10 books like Confederate Reckoning

By Stephanie McCurry,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like Confederate Reckoning. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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The Impending Crisis

By David M. Potter,

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

David M. Potter’s The Impending Crisis, 1848-1861 (1976; winner of a posthumous Pulitzer Prize for History) remains, after nearly half-a-century, the best narrative on the coming of the Civil War. It brims with perceptive analysis and very usefully instructs readers about history’s vexing complications. Completed after Potter’s death by his colleague at Stanford Don E. Fehrenbacher, the engaging text forcefully reminds readers to keep in mind the contingent nature of politics and to avoid assuming events had to play out as they did. Part of the period’s complexity lay in the fact that although the crisis of 1860-1861 had everything to do with slavery’s powerful influence over American political affairs, the increasingly heated rhetoric of the secession winter did not focus on whether the nation would keep or jettison the institution. Four years of war answered that fundamental question.

The Impending Crisis

By David M. Potter,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Impending Crisis as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

David M. Potter's Pulitzer Prize-winning The Impending Crisis is the definitive history of antebellum America. Potter's sweeping epic masterfully charts the chaotic forces that climaxed with the outbreak of the Civil War: westward expansion, the divisive issue of slavery, the Dred Scott decision, John Brown's uprising, the ascension of Abraham Lincoln, and the drama of Southern secession. Now available in a new edition, The Impending Crisis remains one of the most celebrated works of American historical writing.


Lincoln

By David Herbert Donald,

Book cover of Lincoln

Donald’s one-volume biography of Lincoln remains the standard in the field. I knew David Donald and found him always generous. From his perch at Harvard, Donald dominated the Lincoln field for many decades. His biography of Lincoln stands head and shoulders above a host of more recent studies. In fact, it surprises me people keep writing biographies of Lincoln that go over the same ground repeatedly. Donald brings Lincoln alive with the authority that comes from a lifetime of reflection and writing on the Civil War and our greatest president.

Lincoln

By David Herbert Donald,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Lincoln as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A masterful work by Pulitzer Prize–winning author David Herbert Donald, Lincoln is a stunning portrait of Abraham Lincoln’s life and presidency.

Donald brilliantly depicts Lincoln’s gradual ascent from humble beginnings in rural Kentucky to the ever-expanding political circles in Illinois, and finally to the presidency of a country divided by civil war. Donald goes beyond biography, illuminating the gradual development of Lincoln’s character, chronicling his tremendous capacity for evolution and growth, thus illustrating what made it possible for a man so inexperienced and so unprepared for the presidency to become a great moral leader. In the most troubled of times,…


War Stuff

By Joan E. Cashin,

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

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.

War Stuff

By Joan E. Cashin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked War Stuff as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this path-breaking work on the American Civil War, Joan E. Cashin explores the struggle between armies and civilians over the human and material resources necessary to wage war. This war 'stuff' included the skills of white Southern civilians, as well as such material resources as food, timber, and housing. At first, civilians were willing to help Confederate or Union forces, but the war took such a toll that all civilians, regardless of politics, began focusing on their own survival. Both armies took whatever they needed from human beings and the material world, which eventually destroyed the region's ability to…


Forged in Battle

By Joseph T. Glatthaar,

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

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.

Forged in Battle

By Joseph T. Glatthaar,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Forged in Battle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Sixteen months after the start of the American Civil War, the Federal government, having vastly underestimated the length and manpower demands of the war, began to recruit black soldiers. This revolutionary policy gave 180,000 free blacks and former slaves the opportunity to prove themselves on the battlefield as part of the United States Colored Troops. By the end of the war, 37,000 in their ranks had given their lives for the cause of freedom.

In Forged in Battle, originally published in 1990, award-winning historian Joseph T. Glatthaar re-creates the events that gave these troops and their 7,000 white officers justifiable…


Book of Ages

By Jill Lepore,

Book cover of Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin

Ostensibly an account of the life of Benjamin Franklin’s youngest sister, Jane Franklin, Lepore’s book is also a meditation on the construction of history, exploring the question of why some stories get told and others don’t. Why is Benjamin Franklin now a household name, when most people don’t even know that he even had a sister? If you want to know the answer to this question, read Lepore’s book.

Book of Ages

By Jill Lepore,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Book of Ages as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST

ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR
NPR • Time Magazine • The Washington Post • Entertainment Weekly • The Boston Globe

A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK

From one of our most accomplished and widely admired historians—a revelatory portrait of Benjamin Franklin's youngest sister, Jane, whose obscurity and poverty were matched only by her brother’s fame and wealth but who, like him, was a passionate reader, a gifted writer, and an astonishingly shrewd political commentator.

Making use of an astonishing cache of little-studied material, including documents, objects, and portraits only just discovered, Jill Lepore…


Reconstruction

By Eric Foner,

Book cover of Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877

If most Americans are like me, Reconstruction is vaguely remembered from high school history classes as a time when corrupt and incompetent Carpetbaggers and Scalawags reigned while the South struggled to recover from the devastation of the Civil War. Historians have rescued Reconstruction from this neglect and misunderstanding, revealing it as a second American revolution – but one that failed. It was a time of stunning progress in the rights of Black Americans, a reconceptualization of the role of government in society, and staggering violence to preserve white supremacy. Pulitzer Prize-winning Historian Eric Foner’s book is the Bible for this era–lucidly written, carefully researched, and painful in its assessment of this lost moment in American history.

Reconstruction

By Eric Foner,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Reconstruction as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Newly Reissued with a New Introduction: From the "preeminent historian of Reconstruction" (New York Times Book Review), a newly updated edition of the prize-winning classic work on the post-Civil War period which shaped modern America. Eric Foner's "masterful treatment of one of the most complex periods of American history" (New Republic) redefined how the post-Civil War period was viewed. Reconstruction chronicles the way in which Americans-black and white-responded to the unprecedented changes unleashed by the war and the end of slavery. It addresses the ways in which the emancipated slaves' quest for economic autonomy and equal citizenship shaped the political…


The Middle Ground

By Richard White,

Book cover of The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815

The Middle Ground is by far the best overview of the Great Lakes frontier over a period of almost two hundred years. White traces how French fur traders were able to establish a fluctuating “middle ground” with the Indian nations of the region that allowed for a degree of respect, understanding, and intermarriage. When the French were succeeded by the British, this middle ground began to shrink, as English traders wanted to let the cash nexus determine their business practices. When the Americans came to dominate the situation, the middle ground, with the exception of a few figures like William Wells, almost entirely disappeared. The result was devastating for the Indian nations, whose cultures nearly disappeared. White’s thesis has been challenged by Alan Taylor and other historians of the period, but the book remains an essential classic.  

The Middle Ground

By Richard White,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Middle Ground as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An acclaimed book and widely acknowledged classic, The Middle Ground steps outside the simple stories of Indian-white relations - stories of conquest and assimilation and stories of cultural persistence. It is, instead, about a search for accommodation and common meaning. It tells how Europeans and Indians met, regarding each other as alien, as other, as virtually nonhuman, and how between 1650 and 1815 they constructed a common, mutually comprehensible world in the region around the Great Lakes that the French called pays d'en haut. Here the older worlds of the Algonquians and of various Europeans overlapped, and their mixture created…


Home and Work

By Jeanne Boydston,

Book cover of Home and Work: Housework, Wages, and the Ideology of Labor in the Early Republic

On one level, this is a book about housework in the pre-Civil War northern United States. Much more profoundly, it shatters ideas about unpaid labor in early industrial capitalism. It completely changed myand many readers’ideas of what constitutes “work,” what it means to contribute to a household economy, and how ideas about wages (and, especially, work done by men outside the home) obscured early capitalists’ dependence on women’s unwaged work. After reading this, you’ll never refer to “women who worked” and “women who didn’t” again.  It should be essential reading not only for women’s historians, but for anyone interested in ideologies of labor, capitalism, and the history of work.

[Full disclosure: I met Jeanne Boydston on my second day of graduate school and we collaborated closely on our dissertations (later books). She was my best friend and best teacher until her much-too-early death in 2008.]

Home and Work

By Jeanne Boydston,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Home and Work as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Over the course of a two hundred year period, women's domestic labor gradually lost its footing as a recognized aspect of economic life in America. The image of the colonial "goodwife," valued for her contribution to household prosperity, had been replaced by the image of a "dependent" and a "non-producer." This book is a history of housework in the United States prior to the Civil War. More particularly, it is a history of women's unpaid domestic labor in the context of the emergence of an industrialized society in the northern United States. Boydston argues that just as a capitalist economic…


The South vs. The South

By William W. Freehling,

Book cover of The South vs. The South: How Anti-Confederate Southerners Shaped the Course of the Civil War

This is the best source for understanding that the Confederacy, contrary to accepted wisdom, was not the South writ large. In a fast-paced narrative Freehling identifies the anti-Confederate dissenters – free as well as enslaved – who resisted Confederate rule and undermined it from within. He shows conclusively how Union victory was aided immeasurably by the lack of unity in the Confederacy.

The South vs. The South

By William W. Freehling,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The South vs. The South as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Why did the Confederacy lose the Civil War? Most historians point to the larger number of Union troops, for example, or the North's greater industrial might. Now, in The South Vs. the South, one of America's leading authorities on the Civil War era offers an entirely new answer to this question.
William Freehling argues that anti-Confederate Southerners-specifically, border state whites and southern blacks-helped cost the Confederacy the war. White men in such border states as Missouri, Kentucky, and Maryland, Freehling points out, were divided in their loyalties-but far more joined the Union army (or simply stayed home) than marched off…


Plain Folk in a Rich Man's War

By David Williams, Teresa C. Williams, David Carlson

Book cover of Plain Folk in a Rich Man's War: Class and Dissent in Confederate Georgia

Focusing on Georgia, this study answers the question of just what rich Confederates were doing during the Civil War. It turns out that they were not sacrificing all for the Confederate cause but pursuing their self-interests by continuing to grow cotton, speculating in goods, and finding ways to use their class position to stay out of Confederate armies. By so doing, they aroused the class resentments of the plain folk who increasingly turned against the Confederate cause.

Plain Folk in a Rich Man's War

By David Williams, Teresa C. Williams, David Carlson

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Plain Folk in a Rich Man's War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This text aims to shed new light on how planter self-interest, government indifference, and the very nature of southern society produced a rising tide of dissent and disaffection among Georgia's plain folk during the Civil War.


5 book lists we think you will like!

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