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America Aflame How the Civil War Created a Nation


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Bloomsbury Press


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160819390X

9781608193905

640 Pages

$20.00

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In this spellbinding history, David Goldfield offers the first major new interpretation of the Civil War era since James M. McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom. Where other scholars have seen the conflict as a triumph of freedom, Goldfield paints it as America’s greatest failure: a breakdown of society caused by the infusion of evangelical religion into the world of politics.

The price of that failure was horrific, but the carnage accomplished what statesmen could not: It made the United States one nation and eliminated the divisive force of slavery. The victorious North moved ahead, a land of innovation and industry. Religion was supplanted by a gospel of economic and scientific progress, and the South was left behind. The "fiery trial" of war transformed our country—a conflagration captured in vivid detail in America Aflame.

REVIEWS

Praise for America Aflame

A sweeping, insightful and articulate new look at the war and the country it transformed.”—The Dallas Morning News

“This provocative new look at the era of Civil War and Reconstruction places evangelical religion at center stage in the drama of the coming of war. Northern evangelicals branded slavery a sin; Southern theologians portrayed it as a positive good ordained by God. Political questions became a moral battle between good and evil. The author argues that postwar economic growth in the victorious North and grinding poverty in the South transformed the cultural force of religion into a conservation rationalization of the status quo, rather than its former role as an instrument of change.”—James M. McPherson, author of Battle Cry of Freedom and Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief

“Readers who wonder if there’s really much left to say about the Civil War and its impact on America will find their doubts evaporating only a few pages into this remarkable book. Although there is plenty of new information here, David Goldfield’s greatest contribution may lie in showing us new ways to understand what we already know. Undaunted by the complexity and contentiousness of his subject, Goldfield has only embellished his stellar credentials as a both writer and scholar in this concise yet sweeping treatment, in which narrative and analysis flow so seamlessly that we are always engaged and often engrossed.”—James C. Cobb, author of Away Down South: A History of Southern Identity

“In America Aflame, distinguished historian David Goldfield turns an unflinching eye on a, if not the, central event in American history. The resulting narrative goes far toward correcting the popular tendency to romanticize the Civil War. Few histories of the Civil War make the war’s meaning and impact so central to their narratives.”—Gaines M. Foster, author of Ghosts of the Confederacy and Moral Reconstruction

“This masterful synthesis of the Civil War is a stunning achievement.  With fresh perspective, with inspiring and often provocative ideas, Goldfield challenges some of the old narratives of sectional conflict, civil war and Reconstruction.  His examination of disparate, even divergent ways of thinking in the nineteenth century is brilliant, especially his exploration of the power of evangelical religion before and its diminished authority after the Civil War.  A rich and vivid work, America Aflame is an extraordinary contribution to the historical understanding of our most defining war.”—Orville Vernon Burton, author of The Age of Lincoln

“Here is an extremely thoughtful, persuasively argued, beautifully written, and highly original look at the Civil War and its impact on the nation--both in the short and long term. This book should stir much healthy debate, challenging us to reconsider the fundamentals of the war we think we know so well.”—Harold Holzer, author of Lincoln President-Elect

“An exemplary cultural study.  The author offers an intriguing new perspective on what he convincingly argues to be not only the defining event of 1800s America, but the defining event of our nation's entire political and cultural history . . . [his] examination of the intensity of individual religious thought and religiously informed social activity in the camps provides readers a new comprehension of this extraordinary war.  Goldfield writes with veteran grace.”Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“It is [Goldfield’s] emphasis on the religious angle that readers may find distinctive among Civil War overviews.”—Booklist

“A provocatively written, scrupulously researched, and well-framed consideration of evangelical religion's questionable role in the antebellum, Civil War, and Reconstruction periods of our history. An important book as the war's sesquicentennial approaches.”—Library Journal (starred review)

“Goldfield] presents a superb, stylishly written historical synthesis that insightfully foregrounds ideology, faith, and public mood . . . an ambitious, engrossing interpretation with new things to say about a much-studied conflagration.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Reviews from Goodreads

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BOOK EXCERPTS

Read an Excerpt

David Goldfield is the Robert Lee Bailey Professor of History at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. He is the author of many works and textbooks on Southern history, including Still Fighting the Civil War, Southern Histories, Black, White and Southern, and Promised Land.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR


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  • David Goldfield is the Robert Lee Bailey Professor of History at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. He is the author of many works and textbooks on Southern history, including Still Fighting the Civil War, Southern Histories, Black, White and Southern, and Promised Land.
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