The Comparative Approach to American History

By C. Vann Woodward | Go to book overview

10
Civil War

DAVID M. POTTER

It has been the curious fate of the United States to exert immense influence in the modern world, without itself quite understanding the nature of this influence. Major trends of the modern world--both constructive trends and socially injurious ones--have repeatedly become apparent in the United States before they became evident elsewhere. But though the United States has often been a step ahead in the process of social change, it has frequently been a step behind in its awareness of the meaning of new developments. The shape of things to come often became visible in America earlier than it did elsewhere, but American preconceptions about the frontier, the classless society, and the agrarian basis of democracy prevented Americans from perceiving this shape as realistically as it was perceived by social thinkers in other countries. If Americans have failed effectively to interpret their experience to people in other societies, it is in part because they have not always been able to explain it to themselves. Further, the distinctive qualities of life in America have caused a good many forces which were generically universal to take forms which seemed more restrictively peculiar to the New World than they really were.

Thus in the late eighteenth century, America executed the first democratic political revolution of a democratic age, but American society was already so equalitarian that the revolu-

-135-

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The Comparative Approach to American History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • The Contributors vii
  • Introduction to the New Edition xi
  • 1 - The Comparability of American History 3
  • 2 - The Colonial Phase 18
  • 3 - The Enlightenment 34
  • 4 - The Revolution 47
  • 5 - The "Newness" of the New Nation 62
  • 6 - Frontiers 75
  • 7 - Immigration 91
  • 8 - Mobility 106
  • 9 - Slavery 121
  • 10 - Civil War 135
  • 11 - Reconstruction: Ultraconservative Revolution 146
  • 12 - The Negro since Freedom 160
  • 13 - Industrialization 175
  • 14 - Urbanization 187
  • 15 - Political Parties 206
  • 16 - The Coming of Big Business 220
  • 17 - Socialism and Labor 238
  • 18 - Imperialism 253
  • 19 - Social Democracy, 1900-1918 271
  • 20 - World War I 285
  • 21 - The Great Depression 296
  • 22 - World War II 315
  • 23 - The Cold War 328
  • 24 - The Test of Comparison 346
  • Index 359
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