period of American history. Several of my interpretations are quite different from those I found convincing in earlier years-for example, my view of the causes of the Civil War has changed drastically since graduate-school days when I thought that Charles A. Beard was the most reliable authority on that subject. These interpretive permutations have resulted from my own research, from the writings of other historians, from debates and discussions with my students in Berkeley, and, no doubt, from my changing perceptions of human behavior and perspectives of the past.

Two of the essays, Chapters IV and VII, have not been . . .

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