The best books on politics and race in the Civil War era

Paul D. Escott Author Of Lincoln's Dilemma: Blair, Sumner, and the Republican Struggle over Racism and Equality in the Civil War Era.
By Paul D. Escott

The Books I Picked & Why

The Impending Crisis: America Before the Civil War, 1848-1861

By David M. Potter

The Impending Crisis: America Before the Civil War, 1848-1861

Why this book?

This book is deservedly considered a classic. It is beautifully written and features penetrating analysis grounded in impressive research. Potter takes you into the minds of the politicians and policy-makers whose conflicts and struggles led to the Civil War and reveals how they thought about the issues and each other.


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Lincoln

By David Herbert Donald

Lincoln

Why this book?

Abraham Lincoln is both vitally important to our history and a fascinating subject, and this book is, by far, the best single-volume biography of the president. Donald was an outstanding researcher and a Pulitzer Prize award-winning biographer. This book deals thoroughly and convincingly with all the issues that spark debates among historians.


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War Stuff: The Struggle for Human and Environmental Resources in the American Civil War

By Joan E. Cashin

War Stuff: The Struggle for Human and Environmental Resources in the American Civil War

Why this book?

We frequently read about the glories and historic decisions of the Civil War, but here is an eye-opening book that shows us how enormous was the civilian suffering caused by the conflict. Joan Cashin invigorates Civil War studies by treating military history, material culture, the environment, gender, and military-civilian relations from a fresh perspective. You will think about the war in a changed way after reading this fine book.


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Forged in Battle: The Civil War Alliance of Black Soldiers and White Officers

By Joseph T. Glatthaar

Forged in Battle: The Civil War Alliance of Black Soldiers and White Officers

Why this book?

The decision to recruit Black soldiers made an enormous difference in the war and in politics. Black recruits to the U.S. Army equaled all the northern men lost in the first two years of fighting and proved themselves on many battlefields. Their sacrifice also made an irrefutable case for Black rights. Joseph Glatthaar’s book admirably tells the story of these soldiers and their white officers.


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Confederate Reckoning: Power and Politics in the Civil War South

By Stephanie McCurry

Confederate Reckoning: Power and Politics in the Civil War South

Why this book?

This history of the Confederacy – winner of many awards and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2011 – expands our understanding of politics beyond the Confederacy’s male voters. Women in the South, who faced great problems and difficulties during the war, spoke out and protested in ways that forced an aristocratic, patriarchal political system to respond. Her book sheds new light on the challenges faced by the Confederacy.


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