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The Causes of the Civil War (1959)

av Kenneth Stampp

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Presents debate on the issues and events leading up to the American Civil War.

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This book has been hanging around my library for a long time. It is a book of readings that I am sure was used for a lot of college classes. The readings are grouped under seven topics listed as possible causes of the war. After reading through the book my conclusion is that slavery and the maintaining of white supremacy were really the causes of the war. Slavery was the economic engine that made the South run after the invention of the cotton gin and also a social system justified by the belief in white supremacy. I think white supremacy was necessary to racial chattel slavery as a way to justify treating other human beings the way slaves were treated. It also gave the non-slaveholder a reason to support the system. No matter how poor and ignorant you were if you were white you were better than the African-American slaves. That gave the majority of the Southerners who didn't own slaves a very good reason to fight in the Civil War.
The articles vary from one-half of a page to five pages going from primary sources up to the time the book was written in 1959. They provide a very interesting look at the way attitudes to the Civil War changed over time. For example in an article from 1860 Alexander Stephens, the Vice-President of the Confederacy, makes it clear that slavery was the cause of the war. In an article he wrote in 1868 he has joined the supporters of the "Lost Cause" theory and says that the war was all about state-rights. One author writing in 1923 analyzed the effects of the subtropical climate on Anglo-Saxons and came up with the idea of "Tropic Nordics". They came from the Deep South and developed a towering race pride and an inclination to ride over racial groups considered to be inferior. All of the inmates are not in the asylum.
The articles I found most interesting focused on the cultural differences between the North and South. They reminded me of [The Mind of the Master Class] a fascinating book on Southern intellectual history I read some years ago. All of the articles point to the fact that there were real differences between the North and South and the Civil War was in some ways an inevitable conflict. The book sets out a wide variety of points of view and lends some credence to the idea that the Civil War isn't really over yet. I enjoyed reading it and would recommend it to anyone who has an interest in American history. ( )
  wildbill | May 23, 2013 |
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Presents debate on the issues and events leading up to the American Civil War.

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